War on Poverty in Britain: Documents from the Community Development Projects

From 1970-1978, inspired at least in part by the US War on Poverty, the British government funded 12 Community Development Projects (CDP) in some of the most impoverished neighborhoods in England, Scotland and Wales. The CDPs were given resources to hire paid community workers to work alongside community residents toward the goal of ameliorating deleterious local conditions. The projects began in a spirit of great optimism and although they were expected to be short-lived, by 1978, all twelve projects had been de-funded and were shut down, some amidst a great deal of acrimony. In a few cases a successor project, scaled back and with a more modest brief, continued. The programme as a national anti-poverty initiative, however, ended.

In the tumultuous political climate of 1970s Britain, many of the community workers hired to staff the projects ended up developing radical critiques of the government’s policies on poverty, including criticisms of the CDP, itself. In addition, in working with residents of beleaguered communities to secure vital resources, the CDP workers created additional controversy by engaging in direct confrontations with their local councils, who actually paid a portion of their salaries.

Each of the 12 projects included both an action team and a research team. The extent to which these functions overlapped one another varied from project to project depending on the local personnel. In any case, over the course of the CDP’s lifespan, both the local teams and a central research team, which was established later in the life of the Projects and which continued into the early 1980s, after the local Projects had been disbanded, produced an extraordinary corpus of reports in which they analyzed the causes and consequences of poverty. These reports contain astonishingly prescient documentations of the process of de-industrialization and the changing policy initiatives that once constituted Britain’s comprehensive welfare state.

There were three categories of reports:

I. National Inter-Project Reports: These were largely issued by the CDP Information and Intelligence Unit (IIU) based in London and produced in the name of all or most of the local projects. The Unit was actually closed down some time before the last project closed (Benwell, 1978) and Benwell CDP and its successor project, the West End Resource Centre, took on responsibility for producing and then selling and reprinting these from 1976 onwards.

II. Local Project Reports: Each local project produced a number of formal, published reports: in some cases, this comprised a few mimeographed reports during the life of the project and one large consolidated final report at the close of the project. In other cases, this comprised a collection of complementary, well-produced and illustrated reports, each focussing on key aspects of the local social and political economy.

III. Community Development Project Political Economy Collective: After the IIU closed and most projects had also been closed, some of them in a hurry by discontented local authorities, the CDPPEC – a collective of ex-workers – continued to publish a series of reports in the same format as the national CDP reports. Some of these had been in the pipeline when projects closed, others took up the themes addressed earlier or themes on which the IIU had not been able to publish. These reports were produced up to 1981.

Clearly, there has been something of a revival of interest in the CDP experience in recent years and many of the issues raised by the CDP have not only had continuing salience but are likely to come to the foreground again during the current period of economic restructuring. Most of the original material in the first three categories is now only to be found in the archives/attics of individual workers, both those associated with the CDP and other workers of the period.

The 12 Local Community Development Projects

The first four projects were establishing in the following communities and were launched in 1970:

Glamorgan (Upper Afan, Wales)
Southwark (South London)

The next four projects were established in 1971-72:

Benwell (Newcastle)
Newham (East London)
Batley (West Yorkshire)
Cleator Moor (Cumbria)

Shortly thereafter, the final four projects were initiated:

Paisley (Scotland)
North Shields (North Tyneside)
Oldham (Lancashire)

By 1978, all of the projects had been phased out.

In this collection, we include reports from all 12 local projects (though for some of the projects, we would like to acquire additional documents).  Several of the Inter-Project Reports, which remain key texts for understanding the analyses and critiques of politics, poverty and policy developed by the CDP workers, are reproduced on this site under the heading National Reports.  Many of these reports are difficult to procure and are perhaps less well-known than they deserve to be outside of the UK and even within the UK. As an institution, IUPUI has an on-going interest in British studies and is increasing those linkages through the work of Associate Professor Jason Kelly, Director of IUPUI’s Arts and Humanities Institute. In addition, this collection reflects on-going research being carried out in England by Professor Susan Hyatt in the Department of Anthropology. As there is something of a revival of interest in the politics and social policy of the 1960s and ‘70s, these reports are key primary sources for scholars carrying out research in those areas and for teaching on such topics as Social Policy; Poverty; Community Development and Community Action, among others.

