Community Power

© UCLan

Community Power brings low-income communities together with Cumberland Council to co-create new ways to work together.


West Cumbria, a mainly coastal region of North West England, is one of the most unequal areas in the UK in terms of income disparities. Low-income communities are vulnerable to social exclusion and have below average rates of political participation. The communities included in this research project are all considered "left behind" in the UK and have had few opportunities to become involved in projects like this. 


Through this research project, Cumberland Council developed innovative ways to engage with these communities and discover new participatory activities with the purpose of promoting social and democratic inclusion. This was done over 18 months through community workshops, where residents explored different strategies for democratic participation and later discussed these with the Council in co-creation sessions. A voice and an opportunity for discussion were more critical to the community than having formal decision-making responsibilities, although some residents were interested in this too.


A number of outcomes and outputs have been produced by the research, including providing an inclusive space for discussion and support for developing engagement strategies to promote the new Community Network Panels. Residents reported increased confidence in and awareness of local democratic processes as a result of being involved in the research, and community organisations benefited through developing their networks. This research provides evidence to promote a developing culture of participation within Cumberland Council.

Project owner
Suzanne Wilson
Research Fellow
Project owner
Emma Williamson
Deputy Leader (Non Statutory) Statutory Lead for Children's Services and Executive Member for Children's, Family Wellbeing and Housing, Cumberland Council