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March 3, 2010

Scaling up the impact of local

Even when the government is prepared to accept that the best way of tackling major social challenges is by becoming much more local, they are faced with a real dilemma – how to support solutions that are genuinely local while at the same time achieving national impact and scale. NESTA, who describe themselves as the UK’s leading independent experts on innovation, claim their new report – Mass Localism –may hold the key

Laura Bunt and Michael Harris, NESTA

Policymakers increasingly recognise that many of the solutions to major social challenges – from tacklingclimate change to improving public health – need to be much more local. Local solutions are frequently very effective, as they reflect the needs of specific communities and engage citizens in taking action. And they are often cost-effective, since they provide a conduit for the resources of citizens, charities or social enterprises to complement those of the state. Given the growing pressure on government finances, these are important benefits.

But localism presents a dilemma. Government has traditionally found it difficult to support genuine local solutions while achieving national impact and scale. This report offers a solution: an approach by which central and local government can encourage widespread, high quality local responses to big challenges. The approach draws on the lessons of NESTA’s Big Green Challenge – a successful programme to support communities to reduce carbon emissions. This approach might be applied across other challenge areas,from public health to reducing re-offending, and has some important implications for how government can support communities to take action at a lower cost than traditional initiatives. We call this approach ‘mass localism’.

Read full report here