What do you do with those ideas which don’t quite fit with your day job? A colleague wants to reach out to an older lady she sees the District Nurse visiting. If they were neighbours, she’d pop round. But when someone lives a few doors away, breaking that barrier between street and living room can seem taboo.
Another colleague knocks on everyone’s door in his village to invite them to an annual fundraiser. Perhaps easier in a village than a city. Another is starting a Facebook page for his street. If he can get the web-savvy young professionals amongst his neighbours connected in that way, he knows he’ll then have the challenge of helping that virtual community connect with the off-line residents, to make the exercise really worthwhile.
Visiting the government’s new public services innovation hub for the first time, I found that someone else has had the same idea that’s been bubbling away for me for a while: why isn’t there a website which, when I enter my postcode, tells me about people within five minutes walk of my house who need some help? Matching and safeguarding could be carried out by an accredited local organisation or charity. In return for carrying out that task, the local organisation gets to put one of their clients on the site.
One community organiser already does a low-tech version of this kind of community knitting: knocking on doors and asking everyone in an estate what interests they have. Through this, he’s found the makings of a community orchestra from all estate’s hidden musicians.
You may hate my idea, or have a better one, in which case you can give it the chance of being awarded funding by joining the hub (email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com to get an invite to the site, which is members-only, but open to anyone invited by a current member).
The Big Society could be characterised as the hope that you can recreate the village in today’s inner city. I don’t think you can: tackling our isolation will require new ways of linking like-minded people around their interests and the fit between one person’s needs and another’s desire to help, even if they don’t live next door to each other, or have a passion for street parties. Ideas on a postcard, or a website, please.