We need to be get some sense of the strength of civil society in Barking and Dagenham.

On what dimensions? One could be the proportion of citizens helping each other, directly (fetching a neighbours shopping, dropping in to say hallo) or indirectly (volunteering to make the park a nicer place for all).

Two could be the number of people involved in informal organisations, chess clubs, fishing clubs, lunch clubs. We know these to be important sources of connection, belonging and trust in community, in other words relational outcomes that influence individual well-being.

Three could be formal organisations, constituted non-governmental organisations set up to do good.

This is very much a back of the envelope note to get us started. Where do churches, mosques and synagogues fit into this classification. They are constituted but the experience of most congregations is informal.

Once we agree on a classification that is right for Barking and Dagenham, we can get some sense of the numbers. What are they, and what might they be?

For example, in the category of informal organisations. We know Konrad Elsdon’s survey of local voluntary organisations that there might be as many as 1,300,000 organisations with 12 million participants in England, roughly 20 organisations for every 1,000 citizens.

In Barking and Dagenham that would equate to around 5,000 informal organisations with about 46,000 members. Is this anywhere on the money?

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