Tony Armstrong, Locality chief executive, discusses the importance of building and maintaining strong international relationships - particularly in a time of political, economic and environmental upheaval.
We get inspiration, motivation and the feeling of being part of a truly global movement.

The election is over, we have the return of single party majority Government, and Brexit will be “done” in a few days. Whether all of that cheers you or makes you miserable, there is certainly a new sense of national clarity here in the UK to replace the chaos and uncertainty we grew so used to over the last couple of years. Internationally, the world is still a chaotic place politically, economically and environmentally. This is the backdrop to an important coming year as the UK seeks to agree our future trading relationship with the EU, and build relationships with many other countries in a post Brexit world.

For Locality, international relationships have always been very important. Just as our national network enables locally focused organisations to network and develop collective influence, international connections enable us to develop strong support networks and share learning across the world.  And that’s because our approach and model – locally rooted, multi-purpose community organisations doing what it takes to support their community – is one that is shared across many countries.

Tony in Australia - IFS network

The value of sharing ideas and experiences

We have much to learn from others. While we Brits can be a bit sniffy about fact finding missions overseas, exchange trips and events are a vital part of increasing our knowledge, experience and horizons. At Locality we have committed to maintaining and developing our international work. We have an ongoing relationship with the city of Seoul, South Korea and host professional interns as well as undertaking project work to spread our experience of community enterprise to Korea. We also participate in and lead various international networks, and have been able to provide exchange opportunities for young people and member learning visits.

What do we get out of these things? Firstly, the feeling of solidarity with our sister organisations and networks across the world. It’s good to talk about and offer support on common issues – whether that’s competing on who has the strangest national politics at the time, or specific issues such as supporting refugees or the trend in outsourcing in public services. As an international network, we’ve been working to support Hungarian NGOs against a Government crack down, spreading our experience of how not to introduce the privatisation of key public services with colleagues in the US and Australia, learning about different housing models in Finland and Sweden, and building relationships with community organisations in African countries. We’ve built up relationships and helped others to do the same. Some Locality members have hosted exchange visits for young people and have made new lifelong friends. And we get inspiration, motivation and the feeling of being part of a truly global movement.

The IFS network

The International Federation of Settlements and Neighbourhood Centres (IFS) is the primary international network we are involved with. I am a board member, along with our other UK rep and former Locality Chair, Joanna Holmes.  As part of our commitment to international work, we agreed in 2016 that Locality should take on the coordination of the European network of IFS, and coordinate European networking and connections. This includes continuing to participate in the Erasmus programmes – which we hope the UK will remain part of whatever the new trading relationship with the EU brings.

The IFS has existed for over 100 years, and provides a framework for spreading learning and networking between our members. Locality and our predecessor organisations have played a leading role for most of that time. Every Locality member is an associate member of the IFS through our membership. We have been developing opportunities for members to benefit directly in this global movement through networking, as well as exploring ideas to run twinning and exchange programmes with other IFS national members – watch this space for more details.

International networking and learning opportunities for Locality members

Locality has committed to making international networking opportunities available to members every year. We’ve offered bursaries to attend international conferences in Helsinki and Bilbao, and recently organised a study visit to New York city.

A taste of the Big Apple – David Nugent

Two bursaries for Locality member to attend the IFS conference in Sydney

I’m delighted that in 2020, we will be offering two bursaries for member organisations to attend the IFS conference in Sydney, Australia in August. This conference, which we have a hand in developing, is held every two years and offers a chance to learn from other community organisations across the world.

Through our Knowledge and Skills Exchange programme, we’re able to offer two Locality community members a £500 bursary to join “Social Justice  – the unfinished journey” IFS 2020 in Sydney.

The theme – Social Justice: The Unfinished Journey, Global Issues – Local Solutions, sets the tone of this Conference. You will:

  • unpack the social justice challenges of the 21st Century
  • share social justice-oriented resources
  • strengthen networks of people working for social justice both locally and globally
  • prepare a declaration for action to present to the United Nations

Where: Sydney, Australia
When: Tuesday 11 – Friday 14 August 2020
Bursary: £500 towards your travel and accommodation expenses plus full conference tickets worth £300

How to apply
Send an email to by 5pm on Friday 28 February with:

  • The name of the person who will be attending,
  • a short paragraph on:
    • why your organisation would benefit from this trip, and
    • how you will share your learning with others.

We’ll let you know if you’ve been successful by Wednesday 11 March.

Terms and Conditions

You must be a Locality Community Member.

  • Your membership fees must be paid.
  • The person attending must be able to enter Australia.
  • Check the Australian entry requirements.
  • One person per Locality community member organisation may attend, and one bursary per Locality community member organisation will be given.
  • Only two bursaries will be granted.

International peer networking

Locality is a part of the International Federation of Settlements and Neighbourhood Centres, and we’re committed to widening access to international networking and exchanges for members.

For more about our recent New York trip, check out the following blogs:

A taste of the Big Apple – Alison Haskins

A taste of the Big Apple – KPCP