Pooling Together: How Community Hubs have responded to the Covid-19 Emergency

This 2020 'Pooling Together’ report from the Carnegie UK Trust, explores the integral role of ‘community hubs’ - the bringing together of public services and volunteers - in responding to the Covid-19 crisis, as well as their future importance. Through presenting four case studies - Scarborough, Renfrewshire, North Ayrshire, and Lancaster - this resource provides insights into how better collaboration and partnership working can be fostered in places.

Date added 4 January 2021
Last updated 4 January 2021

This Carnegie UK Trust report focuses on the importance of ‘community hubs’ and partnership working, in recovery from the Covid-19 crisis and future transformation. It is based on the Covid and Communities Listening Project, which began in April 2020 to learn more about how local communities, public services and local authorities were responding to the pandemic. Drawing on interviews with community hub members conducted during the project, four case studies are presented in this report: Scarborough and District, Renfrewshire Council, Three Towns locality in North Ayrshire, and Lancaster City Council. Each case study covers: background context; what happened; the impact; challenges faced; and learnings for the future. From these cases, several key messages about fostering effective collaboration and partnership working in places can be drawn:

1. New structures, based on existing relationships

Community hubs were set up rapidly, in response to the Covid-19 crisis, in most cases by the local authority. In creating cross-sector collaborations, they depended on existing strong partnerships within and between the council, local community, and voluntary sector.

2. Flexible and responsive

The community hubs studied were responsive to local needs and provisions, as well as acting flexibly to changing circumstances in the emergency phase, by removing some existing bureaucracies. However, a declining appetite for innovating in this way became apparent as the pandemic continued, which could impact future flexibility.

3. Strengthened partnerships

Shared goals and challenges around the pandemic has brought groups together, who may have ordinarily have acted within silos. Partnerships within the community hubs studied have become stronger, with greater levels of information sharing and joint working apparent.

4. Outcomes

As well as strengthened partnerships, the community hub approach has led to greater trust between the community and other organisations, greater levels of volunteering, and a more nuanced delivery of public sector services, responsive to local needs and issues.

5. The future of community hubs

There is a general desire to keep the community hubs and cross-sector collaboration going, beyond the pandemic. However, there are challenges around ongoing capacity and funding for such activities, especially if the hubs were instigated using short-term emergency Covid-19 funding.

To learn more about the Carnegie UK Trust’s Covid and Communities Listening Project, please see this related HSTF resource.