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The power of community action during the pandemic

  • Date published: 23/02/21

When Scotland first went into lockdown in March 2020, a wave of uncertainty and fear was felt throughout society as people were told to stay at home, to save lives. But as schools, shops and offices closed, communities did not. Local people and grassroots groups were quick to come up with innovative ways to help during the crisis. Social action accelerated and became a central feature of Scotland’s response to the lockdown and ongoing challenges of coronavirus. 

In July 2020 Social Action Inquiry partners commissioned The Collective to lead on a short-term piece of research to capture the stories and lessons learned from communities coming together to help. From food drop-offs to phone calls to isolated neighbours, volunteering and wellbeing support, the research brings to life the ways people developed creative approaches to make a difference. The final research report Together We Help has been published today, shining a light on the power of communities to mobilise and initiate social action in response to the issues that matter to them.

Foundation Scotland is one of 7 partners in developing the Social Action Inquiry.  The other partners were Carnegie UK Trust, Corra Foundation, the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), The National Lottery Community Fund and, The Robertson Trust.

Eighteen community researchers gathered insights from 367 people involved in social action in their local areas, asking what inspired them to be involved and what lessons can be learned to build a fairer Scotland. 

The research suggested that the stigma associated with accessing support such as food banks in times of need may have reduced as demand for these vital services increased dramatically throughout lockdown in 2020. Community researchers also found that offering support and participating in local responses to the coronavirus crisis was both a ‘blessing and a curse’ as while it helped people to feel more connected to their community it also increased awareness and feelings of frustration at the growing levels of inequality on their doorstep. 

The findings from the Together We Help research will help inform the Social Action Inquiry. This independent inquiry will look at how communities take action and will try to contribute to a Scotland where social action is valued and is able to make change happen in communities.

“People have came together, maybe for the first time, we did it cause we wanted to find solutions, we just wanted to do something to make it a bit better. Doesn’t matter how small, doesn’t matter if it’s just 3 houses on your street, it’s just doing something positive”


Survey participant