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9 - Connecting at the edges for collective change

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 April 2023

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Summary

Introduction

Tomorrow's communities need to be resilient and optimistic. Yet many of today's most challenged communities are operating ‘at the edge’: socially, economically and geographically. In many ways, this puts them at a disadvantage – vulnerable and fragmented, as described in Chapter 1. Tomorrow's communities must find ways to overcome these fringe ‘dis-benefits’, using internal resourcefulness and crosscutting connections to become resilient and more integrated despite a manifestly uneven distribution of wealth, power and life chances. A decade of austerity cuts in public spending, coupled with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent recession, has further exposed inequalities, leaving many feeling ‘left behind’ compared with others; just about surviving but certainly not thriving (Baldwin et al, 2020). Left-behind areas are characterised by Oxford Consultants for Social Inclusion as having ‘high levels of need, multiple deprivation and socio-economic challenges’, along with ‘poor community and civic infrastructure, relative isolation and low levels of participation’ (OCSI, 2019).

Recent research discovered that areas of particular ‘community need’ tend to be located around the coast, on the peripheries of more prosperous cities and out-of-town estates (OCSI, 2019). While the study distinguishes between deprivation and lack of collective assets, there is clearly an issue arising from poor connectivity and reduced access to public services or fast broadband, causing poor health and shrunken life opportunities, especially for urban dwellers without secure jobs or living in rented accommodation. Many are also vulnerable to energy poverty, unpredictable weather conditions and severe flooding. The precarity of this existence has been exacerbated by the pandemic and in the long term it will affect many people's mental health, educational attainment and general self-esteem. These are the challenges facing tomorrow's communities, and younger generations in particular. This chapter looks at how improving and extending connections within and between communities contributes to how they function as complex systems, especially through nurturing inclusive networks of relations based on trust and mutual understanding.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many communities have demonstrated remarkable capacity for self-organising, using local knowledge and connections to ensure that services are tailored to hyper-local conditions and without excessive coordination by infrastructure bodies in either the voluntary or statutory sectors.

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Information
Tomorrow's Communities
Lessons for Community-Based Transformation in the Age of Global Crises
, pp. 147 - 164
Publisher: Bristol University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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