Library offers resources to help community thrive
When our community has major events that turn people’s lives upside down, we come together to support and help each other. After the December 30, 2006, ice storm, citizens came to the aid of their neighbors and strangers showed their gratitude to utility workers who were putting in long hours to restore power in the area. Other evidence of neighbors-helping-neighbors can be seen on flyers advertising benefit fundraisers for individuals and families who are in need due to an accident, injury, or life-threatening disease.
Yet, in the wake of large-scale and widely-publicized disasters, it is what could be considered the “little things” that drive a community to remain strong and productive. Book clubs, civic groups, support groups, even bowling leagues count among the contributing factors to the quality of life of a community.
The nature of these civic and social outcroppings is an indication of what author Robert Putnam calls “social capital.” In his book “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community,” Putnam analyzes the disintegration of civic engagement and social connections, backing up his results with a heady amount of data. He goes on to describe how social capital is advanced through people’s participation in political, religious, and civic associations.
Putnam’s first book and its follow-up, “Better Together: Restoring the American Community,” provide examples not only of what happens when social networks break down but of what it takes to keep a community healthy and vibrant.
One of the most life-changing books I have ever read is “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell. In it, Gladwell argues that widespread social conversions can be “tipped” by small numbers in the right circumstances, and that these contagious changes are spread by those equipped with the right knowledge and connections.
It is no wonder that “The Tipping Point” became a bestseller. Subtitled “How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference,” it provides fascinating profiles of sociological curiosities that start small and almost inexplicably snowball.
How does a community respond to concerns large and small? The president of Giraffe Heroes Project, John Graham, offers some solutions in “Stick Your Neck Out: A Street-Smart Guide to Creating Change in Your Community and Beyond.” Graham discusses practical skills and techniques that can be employed to resolve public problems as well as to be successful in one’s personal life. Stories about “giraffe heroes”—people who stick their necks out for the common good—add a colorful and inspirational spin to the book.
For those who would like to more formally investigate resolutions to community issues, a somewhat detailed but very useful text for reference is “Results That Matter: Improving Communities by Engaging Citizens, Measuring Performance, and Getting Things Done” by Paul Epstein. It is textbook-like in nature, and would be especially helpful to members of nonprofit organizations who are looking to formulate strategies for change.
What can each of us do to help our friends, our family, our community? How can we equip ourselves to be proactive and to respond to change? Find out more at the Hastings Public Library.