A book titled, “ Better Together: Restoring the American Community” has examples with implications for the Pocono-Northeast.
Written by Robert T. Putnam and Lewis M. Feldstein, it can be used as a learning tool in this region, showing what social capital can mean to the future. Its examples are all over the nation, its use of social, rather than physical and human, capital demonstrates the role that such end games can mean to communities. Its focus has meaning toward community development as well as economic growth.
Networks are widely patterned as ways to meet objectives. Linking people will bond social capital and bring fresh and outward looking approach to how a new focus can be found. Relational organizing leads to building roles for people beyond the use of computers and cell phones, and enhances social capital. Another tool that is widely used in this region is the role of public libraries, and the author use Chicago as an example.
They advise, “In life there are choices and chances. Make a choice, take a chance, reap the rewards.” The library is a gathering place, functions as a community center, a place where people get to know one another, where communities find themselves. Think of what this means to dozens of libraries found in this region and how change can occur through these techniques and other tools suggested in the book. Libraries, for example, are a place “that is neither work nor home where people can spend time together.” These forces for good are excellent focal points for this region. Another example in the book is the role of young people. In this region, in November, 2019, Wilkes-Barre Connect held a conference, attracting 200 people and heard from panelist what young people are achieving. Other examples are sure to follow.
Another example is the Experience Corps in Philadelphia overseen by Civic Ventures and found in 15 cities. The concept could be generated in the future across this region. The group particularly helped in schools, a task that is probably needed in this region. This is true for other demographics such as seniors across the Pocono-Northeast using their talents in assisting regional nonprofits .
There has been an epidemic of civic engagement in places such as Portland, Oregon, which has had a rich history in this field. Such is the case of the commonwealth where governors have actively suggested civic engagement.
To enable this region to benefit from further civic engagement, here are ideas to explore:
• Use strategies that have worked elsewhere and apply them to regional issues that requires civic engagement.
• Develop municipal and county policies that reflect civic engagement to assist the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. Colleges and some high schools utilize this technique and their examples should be highlighted on websites across the region.
• Community leadership programs across the region demonstrate leadership so that their role should be amplified and perhaps lead to a regional leadership program.
• Examine how public libraries can expand and truly become community centers for civic engagement.
• Create a regional task force on civic engagement and hold meetings to encourage more such activities .
• Tie together urban and rural planning, architecture and technology to create opportunities toward civic engagement and drive accomplishments through these means.
• Organize a regional mayors forum tp discuss civic engagement. Use the results to advance this subject.
The dawn of civic engagement has yet to be reached. The book suggests that more can be done and should be done across the Pocono-Northeast to meet need and solve problems. As the book states, “reweaving social webs will depend on the efforts of local leaders who choose to pursue their goals through……. the profoundly transformative route of social-capital building.” This experience will enable the region to be highly competitive in coming decades.