THERE ARE TIMES IN OUR COMMUNITIES WHEN INDIVIDUAL change just isn’t enough. That’s not to minimize the importance of personal transformation and growth, but when the structural problems in our cities face a place of deep challenge after decades of decline, waiting for individuals to catch up to the imposing challenges before us can be an exercise in futility.
Citizenship matters, it’s true. But when the limiting efficiencies of the past keep our lone efforts from creating the change we seek, a new kind of collective citizenship is required – and soon.
For perhaps too long we have counted on the aggregation of individual effort to rebuild our communities. But it’s not working, despite some remarkable individual success stories and achievements. Yet no matter how well intentioned these achievements may be, they fail to reach their ultimate goals. Why? Because our singular lives are touched, but the organizational culture and the larger community remained largely unmoved and unchallenged.
These efforts often fail to realize that there is such a thing as the collective body and ultimate community renewal cannot occur if it remains isolated. There needs to be a communal culture of belonging that inspires others and gets the whole system to move towards reform and renewal. Individual accomplishments and contributions are important, but in addition there must be a culture of connectedness.
This is why it is disillusioning at times to see highly productive individuals leave a city because of their inability to have a greater impact or to produce the quality of life that serves as a place setting for their exploits.