The coronavirus impact on decentralisation of power and local agency

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Who feels agency – a sense of having power and being able and willing to use it? In the recent Ditchley conference on Defining the modern United Kingdom, there was a consensus that what would determine the future of the UK was who has power and who feels agency. Although we remain in the very early stages of the pandemic, new tensions and questions are surfacing on the question of decentralisation of power and local agency. What then are the opportunities for decentralisation of power and local agency in this time of crisis? In what ways are local communities responding and what are examples of innovation in the engagement and protection of citizens? What gaps are being exposed in community responses and in what ways might pre-existing lack of agency be slowing these responses? Will the virus establish a feeling of constant precariousness and lack of agency amongst communities and individuals, or will this encourage new thinking and forms of connection around local innovation in the UK? Both centralised and decentralised emergency responses can elicit agency in people and a sense of having the capability, ability and power to act. How then do we combine necessary centralisation and direct engagement with decentralisation and a release of community and individual capacities?

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