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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Community Study

COMMUNITY - Sharing, participation, and fellowship. [Community week starts here. Click here for this week's Bliss Initiatives.]

I didn't put STUDY as one of my Bliss Initiatives this week but somehow it seemed appropriate anyway. There are dozens of surveys out there ranking the BEST communities for singles, families, people who have dogs, like to walk, kosher eating... you name it.  But what interested me most is why one community feels more connected then another and what I could do to be a part of the connected things here in my new neighborhood. So while I was poking around I came across the concept of social capital. I've certainly heard the term before but for me it has meant something like those with lots of social capital are richer, more fortunate and probably luckier then the average person. Somehow it felt to me that if someone was leveraging social capital they were somehow cheating.

Now that I have discovered the real meaning of the concept (from Sloan Foundation, Boston College)"Broadly, social capital concerns the norms and values people hold that result in, and are the result of, collective and socially negotiated ties and relationships. It is integrally related to other forms of capital, such as human (skills and qualifications), economic (wealth), cultural (modes of thinking) and symbolic (prestige and personal qualities). For example, economic capital augments social capital, and cultural capital can be readily translated into human and social capitals (Edwards, 2002)." I think everyone should be developing, using, and LEVERAGING social capital all the time.

When I saw the following chart over at the Saguaro Seminar: Civic Engagement in America website

Declining Social Capital: Trends over the last 25 years
  • Attending Club Meetings 58% drop
  • Family dinners 43% drop
  • Having friends over 35% drop 
I realized this was exactly what the"Fabled Land of Easterly Street" residents remember about our time together.  Way back in the 1960s, when we all lived there, we were chock full of social capital! We all had family dinners, moms attended PTA meetings and our Dad's belonged to civic groups and somebody was ALWAYS visiting someone else's house. We had neighborhood bar-b-ques, pot lucks and card games. In the summer, home movies were played on garage doors for all to enjoy as simple cocktails and the newest Campbell Soup casseroles were braved. We knew and cared almost as much about our neighbor's troubles, successes and joys as our own.

In "Bowling Alone, The Collapse and Revival of American Community" by Robert D. Putnam as re-capped by Simon and Schuster "Putnam warns that our stock of social capital - the very fabric of our connections with each other, has plummeted, impoverishing our lives and communities... interviews over the last quarter century to show that we sign fewer petitions, belong to fewer organizations that meet, know our neighbors less, meet with friends less frequently, and even socialize with our families less often. We're even bowling alone. More Americans are bowling than ever before, but they are not bowling in leagues. Putnam shows how changes in work, family structure, age, suburban life, television, computers, women's roles and other factors have contributed to this decline."

The book draws on evidence compiled in part from the Saguaro survey (conducted in 2000 and again in 2006) which asked the following questions to determine how connected Americans are to each other:

  • How many of your neighbors' first names do you know?
  • How often do you attend parades or festivals?
  • Do you volunteer at your kids' school? Or help out senior citizens?
  • Do you trust your local police?
  • Do you know who your U.S. senators are?
  • Do you attend religious services? Or go to the theater?
  • Do you sign petitions? Or attend neighborhood meetings?
  • Do you think the people running your community care about you?
  • Can you make a difference?
  • How often do you visit with friends or family? 
Yesterday when I lamented that "I felt like quitting" I think it was in part to my answering these very questions for myself. In all the communities I have felt or do feel at home in, our social capital has been palpable. I want the social capital quotient of any new community I join to be great. I want Jessie to thrive in the that type of environment!

Thankfully, while this does not help very much with my immediate quest for more community opportunities I do have one local community where the social capital remains high. That is with my very wonderful moms group which, thanks to Lisa's incredible forethought to include the dads too, is having it's monthly potluck supper this Saturday night!

Next Post: Bliss Initiative to Enjoy some community

My 13 bliss virtues: joy, order, creativity, passion, whimsy, serenity, inquiry, community, romance, gratitude, moxie, humility, surprise
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Ben Franklin's 13 Virtues

  • 1. TEMPERANCE - Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
  • 2. SILENCE - Speak not what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  • 3. ORDER - Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
  • 4. RESOLUTION - Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  • 5. FRUGALITY - Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e. waste nothing.
  • 6. INDUSTRY - Lose no time; be always employ'd in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  • 7. SINCERITY - Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and if you speak, speak accordingly.
  • 8. JUSTICE - Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  • 9. MODERATION - Avoid extreams; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  • 10. CLEANLINESS - Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths or habitation.
  • 11. TRANQUILITY - Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  • 12. CHASTITY - Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or to the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation.
  • 13. HUMILITY - Imitate Jesus and Socrates.


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