Community enterprises, community assets and processes of urban regeneration and gentrification

Earley, Alice Rachel (2020) Community enterprises, community assets and processes of urban regeneration and gentrification. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis explores the role of community enterprises (CEs), and particularly the community assets that they manage, within regeneration and gentrification. As has been well-documented, there is a long-standing debate regarding if, and how, regeneration can be achieved to benefit existing residents, while limiting the risks associated with gentrification. Existing literature has explored more nuanced conceptualisations of gentrification; the factors that can help to limit gentrification; and the role of asset-managing/owning CEs within community-led regeneration. However, further research is needed exploring the complex interrelations between CEs, their assets, regeneration and gentrification in relation to these debates. This is particularly important in the context of the Community Empowerment and Localism agendas promoted by the Scottish and Westminster Governments respectively, and nearly a decade of austerity.

This thesis contributes to these gaps and builds on a limited body of existing research in this area by exploring the extent to which the approach taken by CEs, via their community assets, to regeneration can and does affect the impacts and outcomes that can occur, including the extent of gentrification. The thesis examines the utility of a community asset-focussed analysis of gentrification, using case studies of CEs which manage community centres.

A largely qualitative methodology was adopted. Firstly, semi-structured scoping interviews were completed with 17 local and national stakeholders in Scotland and England. The second stage involved in-depth qualitative case study research (interviews and a focus group) with one CE in Glasgow, Scotland (34 participants) and one in Bristol, England (39 participants). Policy documents, organisational papers and neighbourhood statistics were also analysed. The study adopted a longitudinal, comparative approach to analyse the trajectories of these CEs over time, considering the factors influencing their approaches and impacts and outcomes arising.

The findings from the scoping interviews indicate that the potential of CEs, via their assets, to contribute to regeneration without gentrification tends to be indirect, via a commitment to ‘another way’ through the social economy (see Tuckett, 1988). Through this, there is potential for a more socially and economically just future in which, while capitalism is not directly challenged, its worst excesses can potentially be curtailed, if, and only if, adequate government support is provided to enable and support such endeavours.

Data from the case study research highlights that both cases have played a key role in their communities over time, for those who engage. In different ways, the organisations and their assets have contributed to social (and to a lesser extent, economic) regeneration and community development activities; and they have sought, to varying extents and in different ways, to address varied community needs locally. Their work, via their assets, has arguably largely reflected and, at times, reinforced, neighbourhood changes, including those relating to gentrification. There are complex interrelations between organisational, local and national factors which affect each organisation’s role and contribution to regeneration and/or gentrification.

However, the findings highlight that the potential for CEs to play a greater role in community-led regeneration without gentrification is intrinsically limited at present due to structural inequalities relating to housing and labour markets, compounded by austerity and so-called ‘welfare reform.’ These challenges create tensions for CEs over time, leading to an increasing ‘need’ for enterprise, potentially distracting from community aims, and being reflected in their assets.

While not seeking to detract from the social/community contributions of many CEs, including the case studies, this thesis argues that at present, these constraints are disabling this potential, and it is fundamental that these are recognised and acted upon by governments. The wider context of structural inequalities, austerity and the housing crisis, and the subsequent challenges CEs face in terms of organisational capacity, agency and scale, mean that CEs are unable to achieve their potential contribution to community-led regeneration without gentrification, without greater state intervention. This is required in areas including affordable housing and redistributive welfare policies.

This thesis thus contributes to knowledge in the areas identified, arguing that community assets can be a useful lens to explore the complex interrelations between regeneration, gentrification and community enterprise. In doing so, the findings further problematise policy narratives which often uncritically promote the benefits of CEs and community ownership/management. The thesis therefore calls for a more realistic and nuanced understanding of the potential of this approach, and the need for state intervention to address structural inequalities and redistribute economic and social capitals to enable and support community-based efforts to reach their potential.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: urban regeneration, gentrification, community development, neighbourhood change, urban policy, community asset, community centre, community enterprise, development trust, socioeconomic inequality, community empowerment, localism, austerity.
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Urban Studies
Funder's Name: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Supervisor's Name: Hastings, Professor Annette and Beveridge, Dr. Ross
Date of Award: 2020
Depositing User: Alice Earley
Unique ID: glathesis:2020-81722
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 15 Oct 2020 07:46
Last Modified: 27 Apr 2021 12:26

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