This new research documents the incredible community response to the pandemic across eight European countries. It shows how community organisations have been supporting their neighbourhoods through the hardest of times.
The IFS Europe gives us connection but also knowledge of each other, and knowledge is power.

Despite the huge economic and social threats we are facing in the wake of the virus, we heard about the determination and faith in the power of community to support healthier, happier and more resilient places through the recovery and beyond.

In this guest blog, Sophie Michelena, who led the research, offers her reflections on the findings.

Download and read our research here: The Power of Community across Europe

It is great to see this collective snapshot of our impact as a European network published, but it is sad that we are releasing it while much of Europe is still in various forms of coronavirus lockdown and social and economic crises, after so many long months.

This research was originally devised after the first major lockdowns in Europe in spring 2020. The aim was to learn from each other about our responses to the outbreak. By the time the research actually took place, many countries were in a second lockdown already. Many have now experienced a third.

The research gave us an opportunity to share experiences, as well as gather lessons, tips, and build a sense of a common story with our European friends. I was always convinced of the strength of our international network, the International Federation of Settlements and Neighbourhood Houses (IFS). However, it was great to see it firsthand – with all our friends sharing so openly. It felt extremely good to check in on each other and look ahead to the future.

At a time when everyone was forced to focus inwards and regroup within their organisation, their community, their activities, it felt really human to connect with our international friends and share our thoughts and emotions about the current situation in the community sector. I felt that I learned a lot from our colleagues, and hopefully the interviewees learned from the experiences of the UK, and also those of the other interviewees. Like a little pollinating bee, I was spreading the commonalities and differences as I went along from Zoom meeting to Zoom meeting – perhaps helping our friends and colleagues feel less alone, less disconnected.

The IFS Europe gives us connection but also knowledge of each other, and knowledge is power. We discovered again that we have many solutions to offer, and advocate for in common.

Moving forward, we will now be able to take tangible action on more learning and policy recommendations together through an Erasmus+ funded programme, Fostering Social Justice. The aim is to encourage European cooperation and strengthen the capacity of the IFS network to provide and advocate for effective adult educational projects targeted at people with fewer opportunities, migrants and refugees by means of mutual learning, active citizenship and capacity building.

11 European countries are taking part. Although the UK was not part of the bid, the IFS Europe network will make sure we are all connected in Europe going forward; our organisations and the network are here to stay!

Sophie Michelena is formally a Development Manager at Locality and is now working as a European Project Coordinator for the IFS based at the French Federation of Social Centers.

Download the research