Oct 24

Changing the logic. Communities

Time was when communities seemed to look after themselves. You were born into one. You went to school there, you found your partner there, you worked and finally were buried there.

The industrial revolution and global migration put paid to that on the whole.

Yet still we seem to expect that idyllic non-existent system to be there and are disappointed that it is not.

Not so at the RSA Connected Communities project where important research demonstrating the link between well being and just about any aspect of community connection have stimulated work into how we create our networks, what stops us in that endeavour and how we reap the rewards when we get it right – that’s both the small we and the larger we of society in general.

So much for the grand theory – what does it really mean in practice?

In one of the 7 research areas in England it was discovered that only a third of those researched knew who they would go to if they wanted to get something changed. So that leaves 2 in 3 who might be wanting to change something but don’t know where to start. Lots of wasted opportunities there then. Now a local project is working on ways to share information and make it easier for everybody to find out what’s what.

Elsewhere other projects are being developed around the fact that old people with support networks have far better wellbeing than those who feel cut

off. As their old networks die or move away, they no longer feel able or willing to make the effort to find new ones. So how can we step in as fellow residents to address this? Different groups are looking at inter-generational projects around digital archiving, harnessing local history stashes of memorabilia and the possibility of an alternative neighbourhood watch-style scheme where a sticker in the window advises that contact can be made – and may even be welcome.

My own experience of trying to set up a buddy style scheme in south-east London was met with a surprising amount of fear. Fear of liability, fear of risk – both the visitor and the visited – and fear of creating a level of dependence that becomes a burden. Yet organisations like the Good Gym (literally running errands) and snowy path clearing teams have managed to overcome this.

Maybe all we need is a safe structure that allows normal human decency to do what comes naturally. So instead of saying “I didn’t want to interfere” we get more comfortable with “I didn’t want to ignore them”.





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