This edited collection has emerged from studies funded through the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council's (AHRC’s) ‘Connected Communities’ programme. It uses the evidence and knowledge created by a range of projects to explore two theses: first, that the UK, and England in particular, has now entered a ‘post-regeneration era’; and, second, that new relationships are being developed between academics, universities and ‘communities’, producing new kinds of knowledge. These two propositions are explored throughout the book, but are related to global challenges.
Most obviously, the international push towards government austerity, with the UK government spearheading a global charge since 2010, has ended the era of public spending largesse that kept previous urban regeneration policies sustained (Sullivan, 2012). In England, the previous structures of area-based partnerships intended to deliver holistic regeneration have been replaced by a hotchpotch of initiatives, most notably, the range of powers included in the Localism Act, including neighbourhood planning, and the vague commitments and partial policy implementation associated with the much-discredited ‘Big Society’ (Allmendinger and Haughton, 2012).
Elsewhere in the UK, similar trends have emerged. While the Scottish government still has a small amount of central government funding that may be classed as regeneration funding, the focus is primarily on local authorities and health boards, through community planning partnerships, delivering outcomes for the most marginalised and excluded groups and neighbourhoods. The longer-term public service reform agenda sees co-production as a key way to deliver services more efficiently (Christie, 2011). Similarly, in Wales, the ongoing changes to Communities First are seeing the programme of area-based initiatives gradually becoming more mainstream and focused on delivering outcomes (NAWPAC, 2010). Across the UK, policy changes have occurred, or are occurring, that are changing the way in which central government treats the most deprived and marginalised communities. While for 40 years, at least, these neighbourhoods have been the focus of specific initiatives, they are now increasingly left to find their own way in a complex and unfavourable policy environment.
The ‘Connected Communities’ programme emerged into this policy context in 2009, not without controversy. Changes within the broader context of higher education were challenging arts and humanities research.