Many of these Reports are still available in printed form from Judith Green, who was very generous in allowing us access to her own archive. For information about ordering printed copies, please contact:

Judith Green
85-87 Adelaide Terrace
Newcastle-upon Tyne
England NE4 8BB

Thanks are also due to Gary Craig, another key CDP worker, who contributed many of the National Inter-Project and Benwell reports, who managed the distribution of CDP and CDPPEC reports until 1984, and who supplied many of the more difficult to locate reports for scanning from his own collection. He also hosted Professor Hyatt during her sabbatical in the UK in 2013. Professor Craig is Professor of Social Justice and Visiting Professor at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. He can be contacted at: gary.craig@galtres8.co.uk.


Downloading the Reports

These reports are available for download or printing. To download or print a complete report, follow these steps:

Click on the report you wish to download.

On the right-and side of the screen, click on the “Print” Icon.

There is a little arrow beside the printer icon. Click on that and you will get a menu that says “this item” or “all.”

Click on “all” which will open up the entire report as a .pdf

You can then either download the complete report or print it out.


In the course of field work in England, Hyatt discovered an archive of photographs from all 12 CDP project communities that were commissioned by the Home Office, the British Government Department (largely equivalent to the US Department of Justice) which founded and administered the CDP. These photographs are now held by Judith Green, one of the CDP workers from the Benwell project in Newcastle and one of the workers who contributed to several of the key Inter-Project Reports. We have made every effort to contact and secure permission from the photographers whose work we are displaying on this site. Anyone whom we have not contacted who has any concern about the public display of these photographs should contact Susan Hyatt at suhyatt@iu.edu or Kristi Palmer at klpalmer@iu.edu.

The photographs on the Web site are low-resolution photographs and should not be downloaded or re-used without the permission of the appropriate photographer.  You can only download small versions of the photographs unless you have permission to use full-resolution versions of the photos.  Please contact the photographer whose work interests you or contact Susan Hyatt for assistance locating the photographers.

Many thanks as well to Judith Green for allowing us to scan these photographs.

Additional Resources

Hyatt, Susan B.  "Poverty Warriors: Tales from Britain's War on Poverty," IU School of Liberal Arts Sabbatical Speaker Series, October 8, 2013.  (YouTube video)

Bibliography of Secondary Sources on the CDP
Provided by Professor Gary Craig

Alcock, P. (2005)  ‘”Maximum Feasible Understanding”’—Lessons from Previous Wars on Poverty’, Social Policy and Society (3): 321-329.

Atkinson, R. (2003) ‘Addressing urban social exclusion through community involvement in urban regeneration’, in Imrie, R. and Raco, M. (eds.) Urban Renaissance? New Labour, Community and Urban Policy, Bristol: The Policy Press: 109-119.

Baldock, P.  (1977)   ‘Why Community Action?  The Historical Origins of the Radical Trend in British Community Work’, Community Development Journal 12(2): 68-74.

Baldock, P. (1979) ‘An Historical Review of Community Work 1968-78’, Community Development Journal 14:3:172-181.

Baldock, P. (1980) ‘The origins of community work in the United Kingdom’ in Henderson, P., Jones D. and Thomas, D. N. (eds) The Boundaries of Change in Community Work, London: Allen & Unwin.

Benington, J. and Donnison, D. (1999) ‘New Labour and social exclusion: the search for a Third Way or just Gilding the Ghetto again?’ in H. Dean and R. Woods (eds.) Social Policy Review 11, Luton: Social Policy Association.

Blunkett, D. and Jackson, K. (1987) Democracy in Crisis: The Town Halls Respond, Sheffield: Hogarth Press.

Brent, J. (1997) ‘Community without unity’ in Hoggett, P. (ed.) Contested Communities: Experiences, Struggles, Policies, Bristol: The Policy Press.

