Whether through greater support for neighbors in need or simply through spending more time using local shops, parks and services, communities have come together strongly during the COVID-19 crisis. In Brazil, for example, citizen activists formed "crisis cabinets," creating tailored public information campaigns, and taking food and other essentials to those in need.2
It is this kind of community spirit that will help citizens rebuild their communities and social infrastructure, delivering grassroots solutions that fuel positive changes. This spirit can be captured and sustained by encouraging more participative governance and re-empowering local communities to take leading roles in social care, town planning and service provision.
To be most effective, community empowerment will require the support of government. Scotland’s Government, for example, is funding community-led regeneration through its empowering communities fund, which aims to support the most disadvantaged or fragile communities. This gives people more power to make decisions on spending in their local areas through participatory budgeting, and making it easier for communities to take over land and buildings in public ownership through asset transfers.
With the right leadership, support and incentives, this revival of the local could become permanent, bringing many benefits such as support networks for the vulnerable, revitalized local high streets, and thriving local services and amenities due to increased usage. All of this would, in turn, lead to greater local resilience to future crises.
Local governments, regions and municipalities – with responsibility for health care, social services and economic development – have been at the frontline of crisis management during the pandemic. And they will continue to play a vital role in building resilient communities, facilitating and enabling networks, and supporting infrastructure and business growth to the benefit of their locality. The crisis presents an opportunity for local governments to reset and reframe their relationships with the center, but inter-governmental coordination will be vital.