Mark McKergow, founder, Village In The City (http://villageinthecity.net )
You arrive in a new city to find that although everything is bustling, there seems to be no way to connect to people in your neighbourhood. Or perhaps you have lived in a city for ages, only to find that the pandemic lockdowns cut you off from your normal social channels. That was me, a few months ago.
However, I noticed that the lockdown produced a change in our street. People started talking to each other. An email and Whatsapp group were set up. News was shared, support offered, I played my saxophone for the neighbours on the doorstep, and we started to connect. In one way, I felt life improving as a result of this terrible event. I wanted more of it, for me and for others.
So, I set up Village In The City in June 2020, with the idea of learning about how to build my own micro-local community in Edinburgh’s West End, and to connect and share with others who feel they want to share a similar journey. My background is in leadership and organisation development, in particular the approach of ‘leading as a host’. I figured that I have some professional expertise to bring to the community development field. So, I wrote a Manifesto with six key elements which can act as the basis for community and set about it, inviting others to join in. Micro-local communities improve well-being, economy, and connection.
What IS a ‘village in the city’?
It’s a small patch, a neighbourhood rather than a council area or local government unit. It may only be a few streets. You can probably walk across it in 10 minutes maximum. To create one, we suggest to people to start small at first – connect, invite people to join you, take some small steps, maybe set up a Facebook group or similar, have a kick-off meeting to see what people would value, and go from there.
Village-level community can:
- Improve all our lives in the short-term and long-term. Both building an active community and being part of one are positive experiences.
- Build inclusive cross-generational and cross-demographic community, to expand our awareness of how the world is experienced by those around us.
- Build resilience and mutual support with people right there on their doorstep, continuing and expanding the positive developments seen during the COVID pandemic.
- Connect businesses, support groups, families, churches, secular groups, and everyone else with an identity and local participation.
- Act as a necessary counterbalance to online communication; access to global communication leaves space for micro-local in-person interaction.
- Help citizens become more empowered and purposefully connected than they have been in recent years.
We now have a growing band of village-builders around the world, from North and South America to continental Europe and the United Kingdom. We hold monthly calls with experts in community development, as well as learning & sharing calls and forums – all free to join. We are also developing resources including the ‘Village Builders Handbook’ (now in its third iteration and growing all the time).
We welcome folk from anywhere in the world who want to start work to build community in their local patch. It doesn’t even have to be in a city! Some of our members have found themselves working from home, spending more time in their local patch, and finding they want to use their skills and experience to improve it. You are welcome to join our international group where we learn, share, support each other, improve our own lives and the lives of our neighbours too.
You can find out more about Village In The City by joining our free online FireStarter Festival event on Thursday 4th February at 4pm UK time, visiting the website, or joining one of our free calls. You are also welcome to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wellbeing Economy Correspondents is a series highlighting the firsthand experiences of individuals who have witnessed Wellbeing Economy principles, practices, and policies being implemented in all different contexts around the world. Our correspondents support WEAll’s mission to establish that a Wellbeing Economy is not only a desirable goal, but also an entirely viable one.