Empowering individuals, associations, and local government entities to lead incremental, sustainable change in their communities
Often, those involved in place-based philanthropy believe that solving an area’s intersecting social challenges requires two values: (1) respecting the people, practices, and organizations of a community and (2) bringing dramatic, systemic change to that community.1 This report argues that those values are generally at odds and that when the two are incompatible, the first must be prioritized.2
In any given location, the “community” is made of a staggering number of relationships, compromises, habits, associations, and traditions. This is especially true in densely populated urban areas, where people from different backgrounds and with different visions of the good life have found ways to live together.
Many latent components of collective life are all but invisible. No one can map all the city’s interpersonal connections or curate all its customs and agreements. Nevertheless, these contribute mightily to the social fabric. They are everywhere. They develop naturally, without planning, and they continuously adapt based on conditions and individuals’ shifting beliefs and priorities. Moreover, since they sprout from the particulars of each location—its founding, geography, faiths, employers, ordinances, and so on—they differ from city to city. These institutions truly are of, by, and for the people of a specific place.
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