Quantifying kindness, public engagement and place: experiences of people in the UK and Ireland

Community development Policy Behavioural insights Behavioural economics United Kingdom Ireland
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The Carnegie UK Trust has a long history of research and practice development on public services and community empowerment across the UK and Ireland.

Most recently, we have been engaged in fascinating work on the concept of kindness as an underpinning value for both public services and community empowerment. Much is known at a psychological level about kindness as a relational concept that helps build a sense of belonging and contributes to wellbeing. Less is known about the extent to which our communities are kind places and whether we experience kindness from each other and the services we use. This report presents the findings of the first, and largest, survey that explores this issue in depth.

The second area that it covers is the more common strand of collective action – how do we act to make change in our local areas, either as consumers of public services or as active citizens? The survey goes further than most by asking not just about what people do, but how effective they think these behaviours are, and allows us to explore whether our expectations of change affect our behaviours.

Finally, we used the survey to explore self-identification of place. This is critical to much of social policy and there is a well-known split in research and policy development on ‘urban’ and ‘rural’. However this duality ignores the reality that many of us live in the in-between – in towns that are neither economic hot beds nor rural backwaters. The question often posed is ‘how many people are we talking about’ – and the truth is that no one quite knows because of the way the statisticians categorise differently across the UK. Our view is that a sense of place is relative – what is a town in Ireland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland is relative to the size of our cities, and very different to that which would be classed a town in England. A single question in this survey sought to answer the question sufficiently for advocacy purposes, the responses illustrative for the sense of a forgotten middle.

This booklet contains an overview of the data that was collated.

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