This first wave of this research from Summer 2021 aimed to assess the impact of participation in the Trust’s funding programmes and understand the role of the Active Communities and Local Conversations programmes in addressing the social determinants of health. The research took place with practitioners and project participants.

Through in-depth interviews, and questionnaires, both shorter and longer term changes have been identified and measured against existing data for people living in the areas experiencing the highest levels of disadvantage. It uses comparisons with nationally available datasets (Community Life Survey, Understanding Society, the National Survey for Wales and the Scottish Household Survey).

The shorter term changes showed positive impacts on participants’ confidence, development of new skills, social networks and feelings of connectedness. This showed in both funding programmes across England, Wales and Scotland.

Longer term changes were also identified and were linked to positive outcomes in the shorter term changes. Having stronger social networks led to greater community power and more collective action. There is also evidence to show improved health and wellbeing amongst participants as a result of local programmes addressing the social determinants of health.

Key findings

  • 91% of Active Communities project participants and 86% of Local Conversations participants said they made new friends by taking part in project activities.
  • 86% of Local Conversations practitioners and 66% of Active Communities practitioners said that their projects have facilitated new partnerships with local organisations with common goals or interests.
  • 59% agreed they can influence decisions affecting their local area, compared to 22% for people living in areas experiencing similar levels of disadvantage.

[Now] we are ready to [influence organisations with the power to support change locally]. We won’t just sit and say ‘yes, if that’s what should be done, sure’. Now [project participants] are poised to have their own voice: ‘this is our lived experience; this is how we want to work with you and achieve this.

Local Conversations practitioner