About community capacity building

In People Powered Health community capacity building is often called “more than medicine” to reflect that a range of social interventions are needed to build on and complement traditional clinical care. Similarly, the Care Act encourages Local Authorities to work with services and support provided by voluntary, community services and other groups that make up ‘community assets,’ to plan strategically how to encourage and grow these resources and integrate them with formal care and support services.

This strategic shift will mean new relationships and a partnership of equals between people and health and care professionals and a profoundly different way of organising care in ways that blur the boundaries between health, public health, social care and community and voluntary organisations. It recognises that people with long term physical or mental health problems commonly need a range of support beyond medical or service based interventions.

This might include working with a health trainer to gain confidence in making lifestyle changes; connecting with local support groups; learning new skills such as healthy cooking; accessing benefits support and financial advice; or exchanging skills through a timebank. Supporting people to access this broader range of options and engaging the community in strengthening them will be key factors in the success of IPC.

This focus builds on the growing evidence base for asset based community development and the importance of supporting self-management for producing better outcomes for people. It also recognises the potential for a greatly expanded role for the voluntary and community sector and for “Non Traditional Providers,” brokering access to community resources, alongside or instead of formal services.

A strategic approach to community capacity building should combine a range of linked activities, including:

  • Building mutual support and self-help – developing networks and user led organisations that enable peer support and offer practical advice and support outside of formal services.
  • Facilitating connections between individuals and resources – devising local approaches for target populations, building knowledge, confidence and skills (e.g. community connectors, local area coordination, Village Agents etc).
  • Enabling inclusion in community activities – so that leisure, sports, social and other organisations are open to all and reach out to excluded communities to invite and encourage participation.
  • Strengthening community ownership – promoting and supporting activities that bring people together to focus on particular issues (e.g. building dementia friendly communities), and
  • Reshaping services – both universal and targeted health and social care services to explicitly recognise coproduction and build people’s confidence and skills to improve service outcomes.