People are seven times more likely to become involved in a solution to a problem such as obesity, youth crime and climate change if it is locally led, according to a report.
The Mass Localism report, researched by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (Nesta), found that eight out of 10 people think the government should let communities provide their own solution to such problems.
It calls for open community challenge funds to be created, which would give government resources to initiatives developed by citizens and potentially deliver "significant savings" by diverting cash from existing projects run centrally.
One in four UK adults said they had ideas on how to tackle issues affecting their communities, but just 17% have done something about it, citing not knowing where to get support as the biggest problem.
"This research offers a wake up call to government who need to tap into the vast reservoir of ingenuity which exists within local communities," said Nesta's Chief Executive Jonathan Kestenbaum. "The next generation of solutions to social problems will come not from Whitehall but from local groups."