This is the original version of the Village In The City concept. Due of the very large interest in this topic, we are continuing the project at a dedicated website, http://villageinthecity.net. Please go there for the latest news, manifesto, village-building resources, calls and how to Put Your Village On The Map.
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. Architect Richard Rogers (2017) identified over 620 ‘High Streets’ in London alone, each of which is central to its own village.
Village-level activity 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-generation and cross-demographic community, to expand our awareness of how the world is for those around us
- build resilience and mutual support with people right there on the 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 the recent amazing developments in online communication; access to global communication produces a space for micro-local in-person interaction
- help citizens become more empowered and purposefully connected than they have been in recent years.
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)
Build your village – balance your life
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. Interested? Join the Facebook group. Post on social media #VillageInTheCity. Then download the Village Builder Worksheet and start your local conversations.
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.
Relevant articles and links:
- A 15-minute neighbourhood? Very interesting from Head of Strategy at Camden, London.
2 June 2020: Draft 1, 4 June 2020 Draft 2 including more detail, Facebook group and worksheet, 12 June 2020: Draft 3 with expanded preamble 18 June Draft 3.1, expanded preamble. 14 July, Draft 4, expanded preamble and opening statements.
(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), Jim Mather (Heriott Watt University), Adrian Hodgson (Berlin) and Lara Celini (Willowbrae) for their initial support and ideas.)
Rogers, R., Brown, R. (2017). A Place For All People: Life, architecture and the fairer society. Edinburgh: Canongate Books