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Streams of energy

Where are you seeing energy for change emerge? How can you add to it? 

Any crisis disrupts the status quo and change becomes more likely. Indeed, a disaster response is often characterised by a surge of solidarity and action towards a compelling shared mission and purpose.

This release of our individual and collective energy and assets fuels the possibility of change, a counterforce to the desire to revert back to the way things were before. 

RSA Streams of energy

I’ve been proud of creating community in the streets. We’re helping each other more, helping elderly neighbours do the gardening, helping a family do their shopping every week. In the first pandemic we helped cook some meals for NHS workers at the local hospital.

Academic, Manchester resident Jitesh Gajjar

What we heard...

“I’m always in awe of the fact that I’ll be completely depleted and then I’ll go into a community, to community meetings and the energy is just phenomenal. People are saying, we’re doing this, and we’ve delivered 100 meals to this many people, you know, who am I to sit and say, ‘I'm depleted’... it’s that energy that gives you the mandate to turn around and say, ‘communities are just getting on with it. And there are some amazing GPs on the ground doing phenomenal things’.”

Samira Ben Omar, co-founder Community Voice, North West London

The national awakening to the value that technology brings to help people communicate and stay together...has transformed our world. It’s given us an opportunity to bring, alongside concepts of care and support, the whole business of sustainability, climate change and living lives that are going to make the environment a much better place. I think if we can bring those things together that will also rub off on beginning to transform the way we look at housing. If we don’t seize that opportunity we’ll miss a massive trick. If we don’t include housing and neighbourhoods in terms of design and living as an integral way of part of understanding public health and social care, we’ll go off having conversations that lead to a huge disconnect.”

Stephen Sloss, CEO of Salvere Social Enterprise CIC

“I've helped to set up a bike delivery co-op. The idea is to not just to support charities and do good community work with food banks and so on which we do every day of the week, it's also to build a model, an alternative to the gig economy. It's about giving living wage employment with good conditions, to young people who have no jobs.”

Nick Dixon, senior advisor in person and community centred approaches, Greater Manchester

“You couldn’t have just started a community shop overnight in a community that has no sense of community... Learning from the pandemic, we really need to be thinking about community and anchor institutions. In some areas, people think of them as being the council because they do so much more than the local authorities do.”

Isla McCulloch, chairperson of the community greengrocer Dig In, Edinburgh


Stats and facts 

  • 58 percent say that the Covid-19 pandemic has shown us that most people in our country care about each other – a higher number than in any similar country in our recent 7 country study compared to before Covid, twice as many people now believe that as a society we look after each other (rising from 24 to 46 percent) Source: Common Ground and Division in 2020s Britain, More in common, M Juan-Torres et al (2020)
  • Levels of civic activism has remained at around eight percent of the population since 2014/15 – this involves being a councillor, school governor, being involved in decision-making or tenants groups etc.
  • 25 percent of respondents either definitely or tended to agree they could personally influence decisions affecting their local area
  • 57 percent of respondents said it was either ‘very important’ or ‘quite important’ to be able to influence local decisions, and was highest among Black respondents at 71 percent
  • 16 percent of respondents had been involved in social action, a figure largely unchanged since 2014/15. Source: DCMS Community Life Survey 2019/20


Our polling

Our findings show that people most want to see better support for our key workers (42%), real action to combat climate change (32%) and more affordable housing (28%). 



  • Seeing familiar neighbourhoods in a new light
  • Changing relationships with work
  • Responsive timely and agile responses from local organisations
  • Enthusiasm from the community in helping others
Birmingham image

Edinburgh, UK

  • Enjoying cleaner air
  • Innovations that improve access to services
  • Generational shifts with older people more visible, and younger people more engaged in community
Edinburgh image

North West, UK

  • Appreciation of local community and need to have fresh food that is sustainable and easier to obtain

Norfolk, UK

  • Shift in relationships and a greater sense of neighbourliness
  • Appreciation of space and place
Norfolk image


Food for thought 

“In disaster people come together, and though some fear this gathering as a mob, many cherish it as an experience of civil society that is close enough to paradise. This is a paradise of rising to the occasion that points out by contrast how the rest of the time most of us fall down from the heights of possibility, down into diminished selves and dismal societies. Others recognise it, grasp it, and make something of it, and long-term social and political transformations, both good and bad, arise from the wreckage.”

Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell (2010)

“Struggle as we may, “fixing” will never make sense out of change. The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”

Alan W Watts, Wisdom of Insecurity (1951)

“In a crisis, you should always deploy an innovation team alongside the business recovery team… to capture the novel practice”

Dave Snowden, Founder, Cognitive Edge

“Productivity 2.0 isn’t about scale, huge IT investment, or automation; it’s about human beings working together to solve the problems of other human beings.”

John Seddon, Beyond Command and Control


Navigating the transitional space

  • Different crises

    Where do you see compounding crises and how are these playing out in different communities?

  • Deep fault-lines

    Where and how has the pandemic exacerbated existing issues?

  • Magic money forest

    Is it a concern that so much funding has been found by government - yet universal credit has only been temporarily uplifted by £20 and it took a sustained campaign to extend free school meals?

  • Temporary solutions

    Are there any specific temporary measures you’ve seen put in place that would cause you concern if they became the norm?

  • Fog of ambiguity

    How are you finding resilience through transition to cope with discomfort and uncertainty? 

  • Streams of energy

    Where are you seeing energy for change emerge? How can you add to it?