Connected Communities - getting heard?

1 Feb 2011 by Karl Hallam

At an RSA event on Connected Communities there was as usual some interesting material presented about mental health, inclusion and networks. A couple of years ago the response might have been more enthusiastic, but the presenters had to stomach a few praise sandwiches.

The top slice was 'this is very interesting', but there was lots of concern along the lines and what will be the outcome of the work. Professor David Morris was quite open about it being increasing understanding by using seven case studies over 5 years, but the non-academic participants wanted something more tangible. There was also some concerns about the language, which we share. Community networks are very human, but the researchers slip into this bonding/bridging capital stuff that seems to miss the point. The report is better as it has some real person quotes.

Our concerns stemmed from our Hoodie, Goodie, Buddy? project and third sector work. The HGB project is all about the way people do or do not interact in their neighbourhood and how this has changed over time with decreased walking and increased car use. It may be not be possible to say that 'community' has weakened over time, but the changes in our transport habits are clear and how we travel to communities of interest, all to often in the car. In other words affluent people can drive to/purchase/log on to access their networks. Is there a danger of the Connected Community interventions being a bit patronising saying poor people need them ... when in fact they have them, its just we don't like what they use them for?

Anyway, bottom slice of the sandwich is that we think the RSA will get some worthwhile findings out of this work and hopefully have some traction with whoever is in power in 4-5 years time. 




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