What role for community enterprises in tackling poverty?

Glenn Arradon and Steve Wyler

15 September 2008

How can community groups help tackle poverty in their neighbourhood?

Glenn Arradon and Steve Wyler from the Development Trusts Association (DTA) argue that community-led enterprise organisations can create a self-help and problem-solving culture to help individuals move out of poverty.

  • Whilst many community groups are struggling, a new generation of enterprise organisations is emerging that use social enterprise methods and a 'can do' attitude to unlock potential in people and places.
  • To consider how lessons can be shared, the DTA has reviewed the actions of member development trusts that are alleviating poverty in their community.

Summary

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What contribution can community groups make to tackling poverty in their neighbourhood? Glenn Arradon and Steve Wyler from the Development Trusts Association argue that community-led enterprise organisations including development trusts can act as a driver for positive change, creating a self-help and problem-solving culture, and helping individuals move out of poverty.

Key points

  • While many community groups are struggling and indeed some are closing, a new generation of more confident and aspirational community organisations is emerging. These are characterised by the use of social enterprise methods, community asset ownership, and a ‘can do’ attitude that seeks to unlock potential in people and places: in short, ’community enterprise’.
  • The DTA has reviewed the wide range of actions that its member development trusts are undertaking, which they feel make a contribution to tackling poverty in their community, to consider how lessons can be shared.
  • It is clear that the underlying causes and manifestations of poverty are too complex to enable local community-led interventions, by themselves, to eradicate local poverty.
  • Nevertheless, this work has identified a sample of actions which community enterprises such as development trusts may want to consider to help alleviate poverty, such as supporting micro-credit and debt advice, or initiatives to sell unwanted goods on the Ebay trading website on behalf of local people.
  • Community-based enterprises such as development trusts can play an important role in alleviating poverty. They can give those without power a voice and access to resources and decision-making; they can act as a driver for service improvement and support local wealth generation; and they can contribute to building skills and self-confidence.

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