Many of you will have heard of the recently appointed “Kingsway Community Builder” in local meeting and in the local press. His name is John Gow and he has been tasked (by Gloucester City Council) with “Building a Community” in Kingsway over the next two years.
I must confess that my initial thoughts on hearing about this scheme were along the lines of "typical Glos’ City Council, starting a new scheme with a guaranteed success"…! After all, Kingsway already has a thriving community (in fact we have been featured on BBC News for “bucking the trend” of community breakdown in the UK).
But the real problem is far more widespread than just the UK. In fact the trend towards breakdown in communities is now a recognised global phenomenon, with many experts analysing and explaining reasons for it.
One such interesting analysis is by Rabbi Jonathan Kligler, who says:
We bemoan the breakdown of community in our society, and the fact is, that breakdown is for real. The quest for individual fulfillment, mobility, and economic success — life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — is central to the American experiment. But that quest, in our time, has torn loose from the context of communal and civic responsibility in which it was nurtured. We are faced with the steady atomization of our communal infrastructure… (Read more here).
Psychology Today says:
One of the most destructive problems is the breakdown of community, and it is this breakdown that has often led to the breakdown of persons. Though we may put many around us, we are alone. Relationships have become superficial, there is no longer concern for the other, and we are pressed by societal and financial pressures to focus on our own survival. We do not concern ourselves much with the plight of others except a few we may call family or friends, and even then, our concern and attention is waning.
It is this which is leading to numerous dilemmas for our children and the diagnosis of a gamut of so-called mental disorders and the mass drugging to subdue them and force their conformity to a system of madness, a system they and most despise but which continues to perpetuate itself. Today, do we even know our neighbor; do we even care to know our neighbor?… (Read more here).
Much work is now being done to address the situation both abroad and in the UK, and it’s for this reason that Glos’ City Council have decided to appoint Community Builders in some areas. As a new (and fairly large) community, Kingsway just happens to have been selected.
When this was announced in the Citizen (here), one of their readers commented: "How to build a community go out side the front door knock on the next door and say hello"… Well, that might work, but there are better ways to do it! One of those ways is via an initiative known as “ABCD”: “Asset Based Community Development”… (Read more here).
John’s role is being jointly funded by Gloucester City Council and Oxbode Housing Association with support from the Barnwood Trust who run workshops and fund ABCD-based projects (Read more here).
When John spoke at a recent KRA meeting, he quoted Michelle Obama who said:
“We can’t do well serving communities… if we believe that we, the givers, are the only ones that are half-full, and that everybody we’re serving is half-empty… there are assets and gifts out there in communities, and our job as good servants and as good leaders… [is] having the ability to recognise those gifts in others, and help them put those gifts into action.”… (Read more here).
Stirring stuff I thought, so I volunteered to join the scheme and help John out (along with Barry Kirby and several other local residents).
So far we have had a number of meetings and John and others have been involved in introducing the ABCD approach into Kingsway by asking residents to allow them to fill out questionnaires aimed at identifying both those who can offer assets to others, and those who wish to become involved in taking advantage of those offers.
That is the ABCD approach (in brief)! It involves simply finding local folk who have something to offer others, identifying those “others” (who are interested in said asset) and bringing them together. For instance there are a lot of local people interested in joining a local Cycle club, and several who expressed an interest (and ability) to organise such a club. John brought them together and the Kingsway Cycling Club was born.
John also started the Kingsway Runners, and we are still looking for local gardeners to build a community garden or get involved in local landscaping/gardening projects. (That last link also includes my first mention of the Community Builder Scheme on the blog).
Right now we are awaiting the opening of the new Kingsway Community Centre to allow facilities for groups to meet, and I should like to repeat my offer to allow any local community groups/schemes to use the blog to publicise their existence, contact and meeting details, (I can even create a blog category specifically for your club/group/scheme, to allow interested parties to keep track of your progress etc).
There will be (much) more to come on this subject, and sooner or later one of the CB team will likely knock on your door and ask for 15 minutes of your time to introduce you to the scheme and complete the CB questionnaire, or you may run into us out and about in the community doing the same thing. If so, I urge you to please give the 15 minutes and allow us the opportunity to put you in touch with neighbours and other Kingsway residents who have the same interests as you, and who can either take advantage of your knowledge and expertise to expand those interests, or offer the same thing for you.
Finally, please take a look at Johns Kingsway Community Builder Blog (contains all his contact details) or contact him on Facebook, for more information.