IGP Stories

Rethinking prosperity: UK’s first longitudinal study of prosperity based on community-led research

London Prosperity Board Prosperity Index Europe

Sarah Nisi

6 August 2021

UK’s first longitudinal study of prosperity using citizen-led metrics will produce robust, actionable, and local evidence about prosperity, as defined by local communities.

Place-based prosperity has become a policy priority for national, regional and local government in the UK in recent years, in response to growing regional and intra-urban inequalities and social and economic exclusion. “In every country in the world, the means and mechanisms to turn the wealth our economies generate into prosperity and to share the benefits of that prosperity more evenly across all social groups, is severely lacking”, says Professor Henrietta Moore, Founder and Director of the Institute for Global Prosperity (IGP). Measuring prosperity based on the priorities of local communities and involving local people to develop a survey rather than experts designing a project is the key for change. New ways of understanding, conceptualising and measuring prosperity are needed, both to inform local decision-making and to equip communities with the tools and evidence they will need to monitor progress and hold decision makers to account.

What are the pathways to shared prosperity in the UK?
A redefinition of prosperity is less concerned with economic wealth and growth, and more attentive to the things that people care about and need – secure and good quality livelihoods, good public services, a clean and healthy environment, planetary and ecosystem health, a political system that allows everyone to be heard, and the ability to have rich social and cultural lives.

Citizen science involves the public in large scale scientific research, where people take part in volunteer monitoring and crowdsourced projects. UCL’s Institute for Global Prosperity (IGP) takes a different approach to citizen science, by training local people to work as social scientists in their own communities. All citizen scientists work with academics to design research that captures local experiences and reflects what matters to local people and communities. IGP translated the community-led research into a tool to measure what matters to the prosperity of local communities and guide policy and action. The Prosperity Index is a new way of bringing local priorities to decision-making; it is a method that has been piloted in east London and is now being applied to communities around the UK - with the goal to achieve a sustained shift in public debate, policymaking, investment and community action for shared prosperity.

A longitudinal study of household prosperity in east London (2021-2031)
This research forms the basis of a longitudinal study about prosperity which the IGP are now embarking on the first of its kind in the UK. The study will observe how households in thirteen post-industrial neighbourhoods in east London, (subject to rapid economic and social transformation driven by the regeneration of London's Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park) self-report their prosperity over the decade 2021-2031. This is the first longitudinal study in the UK to track household prosperity using the Prosperity Index and is based on qualitative research about the determinants of prosperity for individuals and communities in east London. While strategic urban regeneration programmes are designed with increasingly complex socio-economic objectives in mind (e.g. tackling worklessness, enhancing economic inclusion), there is a lack of research evaluating the outcomes and impacts of regeneration.

The longitudinal study will assess the long-term effects of social, economic and physical change on prosperity and address the following questions:

  • How are ‘prosperity gains’ from regeneration distributed within and between neighbourhoods?
  • How is prosperity experienced by people from different backgrounds and living in different neighbourhoods?
  • What are the local, short, medium and long term issues that enable people to prosper?

Understanding 21st century pathways to prosperity
While this project focuses on the effects of urban regeneration on household prosperity in east London, the patterns of social and economic change these neighbourhoods have and the conditions that characterise contemporary life for deprived households (in-work poverty, livelihood insecurity, gentrification and exclusion from livelihood and lifestyle opportunities created by economic transformation), are shared with many other post-industrial areas that are the target of urban regeneration. IGP is already in dialogue with local authorities and universities in Glasgow, Liverpool and Leeds, about knowledge exchange initiatives to share insights about citizen-led prosperity research and metrics. Data will be used to inform planning, policy and action to increase shared prosperity.

The project is led by the Prosperity Co-Lab (PROCOL) UK and builds directly on five years of cross-sector collaboration with London Prosperity Board partners, which include the London Legacy Development Corporation, Greater London Authority, London Boroughs of Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest and Barking & Dagenham, Lendlease, Office for National Statistics, East London Business Association, Business in the Community, Bromley by Bow Centre, Community Links and Hackney CVS. The project also partners with Compost London (CIC) and Hackney Quest and is supported by the Centre for Longitudinal Studies at UCL. The main funders of the study are Lendlease, Royal Docks, The London Legacy Development Corporation, Poplar HARCA and The Hill Group.

Photo by Tom Wheatley on Unsplash

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