Geoff Mulgan, the Young Foundation, on Community

Geoff Mulgan, Director, the Young Foundation: what is Community? It is village greens, libraries, facebook… Research shows that to attain Happiness we would like to work less, commute less, spend more time with friends and family.

Where are new communities being built and what is the thinking going in to them? In terms of cities and places, factors such as being well designed, ecological, sustainable – we are improving on this. However perhaps we are less apt at building social design in to places. What can we do to build in communities and social aspects to buildings? (Currently – not many lessons have been learnt form the past).

Physical design of buildings can invoke feelings of fear; such feelings are feedback messages from buildings and spaces. Lines of sight, windows, passage ways, and the balance between social spaces and privacy. Many of these lessons are lost. Ownership is also key. Often forgotten. Incompleteness in design – too perfect and it doesn’t work. People need to put their stamp on things. This is difficult for designers and planners.

How do you support social interaction? Milton Keynes is a good example – paying people to meet newcomers.  Websites to share time, news, and to develop community roles. Psychology and interaction – love your city… choosing green behaviours. Networks in cities  – exchange of economy, jobs, etc is essential so people don’t feel put off.

The importance of giving back: School of Everything is a good example. Networks of exchange help build communities in a practical, win-win way.

The importance of history: feeling a part of a place is a critical aspect of making communities work.

Leadership: the spray on aerosol of community is where things have gone wrong. We need strong, capable leaders. Creative leaders should run real life community projects that actually change something. That then builds confidence in themselves and proves they are capable.  It also creates meaning… which makes leaders more likely to stay.

Sociology has largely disappeared so the fear is that we will not learn from the past. The long boom in America lead to a fall in social wealth even though there was a gain in financial wealth. In Britain, older people are isolated and lacking the support they need.

We need to focus on loveability not just liveability to get by. (I think reciprocracy is essential to establish the upward spiral we need).

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