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20.02.2016

REGENERATING THE ESSENCE OF COMMUNITY

By: Nara Petrovič

In the developed world we don't think about child mortality any more. While in 1800 the best-off countries in the world had child mortality rate higher than 30%, in 2013 globally only 6.3 million children died before the age of five (less than 0.1%). This shows that humanity made rapid progress in caring for individuals in the most sensitive phase of their development.

            Young communities, however, are getting hardly any care in the fragile phases of their development. In the last 70 years industrialised countries experienced gradual disintegration of local communities both in rural and urban areas. The global system of production and distribution of goods favours impersonal individualism, resulting in high levels of mental illness and alienation. The effects of loss of family and community values are now widely acknowledged and strategies are being developed to mitigate the situation.

            The revival of local communities has to be an endogenous, community-led process, started and carried out by the people. Top-down political constructs only need to give room to such a process. Competent trainers and mentors, experienced in nurturing community development, will be key in the revival of functional local communities.

            Alternative communities and communes from the 60's, 70's and 80's, whatever we may think of them now, preserved the values of togetherness and passed them on to the less radical initiatives, which followed later on, and became complimentary to the mainstream. Values and concrete practices of new community projects are now spilling over to the broader society, creating a vibrant movement based on innovative local governance, green economy, do-it-yourself technology, natural diversity, cultural heritage, voluntary simplicity, etc.

            The emerging sustainable community projects, which are embarking on a journey to undiscovered territories, are facing many obstacles, thus most of them fail to take off successfully and last more than five years. Considering that local communities in Europe are probably at the point of highest deterioration in the last 100 years, it is unreasonable to expect that the regeneration of local communities would get the extent of support it needs. Social climate is simply not conducive to community development. The “mortality” of “child-communities” is therefore extremely high, probably much higher than child mortality in 1800.

            We need pioneering programmes that create appropriate methodology to reverse the existing trends (so community values wouldn't fully disappear), to help sustainable community-led projects avoid pitfalls on their initial steps and ultimately strive as healthful collective organisms. Working towards this goal is the essence of Sustainable Communities Incubator Partnership Programme, carried out by representatives from 9 National Networks of Global Ecovillage Network.

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