An Agenda for the Renewal of Our Communities


Community-based initiatives have multiplied rapidly in the past 10-15 years, with precious little co-ordination or even communication between them. In Shared Space: The Communities Agenda (2007) Sherri Torjman of the Caledon Institute explains how most of these innovations are essentially about one or more aspects of community resilience. They aim to build the capacity of communities to survive or adapt, some aim to engage with our changing world, and some to seize the opportunities it presents for prosperity.

Some initiatives focus on one of these four clusters of activity. Some build capacity among individual residents or households, and some in terms of public infrastructure. No cluster is more important than another, and there is no single "right way" to approach them. Together, however, they are a prescription for healthy, strong communities.

As Robert Putnam did in his book about the decline in social capital, Bowling Alone (1999), Torjman mixes her analysis with manifesto. She urges community, public, and private sector organizations to outgrow their notions of turf. They should instead dedicate themselves to the development of a commons or "shared space" of actions that increase community resilience. Here, the role of government is crucial. While continuing to invest in public goods and services, it must enable (and even imitate) initiatives that embrace complexity, diversity, and a gradual emergence of solutions.

Torjman, Sherri
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