The Brief

Our Enabling State programme of research, practice and advocacy seeks to better understand the paradigm shift that is transforming the UK welfare state into an enabling state.  The Trust recognises the profound impact that agency, control and relationships have on our wellbeing and advocates for a more Enabling State that empowers individuals and communities and takes a facilitative, holistic approach to service design and delivery.

In 2019, we published The Enabling State: Where are we now?  a review of the evidence from across the four UK jurisdictions since 2013. We produced individual report cards for each jurisdiction – WalesScotlandEnglandNorthern Ireland – which provide an overview of how each is performing against the seven key policy shifts.

As well as our internal research and advocacy, the Enabling State programme has worked with a range of organisations and networks to explore and implement this transformational shift in practice.

  • We worked in partnership with the British Academy on the ‘Governing England’ project, a multi-disciplinary project which sought to address some of the key issues relating to emerging debates about English devolution and governance in the context of a changing Union.
  • We supported Cornerstone to implement and share learning from ‘Local Cornerstone’: a new approach to delivering social care that makes use of small, self-managing teams and technology that gives more power to local staff to enable users to live a valued life that they choose.
  • We developed a partnership with The Wheel in Ireland to take forward the recommendations in ‘Citizen’s Rising’ the report of The People’s Conversation: a year-long series of ‘citizens conversations’. This project ended with the publication of Participating People in Autumn 2019.
  • We continue to support the Better Way Network, a network of social activists, from the voluntary sector and beyond that shares ideas, knowledge and inspiration about how to improve services and build stronger communities. The network is hosted by Civil Exchange and is also being supported by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.
  • We are working with The Relationships Project, which aims to bring about stronger communities, more effective services and healthier, happier people through supporting organisations and places to become relationship-centred.
  • And we are connecting with others to advocate for change. All of this work is part of a broader eco-system of people and organisations who are working to create positive social change: our Fellow Travellers.


A note on Covid-19

Covid-19 is having a profound impact on communities across the UK. Evidence arising from the emergency demonstrates many powerful examples of community kindness and empowerment, as well as a change in the behaviour of public services. And though it is important not to assume that the positive community energy generated by the crisis can be easily retained and harnessed in the medium term without significant effort, in recent weeks we have seen many of the enabling state principles come to the fore. As attention starts to shift to how we can ‘Build Back Better’, we have taken the opportunity to update our influential 2014 Route Map to an Enabling State, with some guiding principles for recovery.

The Trust is also currently undertaking a listening project  with local government and communities across the UK to better understand both the work being undertaken to mitigate the impact of the virus, and how we might distil some of this learning to build forward for the future.



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Jennifer Wallace

Hannah Ormston




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