Glossary of Community Capacity building

From: Firm Foundations: The Government’s framework for community capacity building

(Dec 2004)


Launched at the ‘Together We Can’ conference, Firm Foundations is the Government framework for community capacity building. It identifies four priorities for action as the basis for change and illustrates ways in which the Government is already doing this or is committed to doing so, through particular policies and programmes.



Appendix 2 Glossary


Active citizenship

Citizens taking opportunities to become actively involved in defining and tackling, with others, the problems of their communities and improving their quality of life.

Active citizenship is one of the three key elements of civil renewal (see below).


Active communities

Communities in which citizens are empowered to lead self-determined, fulfilled lives and in which everyone regardless of age, race or social background has a sense of belonging and a stake in society.


Black and Minority Ethnic VCS

The Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) VCS refers to independent, not-for-profit organisations run by, for and located within BME communities. The majority of BME groups are local and they include faith groups and refugee and asylum seeker organisations. The Black and Minority Ethnic VCS enables BME individuals to contribute to public life and supports the development of active, thriving communities by providing opportunities for voluntary and community action.


Citizenship education

Citizenship education equips young people and adults with the knowledge, understanding and skills to play an active, effective past in society as informed, critical citizens who are socially and morally responsible. It aims to give them the confidence and conviction that they can act with others, have influence and make a difference in their communities (locally, nationally and globally).


Civic participation or engagement

People engaging through democratic processes such as signing a petition or contacting their local councillor.


Civil renewal

The renewal of civil society through the development of strong, active and empowered communities, in which people are able to do things for themselves, define the problems they face, and tackle them in partnership with public bodies. Civil renewal involves three essential elements: active citizenship, strengthened communities and partnership in meeting public needs. Its practical process is community engagement (see below)



A community is a specific group of people who all hold something in common. Community has tended to be associated with two key aspects: firstly people who share locality or geographical place; secondly people who are communities of interest. Communities of interest are groups of people who share an identity – for example people of African-Caribbean origin or lesbian and gay people, or those who share an experience or cause – for example the homeless or those campaigning on a health issue.


Community capacity building

Activities, resources and support that strengthen the skills, abilities and confidence of people and community groups to take effective action and leading roles in the development of their communities.


Community cohesion

Community cohesion incorporates and goes beyond the concept of race equality and social inclusion. It describes a situation where:

 there is a common vision and a sense of belonging for all communities

 the diversity of people’s different backgrounds and circumstances is appreciated

and positively valued those from different backgrounds have similar life opportunities

 strong and positive relationships are being developed between people from different backgrounds in the workplace, in schools and within neighbourhoods.

(Adapted from LGA Guidance Community Cohesion Unit)


Community development

The process of collective action to achieve social justice and change by working with communities to identify needs and take action to meet them. It is based on an agreed set of values and has been shown to result in a range of broadly defined outcomes. It helps to achieve specific objectives such as improved levels of basic skills and increased community cohesion. It is particularly important to the achievement of social inclusion and helps to draw vulnerable and marginalised people and groups into the process of change.


Community Empowerment Network

Community Empowerment Networks are being established as a link between the community and voluntary sectors and the Local Strategic Partnership in each of the 88 most deprived local authority areas in England. This is to help community and voluntary sector groups, particularly those that are marginalized, to get more involved in decisions concerning how public services are delivered in their area. They will be set up by a ‘lead organisation’ from within the sector using funding from the Neighbourhood Renewal Unit’s Community Empowerment Fund.


Community engagement

Community engagement is the term for processes which help to build active and empowered communities. Its characteristics include enabling people to understand and exercise their powers and responsibilities as citizens, empowering them to organise through groups to work for their common good, and requiring public bodies to involve citizens in influencing and carrying out public services.


Community enterprise

A social enterprise or initiative run by or for the benefit of a community. Community enterprises may trade, or have ambitions to trade, and often take place in areas of deprivation.


Community participation or involvement

This is the involvement of people from a given locality or a given section of the local population in public decision making.


Community organisation or group

A community organisation or group differs from a voluntary organisation in that the control lies in the hands of the beneficiaries as individual users, members or residents. Community groups or organisations tend to be smaller organisations with limited funding and no or very few staff however they cannot be defined in this way. There are some larger organisations that are community organisations such as some community centres, or residents’ organisations by virtue of the fact they are for mutual benefit and are controlled by their members.


Community sector

The web of personal relationships, groups, networks, traditions and patterns of behaviour that exist amongst those who share physical neighbourhoods, socioeconomic conditions or common understandings and interests. It is the community itself taking action to get things done. The community sector ranges from small informal community groups to large multi-purpose community organisations. The community sector covers the entire range of policy and services. Its activities can range from nurseries and playgroups to community centres and village halls, from tenants’ associations to environmental groups, from arts and sports groups to credit unions, and from self help groups to scout groups. (Source: Compact Code of Good Practice on Community Groups)



The Compact was published in 1998. It is a framework for partnership between Government and the voluntary and community sector, for mutual advantage. An important principle in the Compact is the independence of the sector and its right to campaign. The Compact is supported by five Codes of Good Practice in which Government and the sector commit to particular actions, including a code of good practice on community groups.


