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Identifying key individuals who are driving social change

A combination of financial imperatives, continuing demands for improvements in public services and emerging ideals of a more active citizenry have led to calls for local areas to be more ‘socially productive’, where greater numbers of people are involved in defining, identifying and overcoming local problems using all available means.

Despite notable efforts under the coalition government to instigate this transformation and encourage more people to participate in improving their local areas – the Big Society and Localism agendas being the two foremost examples – it is clear that the number of people currently doing so is unlikely to be sufficient to fill the gap left by a retrenched state.

The ChangeMakers project was founded on the belief that if we wish to create more vibrant and successful local areas, we need to pay more attention to supporting and better channelling the energy and assets of individuals who are already making positive change happen.

Through piloting our social network analysis research method, we were able to map a diverse local network of ChangeMakers in Peterborough. Among those we identified were members of the clergy, artists, head teachers, social entrepreneurs, housing officers, charity workers, police officers, businessmen and council officers. The results of our surveys indicate that such individuals are adept at driving positive change in their local areas. They appear rooted in their communities, have an impressive repertoire of capabilities, and are instilled with an appetite to apply their skills and knowledge to address local issues.

Following on from our pilot, we have partnered up with Comic Relief and Unbound Philanthropy to apply the same tool to identify and bring together ChangeMakers in diaspora communities.