Have you ever wondered how to recognize a flourishing community? In this journey of being a Change-Maker, sometimes it helps to see an example of what holistic success really looks like. Over the last forty years as a part of FCS, we’ve refined our vision of what it takes to be a well-woven neighborhood tapestry and how to get there. You may read this list and think “oh man, what communities meet all of these?” The answer is: not many. You’ll notice that neither affluent nor marginalized neighborhoods tend to meet these criteria.
It takes groups of committed people to shape a neighborhood, and even an entire city. Your commitment to implementing innovative, contextualized community development strategies is vital. When neighbors come together to make deep change, we know the dream of a flourishing community is possible.
#1 Strong Social Fabric
A community is no community at all without relationships, or when only commuter relationships exist. These relationships extend beyond the interpersonal and to the geography and legacy of their neighborhood. We call this “sense of place.” That means knowing the history of their community, having an idea of its identity and personality. Ideally, neighbors are proud to claim that identity.
Flourishing neighborhoods will have credible leaders who residents seek out for counsel and direction. You’ll see bonds between neighbors. A sense of mutual obligation and trust permeate local interactions. People love their neighborhood and the people in it.
On the ground, look for bonds between local leaders, local partners, and local programs. Notice where the community gathers and what it gathers around. When you spot a neighborhood where neighbors know each other, look out for each other, and even enjoy each other, you can be certain you’ve found a rare place. Of course, we have tips for ways you can get started (link to former blog) in your own community to build up ties with those closest to you geographically.
#2 Structures that Work for Everyone
We tend to believe that there’s no such thing as a homogeneous, flourishing neighborhood. Instead, communities have different degrees of visible and hidden diversity. We believe this is a strength. It also means every community needs structures that work for a diversity of people. Unity and diversity work like iron sharpening iron – some sparks may fly, but ultimately the result is stronger and sharper. A neighborhood that blends different income levels ends up with a more robust, creative, and thoughtful tone. Neighbors practice magnanimity on a day to day basis, preparing them for partnership out in the community.
Structures include everything from physical ones like houses and schools. People need equitable access to the basic necessities of shelter, food, and healthcare. In a flourishing community, every neighbor has a true sense of safety for their physical and material well-being.
#3 Vibrant Local Economy
Coffee shops, grocery stores, small service businesses and more can increase access to resources for all neighbors when geared toward a mixed-income community. Neighborhoods with vibrant local economies help neighbors go deeper by encouraging them to spend more time in the neighborhood. Overall, a strong local economy can boost neighbors’ health by cutting down on commute times, providing jobs as a means of redistributing resources, and pouring dollars back into the community itself. Even more, local entrepreneurs serve as role models and job-experience for younger residents, encouraging them to dream big and boost their resumes.
It’s important to note that mixed-income does mean some people should be living with meager resources. An economy that can’t afford to give a livable wage is not a flourishing one. Instead, the emphasis should be on a variety of jobs, housing, and industries that accommodate people from all walks of life.
When you see a flourishing community, it’s hard not to leap for joy! In the times we’ve seen Historic South Atlanta embody this vision, it inspires us to keep going. Flourishing communities are possible.
You can start to build a flourishing community from wherever you are, in whatever state your neighborhood is in. As a first step, consider joining our Virtual Open House to understand our approach and what it might look like in your neighborhood.