There are also Local Compact Guidelines to inform partnership working between voluntary and community sector organisations and local bodies such as local authorities, primary care trusts and local learning and skills councils.


Faith Communities

A faith community is a community of people adhering to the same religion or belief system. They share a world-view or ‘life stance’ that involves a set of moral and spiritual values and beliefs about the nature of life and the world. They will usually, but not always, believe in a god or gods. People of many different cultures and ethnic groups may adhere to the same religion or belief.


Faith communities can be viewed as a distinctive part of the voluntary and community sector and within a faith community there may be faith groups that effectively operate as voluntary or community organisations. These groups can contribute to the whole range of community involvement, from membership of strategic organisations to small-scale project work at neighbourhood level.


Including faith groups in community involvement can:

 provide gateways to communities who would otherwise be left out

 boost involvement in communities

 help link the development of citizenship to faith traditions.


Local action-planning

This is the process whereby the members of a community, whether geographical or one defined by interest and identity, work together to produce a plan. This plan will normally set out their vision and their priority objectives for their neighbourhood or community and the actions and initiatives which might help to achieve them.


Local strategic partnership

A Local Strategic Partnership (LSP) is a single non-statutory, multi-agency body, which matches local authority boundaries, and aims to bring together at a local level the different parts of the public, private, community and voluntary sectors. LSPs are key to tackling deep seated, multi-faceted problems, requiring a range of responses from different bodies. Local partners working through a LSP will be expected to take many of the major decisions about priorities and funding for their local area. (Neighbourhood Renewal Unit


Neighbourhood renewal

Neighbourhood renewal is about reversing the spiral of decline in our most disadvantaged communities. It involves working from the grassroots to deliver economic prosperity and jobs, safer communities, good education, decent housing and better health, as well as fostering a new sense of community among residents. A New Commitment to Neighbourhood Renewal, the Government’s national strategy action plan for revitalising the most deprived parts of the country, was launched in January 2001. The principle underlying the strategy is that within 10 to 20 years ‘no-one should be seriously disadvantaged by where they live’ (source:


New Deal for Communities

A Government programme to regenerate 39 very deprived areas across England over a ten year period.


Localism (or new localism)

Localism is making services more locally accountable, devolving more power to local communities and, in the process, forging a modern relationship between the state, citizens and services. (Speech by Rt Hon Alan Milburn MP ‘Localism: The need for a new settlement’,

DEMOS seminar, 21 January 2004)


There are three main elements that provide the foundation for new localism:

 providing national standards and accountability for high quality services

 devolving power to councils and giving additional freedom to meet local

needs, and building capacity at local level to deliver better services and provide effective community leadership.

(Adapted from a speech by Rt Hon Nick Raynsford MP, ODPM, ‘New localism:

making a reality of the myth’, 17 March 2003)


Partnership in meeting public needs

Public bodies’ involvement of citizens and communities, within the established democratic framework, in improving the planning and delivery of public services. One of the three key elements of civil renewal. (See civil renewal, active citizenship, strengthened communities)


Public services

Services that are wholly or partly funded through taxation. They include national, regional and local government and statutory agencies.


Residents’ consultancy

Residents with experience of effective community based regeneration and neighbourhood renewal acting as consultants to other residents seeking to tackle similar problems in order to share good practice and experience.


Social capital

The UK Government has formally adopted the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s definition of social capital: ‘networks together with shared norms, values and understandings that facilitate co-operation within or among groups.’ In particular, social capital involves building ‘bonds’ and ‘bridges’ between people as a foundation for social support and community relationships (Putnam, 2000). Effective community involvement, especially horizontal involvement and networking, are key elements in the building of social capital.


Social enterprises

Businesses with primarily social objectives whose surpluses are principally reinvested for that purpose in the business or in the community, rather than being driven by the need to maximise profit for shareholders and owners.


Social exclusion

This is what can happen when a combination of linked problems such as unemployment, poor skills, low incomes, unfair discrimination, poor housing, high crime environments, bad health and family breakdown lead to people or places being excluded from the outcomes and opportunities enjoyed by mainstream society. There are other definitions of social exclusion but this is the one used by the Social Exclusion Unit.


Strengthened communities

Communities that are able to form and sustain their own organisations, and to bring people together to deal with their common concerns. They are one of three key elements of civil renewal (see civil renewal, active citizenship, partnership in meeting public needs, community engagement).


Sustainable development

Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. In the 1999 UK Sustainable Development Strategy, which is now being revised, the UK Government described it as ‘ensuring a better quality of life for everyone, now and for generations to come.’


VCS infrastructure

Voluntary and Community infrastructure organisations are those that play a supporting, co-ordinating, representative, policy making and developmental role for other voluntary and community organisations.


Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS)

Commonly used term encompassing both the voluntary sector and the community sector (see separate definitions for the voluntary sector and the community sector).


Voluntary sector

Groups whose activities are carried out other than for profit but which are not public or local authorities. These organisations would normally be formally constituted and employ paid professional and administrative staff. They may or may not use volunteer help (source: Community Development Foundation).



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