Assessing The Fabric of Local Communities

You are here: Home / About / Assessing The Fabric of Local Communities

The performance of a local economy is conventionally described and measured by the employment, productivity, investment and profitability of activities across all (vertical) sectors.

The scale of a local economy reflects population demographics plus flows of people, goods and services – and the consequential inward and outward flows of money.

Some local economies are more self-sufficient simply by dint of greater local procurement whilst others are largely subject to external forces.

Descriptions of the local economy, however precise, do not provide a full reading of the health or wellbeing of the local community.  The community is more like a fabric with a number of lateral threads woven through the vertical sectors – binding them together.  These threads are far less easily measured and their relative priorities are more sensitive to local needs.

Underlying all activity – whether vertical or lateral – is an infrastructure of basic utilities: energy, transport, water, and the new enabler of digital connectivity.  Local connectivity not only enables the economic sector activities but also has a huge role in the more-empowering cross-cutting priorities.

The community fabric so described cannot be a complete picture – the realities are far more complex and in a state of flux.  It does, however, provide a reference framework against which different local communities may be assessed. 

Measurement of the verticals – the economic sectors – provides a firm (observable) grounding at least within regulated arenas and estimates can be made of any additional untaxed activities.  

Assessments of the contributions from the lateral threads are more subjective – particularly as they are often experimental and interdependent.  Local leadership of these collaborative initiatives is hugely variable but global research over the past two decades suggests that most of the threads (Figure 1, above) contribute significantly to a cohesive sense of local wellbeing.

Large cities often invest heavily in ‘smart’ technologies to enable some of these impacts, but technology alone is often insufficient.  Communities may be urban, rural, large or small, but with a strong citizen perspective, we describe those communities that have a well-woven (close-knit) fabric as ‘Intelligent Communities’.

National governments are acutely aware that overall economic performance is the aggregation of local endeavours.   The challenge for Local Leaders is to (a) assess their community’s real needs and (b) find ways to strengthen the local fabric. 

In that mission, the 2018 Global Summit will provide great opportunities to share experiences and gain insights into how the priorities and solutions are found in Intelligent Communities from around the world.