Uses and Abuses of Community in Sustainable Development

How, why and to what ends does community emerge as a vehicle for achieving sustainable development? This was one of the central questions at 2-day seminar in March attended by Mistra Urban Futures Greater Manchester at the University of Leeds, held as part of the Sustainable Practices Research Group.

The workshop brought together scholars exploring and questionin the current upsurge of interest in community as a response to sustainabl development problems. In doing so it called for a critical analysis of recen governance strategies in the UK that position community in contrasting ways. This includes, for example, the apparent ‘radical’ approach of the Scottish Government which is funding communities to encourage social change through the Climate Challenge Fund, the, to date rather vague, ‘Big Society’ agenda of the coalition government, and the third-sector led ‘transitions’ movement inspired by Transition Towns.

Mistra Urban Futures Greater Manchester Local Interaction Platform made a contribution to the seminar building on pilot work carried out through the Mapping the Urban Knowledge Arena project. The paper argued that whilst new governing practices are emerging in the context of financia austerity and localism which potentially challenge dominant approaches, there remains a tendency for the ‘umbrellering of community’ to capture rather than support grassroots work. Building on the case study carried out with Seedley and Langworthy Trust, the GM LIP highlighted in particular that intermediary organisations and community hubs are under increasing pressure at a time when demand for their services is at a premium. Whilst communities have the assets and capabilities to develop sustainable approaches, capacity and support remain critical issues.

Read more about the Mapping the Urban Knowledge Arena project