The Social Infrastructure

By Paul Hosford

In my last column I discussed the concept of community ownership, the idea that the more invested people feel in their community, the more they’ll contribute to it. A sense that one’s own fortunes are tied to those of one’s community – and vice-versa – is essential to both the welfare of a community and the individuals within it.

A sense of community membership is fostered by what sociologists call social capital, a term used to describe the mutual goodwill that develops as people help one another. In communities where people support one another, people realize that time and effort given to projects and tasks that help others will yield personal benefits in the long run. In helping an injured neighbor harvest his crops, we increase the probability that if we need help harvesting ours, it will be given. Social capital, this reservoir of neighborly good will, is the foundation of all successful human interaction, and the more we invest in it the more we benefit. One of the biggest benefits is a sense of having a stake in a community – community ownership.

Small towns are traditionally bastions of social capital. From EMTs to scout leaders, booster clubs to service organizations, small towns would grind to a halt if people stopped volunteering their time, energy and expertise.

Complete column in Albion News Print Edition.