Against some of the common measures of what makes a strong community, priorities for action in the region are easy to identify. According to the Equality Trust, a UK charity that researches the effects of inequality, “people in less equal societies are less likely to trust each other, less likely to engage in social or civic participation, and less likely to say they’re happy”. Unfortunately our research identified a significant gap between disadvantaged communities and the rest of the region in relation to all the themes covered by Vital Signs, and in all corners of the North East.
There are some indications that the region is experiencing the problems that flow from inequality. Generally we say we are happy, but report greater levels of anxiety than elsewhere in the country. Crime and anti-social behaviour are problems in many areas, and hate crimes against those perceived as different is a significant issue. Overall people in the region are less engaged in civil society: fewer of us take part in elections than in the rest of the country, and levels of volunteering are generally lower.
Philanthropy can help to break down the barriers that inequality can create. Charitable giving puts money into poor communities, and unlocks more resources through people’s voluntary efforts. Philanthropy supports the voluntary sector to deliver hundreds of projects that bring people from all backgrounds together in communities to find ways to make life better.