Charities and volunteering exist to make the world a better place. That includes promoting equality, tackling inequality, and making our communities meaningful and vibrant places to grow up, work, play and rest.

We believe that levelling up must be about building stronger and more inclusive communities as well as a fairer and more prosperous economy.

As this report will outline, we want the government’s levelling up agenda to succeed. This requires all parts of government – central, devolved, and local – to collaborate with the public, private and voluntary sectors. Charities and volunteers are embedded in the communities they serve, so have a vital role to play.

This report focuses on three areas where the government can support charities and volunteers to realise the ambitions of the levelling up agenda:

  • Power and decision making: We want to see decision making devolved, with more power in the hands of communities and local institutions.

  • Funding and resources: We want to see long-term funding secured through community endowments, boosted philanthropy and more sustainable local government mechanisms and powers. 

  • Community, space and participation: We want the spaces and places in our communities to be hubs for building and harnessing relationships, opportunities and ideas. 

For us, this is just the start of the discussion about what levelling up means to communities, charities and volunteers.

Redressing the balance

Charities and voluntary organisations see first-hand how rising inequality has been worsened by the pandemic. To resolve it, communities will need varying levels and types of support to realise their ambitions. 

Throughout the covid-19 pandemic, we have seen the incredible resilience, resolve and ingenuity of citizens, communities and organisations. Through hard times, communities have come together – whether in formal associations, informal networks, or just being a good neighbour. At times, they responded quicker than established institutions and stepped up in the face of crisis.

We owe a tremendous debt to all those who have given and lost so much during the covid-19 crises. We believe our repayment for this national sacrifice must be a transformational agenda in tackling inequality for all. Communities, through charities and volunteering, must play a central role in this challenge.


More than 200 organisations fed into this report. Though collated by NCVO, this report reflects the expertise, experience, and insight from across the charity and volunteering sector – from large national institutions to small, local groups.

This report was written by Rebecca Young, Alex Farrow, Chris Walker and Catherine Goodall, in collaboration with the team at NCVO. We are grateful for the invaluable support we received from infrastructure organisations, particularly NAVCA and the Small Charities Coalition, as well as our UK sister councils in Wales and Scotland, in both the consultation and drafting process.

This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 13 February 2023