AbstractCommunity empowerment and community capacity building have been central to government agendas in Britain over the past decade. Agendas for tackling the so-called ‘War on Terrorism’ and promoting community cohesion have become increasingly significant in addition, especially since the bombings in London in 2005. This article focuses upon the current gap between these differing agendas. This is particularly relevant in an era of increasing globalisation, with considerable debate on the impact of migration, and anxieties about previous approaches to multiculturalism that have been the subject of growing criticism.
Having set out these gaps in public policy and research in this field, the article examines the evidence from research, including 100 interviews together with focus groups conducted in three localities in England, identifying the problems, in terms of the lack of engagement of ‘new communities’ and in terms of the potential tensions within and between communities. There was, however, encouraging evidence that strategies were being developed to develop more inclusive, more democratically accountable and more effective forms of community engagement. The article concludes by summarising potential implications for building community cohesion and social solidarity.