Bryson, L. and Mowbray, M.  (1981) ‘“Community”: The Spray-on Solution’, Australian Journal of Social Issues 16: 4: 255-67.

Butcher, H., Glen, A., Henderson, P. and Smith, J. (1993) Community and public policy, London: Pluto Press.

Byrne, D. (2005) Social exclusion, Buckingham: Open University Press.

Cain H. and Yuval Davis, N. (1990) ‘The equal opportunities community’, Critical Social Policy, 10 (2).

CDRG (1991) Community Development in Northern. Ireland: Perspectives for the Future, Belfast: Community Development Review Group.

Cochrane, A. (1994) ‘Restructuring the welfare state’, in Burrows, R. and Loader, B. (eds) Towards a post-Fordist welfare state, London: Routledge.

Cockburn, C. (1977) The Local State, London: Pluto Press.

Cooke, I. (1996) ‘Whatever happened to the class of ’68?  The Changing Context of Radical Community Work Practice’ in Cooke, I. and Shaw, M. (eds.)(1996) (op.cit.)

Cooke, I. and Shaw, M. (1996) (eds.) Radical Community Work: Perspectives from Practice in Scotland, Edinburgh: Moray House Publications.

Cooper, C. (2008) Community, conflict and the state, Basingstoke: Macmillan.

Cowley, C., Kaye, A., Mayo, M. and Thompson, M. (1977) Community or Class Struggle. London: Stage l.

Craig, G. (1989) ‘Community work and the state’, Community Development Journal, 24 (1): 1-19.

Craig, G. and Mayo, M. (eds.) (1995) Community Empowerment, London: Zed Books.

Craig, G., Derricourt, N. and Loney, M. (eds) (1982) Community Work and the State: Towards a Radical Practice: Community Work Eight. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul in association with the Association of Community Workers.

Craig, G., Mayo, M. and Sharman, N. (eds.) (1979) Jobs and Community Action: Community Work Five, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul in association with the Association of Community Workers.

Craig, G., Popple, K. and Shaw, M. (eds.) (2008) Community development in theory and practice, Nottingham: Spokesman Books.

Craig, G., Mayo, M., Popple, K., Shaw, M. and Taylor, M. (eds.) (2012) The community development reader, Bristol: Policy Press.

Curno, A., Lamming, A., Leach, L., Stiles, J., Ward, V. and Ziff, T. (1982) Women in Collective Action, Newcastle upon Tyne: Association of Community Workers.

Curno, P. (ed.) (1978) Political Issues in Community Work: Community Work Four. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Dinham, A. (2005) Another deal for what community?, Unpublished PhD, Goldsmiths College, University of London.

Dixon, G., Johnson, C., Leigh, S. and Turnbull, N. (1982) ‘Feminist Perspectives and Practice’ in Craig, G., Derricourt, N. and Loney, M. (eds.), (1982) op. cit.

Dixon, J. (1990) ‘Will politically-inspired community work be evident in the 1990s?’, Community Development Journal, (25) 4: 91-101.

Dominelli, L. (1995) ‘Women in the community: feminist principles and organisation in community work’, Community Development Journal, 30 (2).

Dominelli, L. (2006) Women and Community Action (Revised 2nd edition). Bristol: Policy Press.

Donnison, D. (1993) ‘The challenge of urban regeneration for community development’, Community Development Journal, 28 (4).

Edwards, M. and Gaventa, J. (2001) Global Citizen Action, London: Earthscan.

Frazer, H., Remfry, P. and Williams, G. (1979)  ‘Looking Back—A Personal View from Three Practitioners’, Community Development Journal 14(3): 182-191.

Gallacher, A. (1977) ‘Women and Community Work’ in Mayo, M. (ed.) (1977) (op. cit.).

Gallacher, L., Ohri, A. and Roberts, L. (1983) ‘Unemployment and Community Action’, Community Development Journal, 18(1): 2-9.

