This is Cormac Russell's response to What are you skating towards in 2012?
Community: The Forgotten Tool of Change
OF LATE, the most important lesson to emerge, from what seems to me to be a fledgling renaissance of community life across the globe, is that there are certain things only citizens, organizing themselves into associational networks, called communities, can achieve.
So what are the unique capacities of citizens that will propel this renaissance to its tipping point-that can not be purchased on the high street, and that the occupation of Wall Street will not release? What is it that only we can do together, that if not done by us will not get done?
I believe there are at least 12 domains that call on the unique competencies of citizens working together, and whose ambitions cannot be achieved without people power:
- Promoting our Health & Wellbeing
- Safety & Security
- Nurturing Environment
- Nurturing the Local Economy
- Mindful Food Consumption & Production
- Raising Powerful Connected Children
- Ageing Well in Place/Locale
- Building Communities
- Civic Action for deeper Democracy & a Just Society
- Responding to Natural Disasters and Climate Change
- Co-producing Knowledge & Sharing Wisdom
- Changing the World.
When initiatives in these domains are viewed as an expression of collective intelligence, rather than isolated happenings, we can begin to see them for what they are: the global emergence of a new invitation back to community, and a mobilization of a hidden wealth which could become a viable complementary currency for more sustainable investments in our shared future. The message from citizens to government and other institutionalized systems, is clear:
1. In areas where citizens are most competent, do not obstruct or try to replace them.
2. In areas where they require support, facilitate them to come together to first identify what they have within their own communities and then to figure out what they need from outside.
3. Share generously, humbly and transparently the services, resources and supports that can only be provided by systems or co-created in partnership with citizens.
We are fortunate to live in a time when, after decades of amnesia, we are again remembering what we all innately know: the ‘community way’ is the path to health, wellbeing, safety, prosperity and environmental sustainability. It cannot be found elsewhere. We tell our ‘David and Goliath’ stories about our communities because we know that such amnesia can easily return, responsive to the whims of economic change. To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, community prospers in adversity, and dies in prosperity.
There is work to be done in building our futures, if we don’t do it using the giftedness of community, it will not get done. There is no substitute for people powered change.... “Every gift contains a danger. Whatever gift we have we are compelled to express. And if the expression of that gift is blocked, distorted, or merely allowed to languish, then the gift turns against us, and we suffer.” (Johnson, L — Thoughts on Giftedness: Understanding Our Gifted).
Cormac is a colleague at the Asset Based Community Development Institute. He is Managing Director of Nurture Development, an Irish training and development agency. He also works internationally advising governments, organizations and communities on how to re-negotiate the Social Contract in a way that strengthens community life and social justice.
Note: I release individual essays from the collection, What are you skating towards in 2012? on a regular basis. Upcoming contributions are by Jacques Dufresne, Lindsay Cant, Richard Bridge and many others. You can access the accumulated essays here.