"A community is a group of people united by the common objects of their love."
The words are St. Augustine's, but the Institute for the Study of Civic Values believes that even today, "community" emerges only when we work together to strengthen he values that we share. The lecture that folllows by John Schaar, Professor Emeritus of Political Philosophy at the University of California at Santa Cruz, makes this point with great force:
For those who wish to delve more deeply into this philosophy of community, The Idea of Fraternity in America, by Wilson Carey McWilliams of Rutgers University (University of California Press, 1973) remains the defining work. Professor McWilliams is Vice-President of the Institute.
Building Community: ISCV Articles
The Institute has been working to build community in the City of Philadelphia for more than twenty years. Our neighborhood leadership program has involved thousands of grassroots activists in seminars and workshops that helps them establish goals and strategies for revitalizing blighted areas throughout the City. What distinguishes our approach in this area is that we help people define not merely their interests and assets, but the broad ideals which they are prepared to work together to achieve.
The papers developed for this program apply this approach building community to problems of deterioration in urban neighborhoods are common to cities throughout the country:
Building Community: ISCV Projects
The Institute has undertaken several projects aimed at applying its approach to building community in America to problems facing urban neighborhoods. The following are our major programs at this time:
Building Community in the American Tradition
The Institute has created a "Build-Com" email list for neighborhood activists who want to use "Building Community in the American Experience" as a framework for planning within their own communities. There is no cost to subscribe to this list, but only those who want to use the guide will be approved for participation.
If you wish to join this list, send a one paragraph description of your organization and how you would hope to use this discussion to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will approve you for participation on this basis.
The participants in the "build-com" mailing list are sharing their own insights on how their communities and neighborhoods fulfill the civic values embodied in the Preamble. The web pages that follow profile these communities and chronicle how the "Building Community in the American Tradition" project is developing in different parts of the country.
Building Community in Philadelphia
The Institute is implementing two projects aimed at building community in Philadelphia:
The cause of communities has found new support in the growing attention being paid to what is called "civil society." "Civil society" is the term that social scientists use to describe the institutions that hold communities and the country together. As a result of several important articles and speeches, this concept is gaining importance in American politics.
Robert Putnam, "The Prosperous Community: Social Capital and Public Life," The American Prospect No. 13 (Spring 1993):35-42-In recent years, Robert Putnam of Harvard has developed empirical evidence that the civic structure--or "social capital"--of a community is critically important to its overall well-being. This article from The American Prospect summarizes the basic argument he advanced in his book Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy , published by Princeton University Press in 1993.
Robert Putnam,"The Strange Disappearance of Civic America," The American Prospect No. 24 (Winter 1996)--In this piece, Dr. Putnam uses data surrounding declining civic and participation in America over the past fifty years to argue that the most likely cause has been the pervasive impact of television.
Senator Bill Bradley on Restoring the American Community--Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey introduced the concept of "rebuilding civil society" as a new framework for American politics in an important speech to the National Press Club.
Don Eberly on Recovering the Individual in Civil Society -Don Eberly has emerged as an important conservative champion of civil society. His recent book, Building a Community of Citizens (University Press of America, 1995) is gaining increased attention as well. This article written for the Progress and Freedom Foundation summarizes his basic argument.
President Clinton on Empowerment Zones and Community Partnerships-President Clinton sees the administration's Empowerment Zone/Enterprise Communities program as a model for the partnerships that might define the relationship between the federal government and civil society in the future.
New Democrat Symposium on Civil Society-The New Democrat is the journal of the Democratic Leadership Council. This symposium appeared in their March/April, 1995 issue. It features pieces by Will Marshall, Benjamin Barber, Sara Jackson-Han, Harry Boyte and Nancy Kari, and Ed Kilgore.
Communitarian Email List Subscription Information-Amitai Etzioni, Professor of Sociology at George Washington University, continues to promote the Communitarian Network as a vehicle to create a "Spirit of Community" in America. The Communitarian email list provides ongoing information on the work of this organization.
Building Community: Online Resources
Community in America: A Virtual Tour
Local and Regional Communities
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