I conducted a workshop recently in Central Pennsylvania, and the group that invited me held the gathering at the local community library. Using community gathering places, certainly when we are exploring community engagement principles, are real testimonies to the critical nature of community. Often, when we look at the importance of social capital as a key ingredient for a more vital community, it pushes us to understand the principles of social infrastructure.
Community builders know that having viable places in our communities for people to gather is an important link to building social capital. Some sociologists maintain that the more places that offer regularity of exchange are vital to the strength of a community. These include not just meeting spaces, like the library we did our session in, but informal spaces as well that are open, accessible, and welcoming to everyone.
So what about your community? Are there adequate and inclusive meeting spaces for people to gather. Are there “great, good, places” where people can meet up, and come to know one another. If you were hosting a group of people, where might you meet? We are seeing commercial settings understand this need, such as Starbucks, or Panera’s, that gladly make their space available for meetings and gatherings?
Our communities are only as good as their social infrastructure!