Changing nature of community leadership

Leadership within a community has become more complicated and open to criticism. More people, with differing backgrounds, skills, interests and degrees of authority, claim to lead different communities within a growing number and complexity of arenas. This has inevitably led to tensions, particularly between those who are elected and those, such as VCOs and community activists, who also believe they represent local communities. With localism and the Big Society agenda (particularly the training of 5,000 community organisers), these issues are likely to become more prominent.

What are the implications?

  • In this environment, all leaders may face challenges to their legitimacy and accountability.
  • VCOs and community activists may be seen to speak on behalf of communities, but without an elected mandate.
  • Experienced community activists can often engage with local communities and their needs in more direct and therefore more credible ways than elected government members.
  • The growing diversity and complexity of local needs mean it is more important than ever to have strong leaders who can respond skilfully to the demands of competing voices.

Moving forward

Tensions between community leaders from different groups means that a VCO’s legitimacy to speak on behalf of its users may be challenged.

  • How can your organisation demonstrate to local representatives the many ways in which you are accountable to your users?

Community leaders may increasingly need to overcome and respond to the tensions and diverse needs of communities, leaders and other bodies.

  • Can your organisation help community activists to make or strengthen links with others (e.g. government institutions, commissioning bodies and partnerships)?  
  • Has your organisation considered ways to ensure your voice gets heard above the crowd?
  • Or is their a way you can help to strengthen ties between groups and unify the community?  

Want to know more?

Community engagement and community leadership: a summary

Published by: Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Date: 2007

Format: PDF

What is it? A report summarising community leadership initiatives and offering practical advice for engaging in it in your local area.

How useful is this? This report presents a practical and accessible guide to engaging in community leadership for both individuals and organisations.  It addresses these issues by examining the barriers to engagement, and providing practical ways to overcome these.  A useful guide not only for understanding how to access community leadership, but also in how to encourage wider citizen participation in the local community in general.

Other comments:  One of four papers presenting learning and practical guidance from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s Neighbourhood Programme (2002–6).

Making Community Leadership Real

Published by: New Local Government Network

Date: 2005

Format:  PDF

What is it?  A report examining community leadership initiatives and how they are playing out in reality.

How useful is this?  This report follows findings from a policy summit discussion examining government policies and legislation regarding community leadership, and how these can be implemented in reality.  It examines what community leadership actually means, the role local, regional and national authorities play in supporting this, and examines the issues in Britain that community leadership might help address.

Other comments:  Participants informing this report were all drawn from government, councils and other key organisations, but none from within the general population.

Meta-Evaluation of the Local Government Modernisation Agenda: Progress Report on Community Leadership and Local Government

Published by: Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

Date: 2005

Format: PDF

What is it? Progress report of the government Community Leadership initiatives.

How useful is this?  This report examines where government community leadership initiatives arose from, and examines how successful the local government modernisation agenda devolving leadership to community levels have been, and how these can be enhanced in the future.  As an evaluation it examines what community leadership means, how the government aims to achieve it, progress so far, barriers faced, and provides pointers for how local areas can further work along this aim.

Other comments:  Although published in 2005, this evaluation offers some useful steps in evaluating the government drive towards community leadership and ways to make these aims viable.

Future Focus 4 - How is local democracy changing?

Published by: NCVO Foresight

Date: 2008

Format: PDF

What is it? Pocket guide to six drivers influencing local democracy.

How useful is this? Aimed at voluntary and community organisations, Future Focus clearly outlines 6 key drivers: Devolution of power; National minimum standards; Consolidation of public service contracts; Complexity of governance structures; More citizen engagement; and Changing nature of community leadership. The political context has changed slightly since it was written in 2008, however it remains largely relevant and is a good introduction.


Last updated at 09:57 Thu 03/Feb/11.

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Third Sector Foresight

Did you know, this week (25 October - 29 October) is the first Trustee's week. Jointly launched by the Charity Commission, Getting on Board, Reach Volunteering, NCVO, Charity Trustee Networks and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (phew!) aims to get people more involved in trusteeship.

Did you know that the average age of trustees in England and Wales is 57, two thirds are aged 50 and over? What implications might the ageing population have for trusteeship then?

Will we see more 'digital trustees'? People taking advantage of improving e-comms to get involved?

If you want to find out more about trusteeship or charity governance, have a look at NCVO's information pages on this.

And if you're thinking about the nature of leadership, have a look at the 'Nine key workforce trends for the next decade' from Tomorrow Today (@workforcetrends on twitter).

Join the discussion!

How will this affect your organisation? Have you considered it during your strategic planning? Can you share any interesting relevant links?

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