Institute for Social Renewal

People, Place and Community

People, Place and Community


Community, identity and place are central to meeting the societal challenge of how to adapt and thrive in a rapidly changing world.

In the places where people live or work, a key question is how can they join together to imagine their future collectively and to pursue a shared vision?  How might place-based identities be brought together to form a basis for inclusive action, looking to the future?

Growing evidence shows that community, identity and place are powerful resources in the collective mobilisation of people to 'shape' their futures. People are increasingly likely to identify with place. Whether places they have always 'belonged' or places to which they 'elect to belong'. The meanings of such places are likely to be contested and co-produced through complex, power-infused processes, characterised as much by conflict as by consensus. 

These processes can be informed by academic understandings of place-based development. For example by using concepts of 'place-shaping' and collaborative planning developed by Newcastle University's Global Urban Research Unit (GURU) and networked rural development which originated in our Centre for Rural Economy (CRE). Each of these ideas has been influential in policy and practice around the world.

Theme Champion: Professor Mark Tewdwr-Jones, Professor of Town Planning, School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape

Children taking part in World-Record breaking maths walk treasure hunt on the Millenium Gateshead Bridge, Newcastle Quayside.


Launch of Social Renewal pamphlet: the Devolution Revolution

Devolution is often heralded as the solution to any and all of the challenges facing government and society today – from economic growth and better public services to democratic renewal and keeping the UK together. In recent years, outside London we have seen the abolition of the regional scale of governance, and large cuts in local government budgets continue, resulting in a significant centralisation of power. Nevertheless, strategies and targets set in Whitehall often fail to reflect or respond to the real challenges facing local communities.

But while properly-resourced devolution may be a tool to empower regions, a number of questions must still be answered if it is to succeed in addressing the challenges facing our country. How can authorities create economic growth that is sustainable and equal, rather than the preserve of the few? What can be done to ensure elected mayors and combined authorities have legitimacy in the eyes of the electorate? Can the devolution process enable creativity while still providing local democratic scrutiny and accountability? How can local residents be involved in making decisions about the areas in which they live and work?

This pamphlet The Devolution Revolution (PDF 1.8MB) seeks to address these questions in a series of short contributions from academics at the Institute for Social Renewal and our external partners.

Community discussion

Community initiative

What Can Community Initiative Achieve?

In the present economic climate in Europe, community initiatives and social enterprises are being called upon by politicians and being set up by activists as an expanding alternative to state provision of a range of services and activities.

There has been a long history of the formation of such initiatives and enterprises, and from time to time, there has been formal government encouragement. But this ‘third sector’ has not developed on a substantial scale previously.

With the difficulties of maintaining the welfare state in its 20th Century form, and the potentially long-lasting economic problems facing many countries and regions in Europe, is now the right time right for a significant expansion.

And if so, what encouragement is needed from formal government?  Can community initiatives have a significant role to play in experimenting with new models of service delivery and meeting local needs on a significant scale?

Glendale Gateway Community Trust in Wooler, Northumberland (left) held a seminar, supported by NISR, in August 2013 to discuss and share experiences of the potential of community initiatives. The attendees of this seminar recognised the need for policy-makers, academics, and those networks advocating more attention to this level of public activity, to rise to the challenge.

City futures

A prosperous future for cities depends on intellectual leadership from universities and full participation from local people. The Newcastle City Futures 2065 Report sets out a fresh methodology for engaging urban communities on long term trends.

The Newcastle City Futures 2065 report is now available.

Newcastle City Futures is led by Professors Mark Tewdwr-Jones and John Goddard and aims to develop a Foresight methodology to be applied at the city region scale. The report explores the future of cities over the next 50 years by looking in detail at the prospects for Newcastle as a test bed for this new methodology.

The research team started out with a comprehensive academic review. They built on that with stakeholder interviews and a survey of experts using Delphi methodology – a systematic forecasting method that finds common ground amongst experts. This process built a sound academic platform and established the key themes to be discussed with people across the city. The team created a pop-up exhibition and 24 public forum events, engaged more than 2,500 people and generated more than 100 comment cards and ideas for the future development of Newcastle. This fed into three alternative scenarios for the long term future of the city.

The methodology is transferable, and could easily be adopted by the English cities due to receive new powers this year and wishing to mobilise their universities to work with partners in reflecting on and shaping the future of the city.

Newcastle City Futures exhibition


Our panel of experts debate the big issues facing rural areas – in particular Northumberland – today.