One only has to travel on public transport, or watch many car drivers, to note the prevalence of and preoccupation with, iPods, iPhones and iPads. The commonality of the letter/word ‘I’ is neither accidental nor irrelevant. It confirms not only the preoccupation with the self, but the resultant ‘i-solation’ from the community at large.
This ever-increasing isolation is a feature of advanced or developing societies. The extended, multigenerational family is less and less common. The growth of globalisation in trade, politics, economics and the dissemination of news, the macro-nisation of the world is being accompanied by a micro-nisation of our own individual ‘worlds’.
The nuclear family has replaced the larger community. Only in times of war or natural disasters does the wider ‘one world, one people’ concept resurface.
It is against this background of ‘I’m all right Jack’ that it becomes ever more essential to preserve, develop and maintain community in every possible way at the very grassroots level.
Big organisations, with boards, meetings, committees, at local, state and national conferences, cannot and will not do it. They tend to disempower and disinvolve the majority of their members. More time, energy and resources are expended on organisation than on delivering outcomes.
The village model, in so-called third and fourth world countries, is very successful in harnessing and channelling community activity.
In remote Pacific island villages, the entire community will completely rethatch (walls and roof) a dwelling in a day and then celebrate with a feast for all.
From the bottom up rather than from the top down is the formula for success – success not only in terms of delivered outcomes but also in terms of building and maintaining communities and community involvement. The greatest threat to the existence of grassroots community activity is the ‘big is better, biggest is best’ theory, a concept that is as self-delusional as the ‘Emperor’s new clothes.
Excluding special-interest and single-issue organisations, there are already a multitude of grassroots, local community-involved organisations – community and neighbourhood houses, men’s sheds, ‘friends of’ groups to name but three. The danger they all face is that of being bureaucratised out of existence, being nationalised until their grassroots value is lost, being organised until they no longer have time for service delivery!
The carrot that is usually held out to encourage the amalgamation of smaller community-based organisations is that increased size will give them more ‘clout’. More clout with whom and to what purpose?
The reality is that the bigger the organisation, the further it is from its grassroots and the people who know the local community needs and can deliver to the local community the needed outcomes.
Do you agree with Peter’s view of where our communities are headed? Are people choosing to become more ‘i-solated’? Have we swallowed the ‘big is better’ line? Why not share your views in the comments section below?
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