Shared Prosperity as a theme of the week is one that is most important as we look to the means by which we will help rebuild the communities that we have chosen. While some will look to building new buildings as residences as progress, no matter the consequences; we must look at projects that will help the citizens that currently live in the communities as well as those who will move in later. All of the themes of the weeks in some way speak to this principle, we cannot build communities with a shared culture, that are resilient without thinking of the lessons and concepts that we have seen throughout the readings. For Jonestown specifically, this concept is vital, as we see the culture and local residents move away from areas like lower fells point and canton.
Community engagement is one of the biggest factors in sustainable communities. As our society becomes more isolated socially because of technology, building engaged communities becomes increasingly difficult. Baltimore, however, has a great ingrained “stoop” culture that can be used to help revitalize neighborhoods. Social engagement needs to have some amount of shared concern for the community that they reside in. Cultivating the sense of ownership is truly the difficult part of the equation. As I reflect on Jonestown, my thoughts drift to the lack of local businesses’ and identity that I keep coming back to.
Team Baltimore chose “Designing, planning, and managing resilient cities: A conceptual framework” (Desouza, 2013) and “Discerning community resilience in disadvantaged communities in the context of violence and injury prevention” (Ahmed, 2014) as case studies. Both of the readings discuss different facets and effects of resiliency. Desouza et al discuss “resilience in terms of cities… the ability to absorb, adapt and respond to changes in an urban system.” Viewing resilience through the prism of this week’s theme of cohesive communities and reflecting on how it applies to Baltimore and Jonestown; we see that the many of the issues that we confront are due to the in ability to effectively respond to respond to previous changes in the urban system. As we work towards building a stronger more cohesive community, understanding how to create a resilient one is critical. This selection highlights the “four broad categories of stressors that a city needs to be resilient to – natural, technological, economic, and human.” (Desouza, 2013) The challenges that come with each one of those categories must be understood and planned for when attempting to build a stronger community.
In the second selection, Ahmed et al examined “neighbourhood cohesion and community hope; community structures and leadership and social supports; the ownership of a business and physical security; and the ownership of a business and social supports.” In some ways this reading moved from a city level discussion to a community or neighborhood level discussion of resiliency. The findings of this study confirmed some of the notions that we have about communities that are already cohered, but also had some surprising observations about what can occur in lower resource communities. For the former point we read that “length of residency in a community as a logical prerequisite for the development of supportive community structures and the organic emergence of leadership.” (Ahmed, 2014) For the latter “Income generated through small business [in lower resource settings] may, ironically, serve as a source of social division and so provoke distance from social networks.”(Ibid) The seemingly conflicted nature of these two issues means that concerted effort and plan must be established when building a community to make sure that it has the resources to be able to grow together.
Resilient communities are the cornerstone of being able to respond to shocks or crisis. In this module we learned about the extent to which that is helpful for helping residents and businesses thrive in the long-term. Applying this to the greater purpose of this class I have thought a lot about how to lay the groundwork to build the resiliency as the community grows. Integrating business and residents in communities that are rebuilding will be the key to helping communities be cohesive. We can take our cue from other parts of Baltimore that have been successful, Fells point, Canton and Fed Hill that have embraced the impact that building a resilient community can have.
Looking at the themes of this week including healthy people, I find that I think of the community from a macro perspective. From this perspective we see that social stratification will divert resources to those of a higher social order who have more power. In the same way it is hard to integrate two cultures after they have been formally established. This points to the notion that we should work to build and integrate cultures early on to try to make a singular integrated culture that all community members can feel a part of.
Reflecting back on the themes of this week, nowadays, we often view a health as a physical condition that mostly has to do with sustenance and activity level. However, if we zoom out a little and look at the health of a community, we see that the health of the community comes from the culture, vitality and sustainability of a community. How well does the community help the residents be healthy, both mentally and physically? While it may not always be seen easily the positive effect of the community on the residents and business owners is easy to see if you look for it. Conversely, the deleterious effects of an unstable and/or dangerous community is quite evident to all who witness it. Some of the interactions that I had this week in the community drove that point home loud and clear.
Reflecting back on the themes of this week, we see themes that strike a chord in the city of Baltimore. Revitalizing and building a community without the destruction of the existing local culture. After speaking with my team, we talked about a lot of these issues and the point that stuck with me is fighting the thought process that new is inherently better or more valuable. In order to build a sustainable community we need a mix of existing community members and new with an emphasis on making the neighborhood feel like a community with a cohesive feel. Finding places to integrate commercial opportunities that will keep people in the area longer is also a significant step that needs to be taken overall and in the case of Jonestown.