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New World Order. The Kruger Report 2020

Last month saw the publication of ‘Levelling up our Communities: proposals for a new social covenant” Report by Danny Kruger MP.


This was big news in the Charity Sector, with the tome rolling in at 52 pages. Kruger had been tasked with recommending ways to sustain, long term, the levels of community cohesion or ‘spirit’ we are seeing during these challenging times of Covid19.


So, for those for whom reading 52 pages is too big an undertaking (and to be honest at one point I thought this might include me), here’s my summary and opinions. Oh so many opinions.


As an experienced Third sector professional, a Trustee and a business owner, my reaction to this report was somewhat rollercoaster.  In my opinion, some of the Report’s recommendations are bloody inspired. Some are aspirational to the point of undeliverable, some are a bit ‘meh’ and some will be terrifying if put in the hands of the enthusiastic but inexperienced….


Kruger’s observations on how communities have responded to the pandemic are salient. Firstly, that in terms of community support, “there is a difference between collecting a bag of shopping for someone, and meeting the needs of a family facing a combination of bereavement, unemployment and mental ill health.”[1] Any community based organisation will happily explain the difference between ad hoc task based volunteering as compared with the tasks that trained and qualified volunteers undertake. Both are important but the value is incomparable. 


Then there is the irony of social distancing. “The more connected our communities are the better they will cope…. Indeed, it appears that while neighbourhoods where people mix and know each other may experience higher initial infection rates than places with less social capital, these places are able to respond to an outbreak better”.[2] How can we gain a balance in the need for distancing yet still making sure that people are connected and supported? Kruger’s answer to this, is of course that “People are more willing to observe social distancing and other precautionary measures when they feel part of, and responsible for, their community.”[3]


So how do we create this sense of being part of, and responsible for our community?

It’s a tough call. Even before Covid19 the UK was “the most spatially unequal society among developed nations”.[4] Yep, we don’t need research to know that there really is a north/south coastline/inland divide in this country, reflected by the income of the poorest fifth of the population being no higher in 2019 than in 2005.


We’ve also lost a lot of our social infrastructure – those places where people used to meet and chew the fat. A quarter of all pubs, a quarter of all post offices, and a fifth of all libraries have closed since the turn of the century.  In my experience, for the past 6 weeks, the school run has been a lifeline for social connectivity, even if we had to stand opposite sides of the street to chat.


Issues aside, Kruger sets out his recommendations to create a ‘Social Covenant’. In his words, this is “the mutual commitment by citizens, civil society and the state, each to fulfil their discrete responsibilities and to work together for the common good of all”.[5]


It’s sounding a bit, perhaps, Big Society so far isn’t it? But stick with me.


In a move reminiscent of Indiana Jones, Kruger suggests four ‘Articles of the Social Covenant’, being:


1.     Public purpose: that social and environmental purpose should be embedded more firmly in both public policy and business activity.

2.     Subsidiarity and inclusion: that decisions on what is done in local places should be taken by people as close to the ground as possible, ideally the people who actually live there, creating opportunities and occasions for people from marginalised communities to work with others across the boundaries of ethnicity and faith.

3.     Strengths-based approaches: considering society is composed of assets not liabilities, and that people have the capacity, with the right help, to effect positive changes in their own lives and the lives of others

4.     Social infrastructure: that we need a new commitment to renewing and modernising the social infrastructure of the UK.


Not as many giant rolling boulders or supernatural Nazi’s as hoped, but I’m thinking this sounds really quite sensible.


Jones Kruger then subdivides his recommendations by Power, People and Places.


Power:


Reforms to the use of data and digital technology to empower individuals and communities


In short the government needs to catch up with the 21st century in using digital to measure civil society activity and value. I love this, it’s massive but it’s such an area of opportunity to develop and use data to help make outcomes based decisions. What will terrify the Charity sector however, is that Kruger takes no prisoners when he says “government should insist that organisations benefiting from public funding or tax relief should publish coherent and comparable data on their activities and outcomes”.[6] That’ll put the cat amongst the pigeons; it simply can’t be done without training and guidance, but I wholeheartedly applaud the measure.


