Local activists, volunteers and community workers have a crucial role in supporting people in times of crisis, a new report into trust and faith has found, echoing the response to the Grenfell Tower fire disaster.
Government at all levels currently fails to realise the full potential communities themselves can hold in responding to a crisis, the report by the Woolf Institute said.
It found a quarter of Britons feel greater connection and hold more shared values with their local communities than with the country as a whole.
And over a third of women said they felt closer to their local community than the country, while 24% of men said the same, YouGov research revealed.
The report, Trust In Crisis (PDF), was timed to coincide with the anniversary of the 7/7 bombings.
It found those following a religion were more likely to express disconnection with Britain versus their immediate surroundings.
A new form of active and local citizenship that mobilises collective values and trustworthiness resulting in solidarity in the face of need was uncovered.
Nearly half (47%) of people who took part in charity or community work did so out of a sense of duty to their local community.
And some 68% of people have volunteered, donated money or other resources since the 2008 financial crash – showing how communities have come together.
The findings come after intense criticism of Kensington and Chelsea Council’s handling of the aftermath of the Grenfell disaster and amid calls from local community leaders for a broader inquiry into alleged failings.
The ‘quiet citizen’
Charlotte Agran, a coordinator for the Jewish volunteering project Mitzvah Day, told HuffPost UK that an appetite for more developed local interfaith relations had increased in recent months.
“Lots of people in the Jewish community are very keen to show solidarity with the Muslim community in particular,” she said. “People want to show that solidarity and to say ‘we’re like you too’.”
Agran represents what the report identifies as a ‘quiet citizen’ - someone who who contributes to her or his community, “often without recognition or attention, through the completion of ‘quiet work’”.
People want to show that solidarity and to say ‘we’re like you too’
This work often takes place routinely throughout the year, but becomes of crucial importance in the event of crisis - as it did recently in north London during evacuations of tower blocks clad in the same material as Grenfell.
“I’m a member of the Camden interfaith group and during a recent meeting we sat there with the rabbis and the imams and decided to create a shared WhatsApp group so that all the different communities would know where we needed to be if anything happened,” Agran said, by way of an example.
The role of local authorities is highlighted in the report, with the Woolf Institute recommending increased budgets to help organise interfaith relations.
″Local authorities should realise they have lots of connections in these communities, they should be tapping into a whole network of people who can direct them to an even bigger network of people who can help them,” Agran said.
“There could be translators, practical assistance, it could help find places for people to stay.”
The report said ‘quiet citizens’ like Agran should be celebrated for work that sidesteps religious boundaries and enables minority groups to contribute positively to civic life.
Dr Edward Kessler, founder director of the Institute, wrote in the report: “This ‘quiet work’ strengthens bonds of interdependency and friendship between citizens and social groups and, on a more practical level, is capable of addressing local needs more immediately and more effectively than national institutions.
“Indeed, without the contribution of the ‘quiet citizen’, many of us might find it hard to trust one another and to live peaceably together.”