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The 10 Communities Programme is a flagship commitment as part of Plan A 2025. Our goal is to help transform 1000 communities and we have chosen 10 pilot communities where we will trial a series of locally tailored initiatives that will aim to improve the social wellbeing of residents by tackling issues such as unemployment, skill shortages, loneliness, poverty, and mental health and wellbeing.

Through our partnerships we will track and measure the impact of our work with a view to roll out our programme to a further 100 locations by 2023 and share the learning with a 1,000 locations by 2025.

From July to December 2017 we have been in listening mode. We have been meeting residents, councillors and community activists from our ten communities as we begin to explore how M&S can help transform local communities. 


During October and November 2017 we held community conversations up and down the country where we met with and heard the thoughts of local residents. We asked what people love about their area, what needs improving and we worked through solutions together on how things could be tackled. You can read about these below.

Liverpool – Toxteth and Dingle

Community Conversation – 16th October 2017

We met a community working together to find solutions, a group of natural leaders. Many of the people we met were willing to get involved and help each other out working tirelessly for the benefit of others. 

Why we love our area:

  1. The ‘can do’ attitude of the community
  2. Community spirit and support for one another
  3. Proud of our long history and heritage

The group spoke to us of their desire to give young people something positive to focus on, helping them to start believing in themselves and giving them hope that they can achieve what they want.

Three things the community would like to see improved:

  1. Low aspirations for young people
  2. Isolation amongst elderly groups and low mental health
  3. Long term investment rather than short term


Community Conversation – 17th October 

The group were hugely proud of the rich diversity that makes up the area and the incredible history. As the birthplace of the coop movement and a key link in the abolition of slavery there was lots of lively conversation about reasons to be proud of the area.

Why we love our area: 

  1. Cherish and celebrate the rich diversity of our community
  2. Location – lots of green space with the great outdoors on the doorstep
  3. Beautiful architecture and buildings in the town centre

Attendees spoke to us about their concerns around health and wellbeing, how a lack of understanding in mental and physical health was causing a long-lasting impact on the community.

Three things the community would like to see improved:

  1. Lack of mental health support and knowledge
  2. Few opportunities for skills development and employment for young people
  3. Better communication about activities community groups offer


Community Conversation – 18th October 2017

Historically a city that evolved with immigration when the Germans migrated to participate in the wool trade, residents were proud of their diversity. They described themselves as a family focused area with a strong sense of civic-ness built into the character of the people.

Why we love our area: 

  1. Pride in the history and culture
  2. Community spirit is strong
  3. The dales are on the doorstep

There was a concern that the young in the city were lacking in the confidence they need to achieve everything they want. There was an appetite for projects for young people focused on leadership and resilience building.

Three things the community would like to see improved:

  1. Youth unemployment and lack of aspiration
  2. Isolation amongst older residents, a fragmented transport system makes the community feels disconnected
  3. Breaking the cycle of poverty

Community Conversation – 24th October 2017

We met a group that described their community as welcoming, a group of people with strong loyalty and an authenticity that they are most proud of.

Why we love our area: 

  1. Surrounding nature, the sea and wildlife 
  2. Proud of the area’s steel and engineering history
  3. The ‘authentic’ community 

There was a feeling of disappointment that the decision making in the area has not always reflected the will of the local residents. There was a concern that a general lack of aspiration and life skills was contributing to the long term unemployment across the city.

Three issues we want to tackle:

  1. Lack of aspiration, unemployment and life skills 
  2. Loneliness and isolation
  3. Do not feel listened to or engaged with by decision makers



Community Conversation – 28th October 2017

There was a strong community feeling with our group in Norwich. With so many fantastic community projects growing from the area and servicing local needs you can see why the attendees told us that you know your neighbour in this area.

Why we love our area: 

  1. Thriving arts and culture scene
  2. Situated in beautiful countryside
  3. Welcoming community

Attendees spoke of a need to deal with the inequalities that exist across the city, improving opportunities to young people and helping them into work.

Three issues we want to tackle:

  1. Unemployment and lack of opportunities for young people
  2. Stigma and taboo around mental health
  3. Homelessness



Community Conversation – 30th October 2017

As one of the most diverse parts of the country, if not the world, the community spoke with pride of their integration and a desire to learn from each other.

Why we love our area: 

  1. Diversity of residents
  2. Community is resilient and generous despite hardships
  3. Large young population

There was hostility in the room as the area has changed dramatically over the past few years and not all for the better. Residents were concerned that the council and local community organisations were not working as closely together as in some other areas across the country.

Three issues we want to tackle:

  1. Opportunities for young people and aspiration 
  2. Lack of pride in our community
  3. Council, voluntary sector and community working together


Glasgow (Easterhouse)

Community Conversation – 31st October 2017

The group spoke to us of the genuinely helpful people that live in the area surrounded by friends and relatives. There was a lot of pride in the range of groups, youth clubs and activities set up and run by local people.

Why we love our area: 

  1. Sense of pride for being from Easterhouse
  2. Strong heritage and history to the area
  3. Great community spirit

Residents spoke of the disjointed nature of the area, it's not very well connected and there is lots of great community activity going on but poor communication - residents often aren’t aware of the wealth of resources available to them.

Three issues we want to tackle:

  1. Lack of aspiration or opportunities for young people
  2. Health and wellbeing
  3. High levels of poverty 


Birmingham (Handsworth & Handsworth Wood)

Community Conversation – 2nd November 2017

Residents spoke to us of their pride in their ‘hybrid culture’ and history of multiculturalism. You don’t have to leave Handsworth to travel the world through it’s mix of culture and cuisines available.

Why we love our area: 

  1. Multicultural community
  2. Own strong and unique identity
  3. Lots of green spaces – including parks, community gardens and allotments

There was concern about ‘post code profiling’ and the negative connotations that still affect the area, this impacts on young people preventing them from accessing opportunities.

Three issues we want to tackle:

  1. Few job opportunities for young people and low aspirations
  2. Community integration, bringing people together (as community is increasingly transient)
  3. Maintaining the community – littering and rubbish is common

Merthyr Tydfil

Community Conversation – 3rd November 2017

There was huge pride in the heritage of the area in this one time capital of Wales. Attendees were effusive about their neighbours and the welcoming and passionate nature of the people living in the area.

Why we love our area: 

  1. Within a World Heritage National Pak
  2. Proud of rich history
  3. Generous and welcoming community

There was a concern around the young people living in the area, a general feeling that they are not being cared for with little or no appreciation of the skills required in finding employment and setting themselves up for the future.

Three issues we want to tackle:

  1. Poor opportunities for young people
  2. Mental health and wellbeing awareness
  3. Counterbalancing the negative reputation of the area


Derry – Londonderry

We were told proudly by the group that the people of Derry-Londonderry are the friendliest people in Northern Ireland. They told us they feel more like a big town than a small city, a group of people who pull together in times of crisis open to change and are resilient. 

Why we love our area: 

  1. Supportive, resilient and proud community spirit
  2. Proximity to the sea and mountains
  3. The Peace Bridge – a landmark uniting communities

The group spoke passionately about their concerns around mental health with many personally recounting people close to them that have been affected. There was a concern for young people and guiding them to the right help.

Three issues we want to tackle:

  1. Mental health issues and high suicide rates
  2. Generation of worklessness, with few opportunities for young people
  3. Poor infrastructure – road and rail network not very well connected


Want live updates? 

Follow our Senior Sustainability Manager Jo Daniels on twitter, as she meets local residents of our 10 pilot communities - @joannadaniels00