At InCommon our focus is on using community as a springboard for widespread change. Let’s take a look at why we think community is key and how we use the idea of the micro-community to ensure that our projects are successful.
Much of our every day social interaction is being reduced through things like self-service checkouts and as we do more things online. These interactions may seem trivial, but human beings are social creatures and this social contact is crucial to our wellbeing and success. Contact with others, and particularly with people who are different to us, is critical for us to build empathy, and to feel a sense of belonging in and responsibility for the world around us. These qualities in turn are critical if we are to tackle the biggest problems of our time - environmental breakdown and social inequality. There is growing evidence that our reduced social contact is contributing to the increasing polarisation and hostility that we are experiencing in our society today.
While we can personally take small steps to increase our own levels of social interaction - choosing to visit a shop in person or to avoid the self-service option where possible - communities have an important role to play in reversing the decline. Most of us are members of several communities. The building or street where we live is often the first one that springs to mind, but there are plenty of others - our music group or sports team; the parents at our children’s school; our workplace and so on. Our programme supports individuals to choose one of these communities to launch a project. Each project brings with it two principal benefits - it has an environmental benefit and it strengthens the community, leading to increased social cohesion and interaction for its members. While the scale of the project itself may seem insignificant when looking at the bigger picture, it is all too easy to underestimate its ripple effects. It can start an environmental or social discussion amongst its members leading to increased solidarity and action. It can also set an example and be quickly replicated in other communities.
The first step for each project we support is to define a micro-community, creating strict criteria for membership. While this may sound exclusive, we believe it is critical to a project’s success. By creating boundaries, we are able to build trust among the community’s members and give people the confidence to participate and interact.
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