Thursday, April 15, 2010

Communities: Organically Growing

No, this post is actually not focusing on food, at least not in a central way.  I'm not really focusing on gardening, either.  I'm talking about "organic" in the sense of bottom-up instead of top-down processes.  I've briefly mentioned Kent Community Time Banks here once before, but this post is dedicated to KCTB. 

After World War II, the US experienced a surge of suburbanization and urban sprawl.  The "norm" went from small, walkable, urban communities with many row-houses and apartments to spread out, driving-distance, subdivisions with large lots within a few decades.  Public transit went from a necessity to a tax burden, cars moved from street-side to attached garages, walking went from the sidewalk to the treadmill and shopping moved from the corner store to the enclosed mall.  Cleveland, my paternal family's homeland, now covers twice as much land as it did fifty years ago, with roughly the same number of people.  That's a doubling of per-capita land usage. 

Later in the seventies, white flight reinforced distrust of neighbors and a disdain for urban "ghettos"; multiple family housing units were associated with poverty, the welfare state, and morally abject behavior.  These are, of course, broad generalizations, and there were exceptions, but they illustrate how society can change in a short amount of time.

Currently, there is a recognition that maybe our current model of living is not the best practice.  People are isolated from their community, neighbors don't know one another, families are widely dispersed and interaction takes place over a wire instead of a kaffee klatsch or hedge.  Not that this nostalgic scene was perfect either, as Stephanie Coontz's "The Way We Never Were" documents quite nicely.  Along with this recognition that progress isn't always the best thing is a movement of recreating communities in a new form.  The internet may be often blamed for its part in the destruction of geographically based communities, but it is now being repurposed as a tool in the community garden of these new communities. 

In a time when individuals and families may be transient to a community, and may not know who and what resources are available in a city, Time Banks provide a way to connect with others, with money not being an issue.  It serves as an equalizer, valuing the time of a doctor and a high school drop the same.  If you can walk a dog or provide a listening ear, you can be a part of the community, and obtain needed services like medical advice, tutoring or electrical work.  Everyone has something to offer.  The computer software and website provide a way to connect with someone offering a service you need and needing a service you can provide, but more importantly, they provide a way to start relationships, they provide a way to reintegrate marginalized citizens into the larger community, they provide a decentralized currency that is backed by something more substantial then bytes of data- a currency backed by other humans.

1 comment:

  1. This is really cool, Lisa! Keep us updated when you can -- I'm curious to see how various people in the community benefit from the bank. What services will you be offering? =)