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2012 Conference Presentation

Economics United Kingdom

7 September 2012

The economic consequences of community capacity-building projects

Annette Bauer, London School of Economics, United Kingdom
Martin Knapp, London School of Economics, United Kingdom
Margaret Perkins, London School of Economics, United Kingdom


In the UK, community capacity-building has been declared as a strategy to achieve the devolution of power to the neighbourhood level and to relieve pressure on public funds. Evidence from evaluations of community initiatives like time banks, health champions, community navigators and neighbourhood networks indicates that they can achieve improved health and wellbeing, in particular for people who are socially isolated and with long-term care needs or at risk of developing them.

Quantitative knowledge about the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of these community projects is, however, in short supply, and certainly insufficient to inform public resource allocation decisions. Our research aims to contribute to filling this gap by examining the costs and outcomes of ten community initiatives which have been running successfully for some years. We employ decision modelling techniques to project the long-term economic consequences, and use sensitivity analysis to test the robustness of findings.

The research consists of two phases. The first phase is just coming to completion: we used semi-structured interviews and workshops to gain a comprehensive understanding of the projects and their current data collection. Alongside information from literature reviews we developed a standardised data collection framework which is being adapted to local project requirements. In the second phase of the research we will collect some primary data on costs and outcomes. In parallel, we will extract quantitative evidence from previous research and other information sources (including local collections) to generate parameters for inclusion in the economic evaluation models. We will synthesize primary and secondary data using a mix of economic evaluation methods including decision modelling (where feasible) to project the long-term implications for needs and services.

The main focus of the analysis will be on cost savings and efficiency gains (if any) to government, but we will take a wider societal perspective where this can be done in a robust manner. Our research approach is based on principles of involvement and collaboration with individuals and groups engaged in delivering the local activities and with local citizens. Information is shared between community capacity-building projects through a series of learning exchange events. An expert advisory group has been established to inform the research methodology and to help with the dissemination of findings. At the conference, we would present findings from our evaluation.


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