Written by Jean Roberts Jones, One Community Chief Executive.
Most of my working life in the Voluntary Sector could be described as community development, and I have a clear vision of what my role has been. To facilitate, advice, support people of all ages, regardless of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or income, their family’s situation and/or their immediate environment.
Various government initiatives have come into fashion, Big Society being just one, to improve community cohesion. However, the basic concept of helping your ‘neighbour’ has always been part of a civilised society. So why is it so complex? Why does it need people like the team here at One Community to develop communities?
It is because we live next door to someone for years and only say hello over their fence 4 times a year to apologise for the BBQ smoke. We can see the same people in the local shop but never speak to them unless we have been introduced.
Young mums used to chat at the school gates and get to share local gossip about bargains at the supermarket, or how they got their child to eat greens, but now busy mums drop their children off for school from the car door and never meet other mums.
People work miles away from where they live instead of within walking distance. When many people worked in the local factory where people all clocked on together you built up loyalty to an employer. In turn, employers had canteens, social clubs, ran bands or running groups to help their employees come together. Now we run team building days and have ice breaking sessions just to ask basic questions to enable staff to get to know their colleagues likes and dislikes.
So what is community? Where you work? Where you live? People who like the same things as you? It is not just one thing, or one community, it is all of the above, and so we just need people to help us identify how we can help facilitate neighbourliness.