What makes effective place-based working?

This report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation presents key learnings about effective place-based working from research conducted in Bradford. These include being clear about the purpose of place-based programmes; involving local stakeholders in project design; translating research into practical action; working with diverse partners and maintaining these relationships; and communicating frequently.

Date added 11 January 2022
Last updated 11 January 2022

*This resource is more than 5 years old but has been included as it contains information that is still relevant and useful*

This report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) presents key learnings about place-based working from programmes conducted in Bradford. In 2004, the organisation made a ten-year commitment to work with local stakeholders in the city to foster greater community cohesion, empower communities, and give voices to those not usually heard when forming place-based strategies. Two independent reviews of what worked well, and not so well, during the programme of work were conducted. The first took a ‘public value’ perspective to understand the impact JRF had on society and the city of Bradford. The second review assessed the programme’s impact on JRF itself and the communities of Bradford.

Based on these reviews, this report provides insight into what contributes to effective place-based working, which other organisations working with places can learn from. First, the report outlines how JRF’s work in Bradford was most successful at ‘creating the conditions’ for future societal impact, which included the following (p.3):

  • strengthening local partnerships
  • providing safe spaces for debate
  • acting as a critical friend
  • strengthening evidence
  • giving previously unheard groups a voice and
  • increasing understanding of local communities.

However, the authors note how few participants thought it had made a long-term impact on Bradford nor policy, with many still unsure of its purpose even years after it began. Participants noted project weaknesses such as a lack of clarity and coherence, challenges turning research into action, lack of local ownership, unrealistic expectations, narrow networking, poor communication, and ending projects too soon. From this, JRF reflects on the following key lessons that others can draw insight from, including the importance of:

  • being clear about the purpose of place-based programmes
  • involving local stakeholders in project design
  • translating research into practical action
  • working with diverse partners and maintaining these relationships and
  • communicating frequently with partners and community members.