The end of the last blog post promised that this post would turn from ideal visions of creating a community environment to a more pragmatic perspective on what will be required in the way of changes to help bring it about. To do this means going back to one of the first posts A Beginning: Working to create Liveable Cities through Liveanomics and "Liveanomics" EIU Livable Cities Studies wiki page. In particular a second look at the video Making cities work: Delivering results in a downturn. The observations found in this blog post were taken from the Diigo Annotated Link for the video and can also be found under the Diigo group page for this effort. The Diigo connections, however, are still in beta.
The video is focused on economic development efforts taking place in England but there are still common lessons to be learned. The notations in the Diigo sticky notes follow the video, the observations written here do not being that they are intended to assist in this effort not mirror it.
It is a hard reality that the future of communities promises to be more austere with less public funding available from either local, state or federal sources. In part because the economy will not create the wealth necessary to generate the sought after public funds, but also because we are politically committing ourselves to this future austerity through political decisions being or attempted to be imposed now. Regardless, it will be a reality that must be prepared for in terms of financing, budgeting and discovering alternative means of community support. Not only to maintain and improve on existing beneficial community attributes but to keep from having those attributes degraded.
There is a danger of social disconnect being brought on by austerity measures, cutting people off from their community. Other pathways will need to be found to help fund and support our communities. It needs to be recognized that communities should do more than provide shelter, they should provide opportunities and more fundamentally economic opportunities, while at the same time create and maintain a livable community which respects the environment.
What is needed is a more holistic view, developing local competency, asking the private sector of our communities to work in totally different way from traditional ways, while respecting the desire of business wanting government to get out of their way. The maintaining of this balance will be a challenge.
Any efforts to bring about new community paradigms will also need to involve outside agencies, both public and private in finding avenues of mutual benefit. Having a cooperative government entity to work through can also be a plus. It also needs to be recognized that in some cases government can be overly reactive and not supportive but right now we will assume that it is willing to cooperate. The challenge is working with experts to create innovative ideas without being snared by ideas that are politically or economically motivated giving advantage to others or because they are expedient for the short term but not truly sustainable.
Working to bring about new community paradigms means creating an environment from which there is more social capital from which to draw. This will require a good deal of volunteering from members of the community, as participants actively pursuing their role as the producers of democracy. Volunteering is not limited though to formal volunteering in a community but all altruistic forms of social interaction. Volunteering at its best is a face to face proposition which means creating social connections within a community, helping to increase the democratic participation being sought.
There does need to be something beyond volunteering though in the effort to create a new community paradigm. The notion that a thousand flowers will bloom without government support is without merit. One challenge is defining what will rise out of the act of creating a viable community paradigm shift.
In creating community paradigms outcomes are as important as outputs. Output is the metric by which an effort is judged and is usually quantitative. Outcomes are the changes to the community that come from implementing the effort. Your work is meant to leave behind something sustainable in new partnerships, new ways of working, new ideas. This mirrors the work that came out of Soul of the Community project, more at the wiki page Soul of a Community. Among those organizations that are potential partners are universities. Universities are changing their role in working with communities, especially concerning economic development. They can be a great resources without necessarily having an agenda in trying to establish political control. Students can also be a great resource for community change.
Different disciplines including design, technology and business can be brought together to help create innovative ideas. They can, as should community paradigm seeking organizations themselves, challenge the status quo. At the same time there is still a need for structure. Another challenge is how community paradigm efforts can best achieve that structure?
Even when not seeking to institute something as comprehensive as a paradigm shift, experience teaches that that any major change in an organization or a community must take hold in the first six months of its initial implementation or the existing organizational culture may attempt to put the brakes on the effort in self survival.