Green, J. and Chapman, A. (1992) ‘The British Community Development Programme’, Community Development Journal, Vol. 27: 242-258.

Greve, J (1973)  ‘The British Community Development Project—some interim comments’, Community Development Journal 8(3):118-125.

Higgins, J.  (1980). ‘Unlearnt Lessons from America’, Community Development Journal 15(2):105-109.

Hoggett, P. (ed.) (1997) Contested communities, Bristol: Policy Press.

Jacobs, S. (1994) ‘Community work in a changing world’ in Jacobs, S. and Popple, K. (eds.) Community Work in the 1990s, Nottingham: Spokesman.

Jones, D. and Mayo, M. (eds) (1975) Community Work Two, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Kraushaar, R.  (1982) ‘Structural Problems and Local Responses: The Final Reports of the Local Community Development Projects’, Community Development Journal 17(1): 68-72.

Ledwith, M. (2005) Community Development: A critical approach, Bristol: Policy Press.

Lees, R. and Mayo, M. (1984) Community Action for Change, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Loney, M.  (1981). ‘The British Community Development Projects:  Questioning the State’, Community Development Journal 16(1):55-66.

Loney, M. (1983) Community against Government. The British Community Development Project 1968-78: a study of government incompetence. London: Heinemann.

Lovett, T. and Percival, P. (1978) ‘Politics, Conflict and Community Action in N Ireland’, in P. Curno (ed.), (1978) (op. cit.)

Lovett, T., Clarke, C and Kilmurray, A. (1983) Adult Education and Community Action, London: Croom Helm.

Marris, P. and Rein, M. (1967) Dilemmas of Social Reform, New York: Atherton Press.

Mayo (1975) ‘Beyond CDP: reaction and community action’ in Bailey, R. and Brake, M. (eds) Radical Social Work and Practice. London: Edward Arnold.

Mayo, M. (1975b) ‘The History and Early Development of CDP’ in Lees, R. and Smith, G. (eds.), Action Research in Community Development, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Mayo, M. (1982) ‘Community Action Programmes in the Early Eighties - What Future?’, Critical Social Policy, 1(3): 5-18.

Mayo, M. (ed.) (1977) Women in the Community. Community Work Three, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Mayo, M. and Jones, D. (eds.) (1974) Community Work One, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Miller, C. and Bryant, R. (1990) ‘Community work in the UK: Reflections on the 1980s’, Community Development Journal 23 (4): 315-323.

Moynihan, D. (1969) Maximum Feasible Misunderstanding: community action in the War on Poverty, New York: Free Press.

O’Malley, J. (1977) Politics of Community Action, London: Russell. 

Oakley, A. (1992) Social Support and Motherhood, Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

ODPM (2005) LSP Evaluation: Interim Report, London: Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

Ohri, A., Manning, B. and Curno, P. (eds.) (1982) Community Work and Racism: Community Work Seven, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Popple, K. (1995) Analysing Community Work: its theory and practice. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Popple, K. (2006) ‘The first forty years of the CDJ’, Community Development Journal, Vol. 43, No. 1: 1-18.

Sharman, N.  (1981).  ‘Community Work and the Local Economy: The Influence of the Community Development Projects’, 16(2):142-147.

Shaw, M. (2004) Community Work: Policy, Politics and Practice, Hull: Universities of Hull and Edinburgh.

Shaw, M. and Martin, I. (2000) ‘Community work, citizenship and democracy: re-making the connections’, Community Development Journal, 35 (4): 401-404.

Specht, H. (1978) ‘The dilemmas of community work in the United Kingdom: a comment’, Policy and Politics, September. 

Taylor, M. (2003) Public Policy in the Community, London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Thomas, D. (1983) The Making of Community Work, London: Geo. Allen and Unwin.

Waddington, P. (1979) ‘Looking ahead – community work into the 1980s, Community Development Journal, 14 (3): 224-234.

Wilson, E. (1977) ‘Women in the Community’ in Mayo, M. (ed.)(1977) (op. cit.).

Powered by ContentDM