Kruger suggests that government convene a partnership of tech firms and community infrastructure organisations to help the nine million people in this county without digital skills or connectivity to ‘catch up’.  I’d love to be a fly on the wall in no.10 when “Big tech [is] persuaded to provide, for free, the wiring of our social infrastructure.”[7]


Reform of procurement and commissioning to ensure that social enterprises and community groups can play a proper role in public services


Those of you who know me will know that this is my bag. Any report which recommends that public sector finally recognises that “the whole purpose of public spending is to deliver value for society” gets my vote.  Check out The Social Value Act 2012 my dissenting friends.


A new Community Power Act to give communities formal powers to effect change in their neighbourhoods.


Oh. We seem to have moved from the supremely deliverable to the heady heights of self-actualisation. 


Kruger suggests that we create an Act which affirms the right of ordinary people to effect meaningful change in their own neighbourhoods. I like it, but it does kind of assume that people both want to and can (sorry to put it bluntly) be arsed to make change in their neighbourhoods.


I want this to work, I really do. The idea of “incorporated resident groups, groups of employees, local charities or social enterprises [being] able to lodge a claim with the local authority or public service - such as DWP or NHS - to be involved in the design or delivery of a public service, with an obligation on the public agency to respond to the claim reasonably and publicly” appeals to the community activist in me. But in reality? It adds significant strength to the voice of existing charities, but as a community empowerment tool, this might be a slow burner.


People:


Much of the same here. A volunteer passport (think DBS checks on RedBull), opportunities for young people (think Vinspired), honouring neighbourhoods (think Big Lunch). Not entirely vanilla however, I can’t help but infer that there’s a whole can of worms behind the “government should invite the country’s faith leaders to make a grand offer of help on behalf of their communities, in exchange for a reciprocal commitment from the state.”[8]


Places:


Gets a bit more interesting again.


Place-based policy, including better urban design and planning, with more ‘gathering places’ owned and run for community benefit


I love some of the statements underpinning these recommendations. That “neighbourhoods should be able to develop their own Social Value Plans to set the parameters of public procurement locally.”[9] Yes yes yes – how we get people to engage with this is a whole different conversation, but the idea of locally produced Social Value statements which then guide public sector procurement and commissioning creates this lovely local loop[10] to retain wealth and community benefit. And I’ll get off my soapbox again.


More social infrastructure, meaning services that seek to connect local people and strengthen the institutions of a community, including the social enterprises that drive employment and wealth creation in tough neighbourhoods


Brilliant: “housing and infrastructure projects should have an explicit requirement to prioritise opportunities for neighbourliness and mutual support.”[11] If you Build It they Will Come. Might need a bit of support eh?


More philanthropy and social investment.


Shocker! I never knew this: “Of those earning more than £250,000, two thirds make no donations to charity whatsoever.” Vive la revolution. Thank goodness that the rest of us “give more as a proportion of their wealth than the rich”. And possibly partly through lottery tickets, which brings me to the final point that caused me to draw sharp breath:


“It is time to rethink the purpose and model of the National Lottery Community Fund, which distributes £600 million per year…In general its money should focus on communities, not causes; partner deliberately with other funders and sources of resource; and empower local people.”[12]


For years the National Lottery has been a life-line to small charities. It has been accessible, responsive and committed. Think VERY CAREFULLY before you f*ck with it, because otherwise the revolution will come a lot quicker than you think.

Full Kruger Report:

https://www.dannykruger.org.uk/sites/www.dannykruger.org.uk/files/2020-09/Kruger%202.0%20Levelling%20Up%20Our%20Communities.pdf



[1] Levelling up our Communities: proposals for a new social covenant Kruger 2020 pp9

[2] Levelling up our Communities: proposals for a new social covenant Kruger 2020 pp9

[3] Levelling up our Communities: proposals for a new social covenant Kruger 2020 pp10

[4] Levelling up our Communities: proposals for a new social covenant Kruger 2020 pp11

[5] Levelling up our Communities: proposals for a new social covenant Kruger 2020 pp14

[6] Levelling up our Communities: proposals for a new social covenant Kruger 2020 pp19

[7] Levelling up our Communities: proposals for a new social covenant Kruger 2020 pp20

[8] Levelling up our Communities: proposals for a new social covenant Kruger 2020 pp36

[9] Levelling up our Communities: proposals for a new social covenant Kruger 2020 pp40

[10] Michael Hallam of ESTA has developed a fantastic Local Loop concept measuring investment in a local community

[11] Levelling up our Communities: proposals for a new social covenant Kruger 2020 pp40

[12] Levelling up our Communities: proposals for a new social covenant Kruger 2020 pp50

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