Updating Community Politics: the role for social capital

My short answer in response to David Boyle having only two cheers for Community Politics is: “I agree”.

The slightly longer response to David is: “I mostly agree, but [insert couple of small caveats]“.

The nearly long enough to justify a blog post version is…

David Boyle is right to raise the concerns he did, and had he been in the hall he would have not only heard Gordon Lishman himself express similar concerns but also the excellent news that Gordon is intending to draw in a wide group of people to some of that thinking and updating that we all think is necessary.

For me at least one priority should be the question of building, even creating, communities. In large parts of the country it used to be the case that people lived in the same home for many years, went to the same place of work as many others in their street and prayed in the same building once a week alongside many neighbours. All three of those sources of community have declined greatly. Moreover, with a falling birth rate that other frequent route to getting to know neighbours – parenthood – is also wearing much thinner than it was.

That means that creating a community now needs to be the first step in Community Politics far more frequently than it was when it was born. This is not a challenge that should put us off, for in recent years in particular a whole range of activities and ways of thinking around creating and strengthening communities has sprung up – particular following the concept of ‘social capital’ and the seminal work by Robert Putnam Bowling Alone. Add to that the different forms of community which the internet can support and there is much to be positive about.

If you’re a councillor, you can in fact start putting such positive thoughts into action right away, regardless of what Gordon, David or anyone else subsequently thinks up. Simply take a look at your council’s website and then see how it measures up against the idea of creating social capital.

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