As the post-pandemic ‘new normal’ emerges and develops, the usefulness and resilience of very local connections has become increasingly clear. The levels of local can be seen as house; street; village; town; district; city. The potential for connection at the village level – even in much bigger settlements like towns and cities – is clear. Village-level activity can build community, connection and resilience through our big cities as well as in the countryside. Architect Richard Rogers (2017) identified over 620 ‘High Streets’ in London alone, each of which is central to its own village.
This manifesto sets out the village-in-the-city concept as a way of consciously building on this in ways which expand on the best of micro-local.
Villages (in this sense) have:
- A name – usually this already there
- Recognisable, distinctive, widely known and used
- Everyone who lives there is a ‘member’
- Addressing multiple hopes, needs and interests
- Drawing on the ‘treasure within’ – skills, resources, desire to participate
- Meeting places (accessible to all and
within walking distance)
- Indoor – halls, pub rooms,
- Outdoor – public spaces, green places
- Places for chance encounters as well as planned events
- Connection within the village
- Papers, newsletters, emails, Facebook groups, Whatsapp available to all
- News and updates which go to everyone
- Fostering two-way communication (not just ‘us’ to ‘them’ or ‘hub’ to ‘rim’)
- Has a way to reach out to newcomers and engage them
- People who foster connection as part of their role (this used to be the pub landlord and the vicar, but can now be a more expanded concept)
- This role should be shared around – multiple hosts make for wider participation and less burn-out
- Can be an informal role (people just doing it) as well as more structured
- Not just ‘organisers’ but also co-participants, joining in along with everyone else
- Inclusive gatherings
- Milestones in the year to bring people together – summer garden party, Hogmanay, Christmas Fayre, music weekend,
- Regular inclusive opportunities to meet, build community and reflect – perhaps including churches, teas/coffees, drop-ins, perhaps a Sunday Assembly
- Open community events like homeworker meetups, film club, play streets, quizzes etc etc
- The more specific and locale-relevant the better
- And… an ‘identity’
- What makes this a special place?
Note that this is not:
- A formal administrative unit
- Somewhere with a formal leader/governance
- A rules-enforcement body
- Something with a budget or funding (when the funding stops, the activities stop)
Online we can now connect with anywhere in the world. The necessary counterbalance – for mental health, wellbeing, resilience, business and life – is face-to-face micro-local participation. This is almost certainly going on already in some ways where you are; find it, build on it, engage others, reinvent old traditions and start new ones.
Build your village – balance your life
Mark McKergow is an author, consultant and coach based in the West End, Edinburgh, Scotland. He has written extensively on the role of hosts in building communities and organisations, and is the author of Host: Six New Roles of Engagement (with Helen Bailey, 2014) and the Host Leadership Field Book (with Pierluigi Pugliese, 2019). Find out more about Mark at hostleadership.com and sfwork.com.
2 June 2020: Draft 1, 4 June 2020 Draft 2 including more detail, Facebook group and worksheet
(This is a draft which I want to develop with your help – please leave comments below or contact me at email@example.com. Many thanks to Dr Wendy Ellyat, Flourish Project, for her support and ideas.)
Rogers, R., Brown, R. (2017). A Place For All People: Life, architecture and the fairer society. Edinburgh: Canongate Books