Community and Public Services

We seek to enable people to live the lives they wish to lead. Our aim is to foster a more powerful citizenry that is better able to bring about positive change; to nurture more resilient communities that can more readily withstand and resolve their own problems; and to help develop more innovative public services that are better placed to work with people to create value in their own lives.

Through a combination of thought leadership, action research and, increasingly, service delivery, we are working with individuals and communities up and down the country to help them realise their aspirations.

Our main programmes are:

Connected Communities

The RSA's Connected Communities programme explores how we can use the notion of social networks - 'real world' face to face relationships and informal exchange, as well as online connections - to map, make visible, mobilise and strengthen asset-based community networks to realise local opportunities and address local problems.  Our approaches uncover 'hidden wealth' in communities, and develop ways in which latent assets in individuals, organisations and neighbourhoods can be better woven together for the benefit of all.  Our current programme explores social network approaches to mental wellbeing and social inclusion, healthy lifestyles, enterprise development, social prescribing, community resilience, and recovery from substance misuse.

2020 Public Services Hub

RSA 2020 Public Services is a practice-research and policy development hub within the RSA Action Research Hub. We work with local authorities, public sector bodies, businesses and the third sector to develop social productivity approaches to public service reform, helping to create stronger and more resilient citizens and communities.
The UK’s model for public services is under huge pressure as a result of spending cuts, rising demand pressures and a continuing focus on providing costly crisis-point services. Yet we believe that even in this context, it is possible to have public services that genuinely help citizens raise their aspirations and which build people’s capabilities, without creating a reliance on the state. To achieve this, we argue for a greater focus on demand management; preventative and innovative services; and devolving decision-making or co-creating services with local areas and local people.
We call this approach “social productivity”. We believe that it can not only reduce demand for welfare and other public services over time, but also substantively improve people’s outcomes and wellbeing and contribute to local economic growth and productivity.

Find out more about our current work and partner on the RSA 2020 Public Services website

Citizen Power

The Citizen Power programme explores new ways of thinking about and fostering civic capacity. The programme brings together new developments in the social sciences and philosophy of citizen-led social change with practical understanding of what enables citizen-led change in society. For nearly three years, we have been working on the ground with citizens, community groups and public services in Peterborough to investigate how and to what extent citizens can be encouraged and supported to do more for themselves and others. Central to our approach is enabling civic participation, fostering social solidarity and encouraging public service innovation. Three new projects are soon to be launched: a 3 year partnership with Wiltshire Country Council to restructure public services; an initiative to develop a new blueprint for race equality in mental health policy; and a review of resilience in childhood with Cambridgeshire County Council.


The RSA aims to help spark and sustain recovery among people experiencing drug and alcohol addiction. Drawing upon people's lived experience of recovery - generously shared by the many individuals on their recovery journeys - we are developing a holistic model of change that taps into the assets of the whole community in order to support people's reintegration into society and to help create the vibrant and resilient communities we all need to thrive. Our projects include mapping and strengthening 'recovery capital' in Peterborough and our major Whole Person Recovery programme where we are delivering recovery services on a payment by results basis in West Kent. We have also just published a book, Everyday Lives, which details the personal accounts of the psychological, physiological and emotional journeys of heroin users who are trying to overcome their addiction.

Arts and Social Change

The RSA's Arts and Society programme explores the role that the arts can play – as the 'glue' that connects people across communities, and as a way of communicating new ideas and ways of thinking to provoke response and change.  The arts has an exciting and vital role to play in 'place-making' and social change. Our interdisciplinary approach addresses different ways of articulating work within Citizen Power, exploring the role the arts and imagination can play in building a renewed sense of belonging in Peterborough; and Creative Intersections, an initiative with Kings Cultural Institute which partners academics and artists in experimental projects which explore the connections between research and artistic practice


Transitions is a major resettlement project developed by the RSA and some of its Fellows as an approach to providing prison and through-the-gate services based on putting social enterprise and paid work centre stage. Its purpose would be to strengthen people’s ability to work and resettle on release from prison. It would do this by providing them with opportunities to work in social enterprises – linked to the local economy, employers and public services – while in custody, and then in an adjacent ‘Transitions Park’ on release. Read our pamphlet RSA Transitions.

Police Federation Independent Review 

The RSA provides the secretariat for the Independent Review of the Police Federation chaired by Sir David Normington. The review is deigned to ensure the Police Federation serves its members effectively, serves the public good, and is a world exemplar of ‘employee voice’. Over the next few months, the review panel will be consulting with all levels and ranks in the Police Federation, key stakeholders with an interest and expertise in policing matters, and leading voices in the organisational change and employee voice arenas. It is scheduled to report by the end of 2013.