Friday, April 6, 2012

The Enduring Effect of Neighborhoods

The late Peter Drucker used to say that voluntary organizations and non-profits would increasingly drive the knowledge economy. Your focus on non-profits has helped to provide the social, civic and economic organizing glue of neighborhoods and cities. Lots of urbanists and Cities readers work in non-profits, I'm sure they'd like to hear more about this.

We live in an increasingly organizational society, and this reality plays out in neighborhoods as well. The density of nonprofit organizations leads to enhanced collective efficacy (for example neighbors watching out for others), collective civic engagement, and cohesion among community leaders. What’s important is not so much the existence of any specific type of organization but the overall organizational infrastructure of a community. Sometimes a disproportionate reliance on any one type of organization, such as the church, can be a problem. Surprisingly, for example, mistrust and cynicism in Chicago communities are highest in the well-churched communities. Although a fount of the civil rights movement, the church alone is clearly not enough to overcome the needs of African American communities, or any community for that matter. Communities with a diversity and density of many types of organizations seem to do better, creating collective spillover or “knock on” effects.

Nonprofit organizations can make a significant difference in how vulnerable neighborhoods face burdens such as foreclosures due to the recent recession. Community-based organizations are an important ingredient in building up the collective efficacy of communities to meet everyday challenges. While national policies are obviously crucial, nonprofits serve as a kind of social buffer that can make the difference between which neighborhoods tip into a spiral of decline and which turn themselves around. I call this process the "organizational imperative."
The last three paragraphs concluded this piece. I suggest you read the whole thing.

Do you think non-profits and community based organizations will make a difference here on the south side?

UPDATE: Hat-tip YoChicago!

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