The value of a sense of community

1 Oct 2014 by Karl Hallam

 A lot of people describe Sheffield, favourably, like a big village. It is meant to mean that it is a friendly place and you are likely to meet someone you know wherever you go, even though it is a "big" city. We would not disagree, but do wonder whether it is often said in a self-reassuring way, to make up for the fact that Sheffield is not a proper big (and therefore unfriendly?) place like Manchester or Leeds. 

Big may not necessarily mean better, but in economic terms bigger might mean more potential customers and businesses, which in turn attract further businesses and so on ... 

So, maybe Sheffield does need to worry and we all ought to be pushing for faster trains and more signs of an agressive economic development plan from the Council et al. That probably moves us into thoughts about devolution, but only a couple of weeks on from the Scotland vote greater powers for the Town Hall seem as far away as ever (see some of our earliest posts on Elected Mayors in 2008). 

That, in our view, depends on whether we focus on the cost of everthing or the value of things. In the case of Sheffield it's "village feel" has real value. It's something that it is crucial in our work with the Third Sector Cafe and Harland Works.

In the case of TSC it is clear there is a real sense of community in the sector, where being "all in it together" really means something. With Harland Works it is about being more than just another place you could have an office.

Putting a value on a sense of community is tricky and there are those who feel it cannnot be justified in a time of ongoing austerity. Those who believe that might also think that green issues need to take a back foot too, along with any notion of nurturing the rather old fashioned sounding concept of a public service ethos.

We would argue the opposite and say it is right now that a sense of community is most valuable and that where it is harnessed we are more resilient and happier. A sense of community is not the preserve of the charitable, public or private sectors. It is not something determined by geographical size either. So, if Sheffield feel the city feels like a village with a sense of community then that is valuable and we should all do what we can to keep it that way.



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