Taking the pulse of our community
The Vital Signs research model provides holistic, locally informed data on fluid social issues which affect those living and working within the area. For BLCF, it brought forward three key priorities, which clearly stood out for those they exist to support and highlighted how all three priority issues for Bedfordshire are understood to be intrinsically connected. Equality & Strong Communities, Employment & Local Economy, and Mental Health, have all been recognised as directly linked to one another. We would urge the readers of this report to recognise those links as they go through the pages.
Why we use Vital Signs?
Vital Signs is a community-driven data program developed by Community Foundations of Canada and now used by more than 65 national community foundations and 41 international community foundations across the globe, including many of the network of 47 UK Community Foundations.
Vital Signs uses local knowledge to measure the vitality of a community and support action towards improving collective quality of life. Local data gathered through the program is used to support evidence-based solutions to improve the quality of life at the community level. Vital Signs aims to inspire civic engagement, to provide focus for public debate, and to help act and direct resources where they will have the greatest impact.
BLCF launched it first Vital Signs survey in 2017 and used the findings to shape its work. Since then, a pandemic and cost of living crisis has devastated communities and the charity sector, and a new survey was commissioned to provide an sense check on the state of the sector and our communities and to support not only our work but the work of partners and other county wide funders across Bedfordshire.
Vital Signs enables Community Foundations to:
• Increase the effectiveness of investment in communities, including grant-making.
• Ensure community philanthropists are informed about issues and opportunities in the community, so that their philanthropy makes a true difference.
• Facilitate collaboration between individuals and groups to address social issues.
• Guide the work of community leaders, residents, organisations, policy makers, public bodies and the private sector.
Vital Signs research has the ability to inform donors and encourage donations which truly tackle social needs of our disadvantaged communities.
Research & Resources
BLCF commissioned expert researcher Sonia Bielaszewska of SRB Charity Consulting to lead this piece of work. SRB Charity Consulting specialises in conducting bespoke social research which highlights community need and have experience of Vital Signs research on behalf of several other Community Foundations across the country. Sonia states
“One of Vital Signs’ biggest advantages is the way in which it combines existing data from official reports with the views and perceptions of local people. We often hear that there is disconnect between official data which informs policy and what those living and working “on the ground” are experiencing and witnessing each day. Vital Signs can help to bridge that gap and it has been a privilege to capture data on behalf of BLCF which can now assist with targeted intervention where it is most needed. It has been a pleasure to now be able to assist BLCF with their report”