Self-help housing enables people to be active citizens, and it fights the culture of “someone should do something about that”. It was once more common, but over the last two decades community development and regeneration has fallen into the hands of professionals preoccupied with management and measurement.
Kevin concludes with…
Community development will be reinvented from the bottom-up by people like Jon Fitzmaurice. Let’s hope the others just get out of the way.
Lauren wondered if her small rural Vermont town had a food shelf. So she posted a note to her neighbors on Front Porch Forum (FPF). When she learned that none existed currently, she reached out again via FPF for a steering committee. Then it was through FPF yet again that they found food, space, volunteers, and, eventually, recipients — her neighbors delivered on every count! Now, one year later, the food shelf is critical in the lives of many town residents affected by the recession. And no government, foundation, or corporate money or leadership has been needed.
FPF hosts a network of 130 online neighborhood forums that blankets all of Chittenden County, VT. More than 14,000 households subscribe, including 40% of the state’s largest city. Members use FPF to communicate with clearly identified nearby neighbors about issues of their choosing. Thousands of topics have been discussed and acted upon. All of this online exchange draws peoples’ attention to their local community, and increases social capital and civic engagement, as witnessed by Lauren’s example:
“Thanks to FPF, having a community-wide conversation about how to address our local hunger problem was a cinch. With the help of rallying neighbors, we got our food shelf up and running in no time. Not a community meeting — or practically any public-oriented conversation — goes by without FPF being tossed into the mix. What a wonderful gift.”
FPF is eager to bring its successful model to more communities. Some traditional community development professionals and funding programs have a hard time understanding this decentralized, citizen-centered approach. When we tell them that FPF helps create an environment where folks like Lauren emerge from the crowd to do wonderful acts of public good, I hear things like “well, but we don’t fund food selves.” Aargh.