The UK community anchor model and its challenges for community sector theory and practice

James Henderson, Chris McWilliams

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The growing policy focus since the 1970s in Scotland, the UK and internationally on ‘community’, community development and community ownership and enterprise has facilitated a certain growth of the community sector and therefore of concern for related discussions of theory and practice. This paper positions this turn to community within the shifting global political economic context, in particular the rolling out of the neo-liberal state internationally from the 1980s and a related urban crisis management of structural inequality (Brenner and Theodore, 2002). By focusing on the emergence of community anchor organisations – understood in the UK context as multi-purpose, local community-led organisations – within Scottish and UK policy-making since the 2000s, the central dilemma for critical community sector theory and practice of sustaining a local egalitarian vision and practice (Pearce, 2003) given this neo-liberal context is explored. A Scottish urban community anchor provides an illustration of this challenge for theory and practice and of how it can be re-considered through discussions of ‘progressive mutualism’ (Pearce, 2009) and ‘resilience, re-working and resistance’ (Katz, 2004; Cumbers et al., 2010).
Original languageEnglish
Article numberCUS-383-16-04.R1
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalUrban Studies
Early online date24 Jan 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Jan 2017


  • community anchor organisations
  • community sector theory and practice
  • neoliberal urban social policy
  • progressive mutualism and community ownership
  • Scottish and UK public policy


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