The furore today around civility reminds me of my experiences recently on the Isle of Wight. There I found people got on remarkably well – indeed, I doubt anyone would have used their mobile phone at the checkout. Instead informal conversation oiled the wheels of community life.
I was on the Isle of Wight to check in on the pilot programme Care4Care is carrying out there. While running focus groups with some local people, the strong sense of community was clear to me. Individual tastes and interests differed but views on communal activities were remarkably similar. Excitement about the upcoming Old Gaffers was universal, as was dismay for the prospects for young people on the island. From experience this is not that unusual (and quite helpful for the focus group, in that it’s easier to gauge an opinion when it is strongly and unanimously held).
What struck me was the ease that these strangers came together. They quickly started chatting, and soon appeared like long lost friends. Indeed, getting them to stop chatting to each other and focus on the questions at hand was a challenge. I would be creating a straw man by suggesting that this never happens in urban focus groups. But from what I’ve seen, it is rarer.
While working on this project, I have been reading Together by urbanist and sociologist Richard Sennett. In the book, he argues that cooperation is a skill that must be nurtured- something modern atomised communities fail to do. Sennett brings together an unlikely ensemble of evidence to support his argument; from his experience of group music practices, to the history of Booker T. Washington and the Tuskegee Institute. The argument is convincing but far too comprehensive to rehearse here so I urge you to read it yourself.
If Sennett is correct those people we spoke to on the Isle of Wight are the exception. They have developed their cooperation skills. They were more experienced at getting along. But why? Apart from where they lived the participants shared one thing. They were all members of Care4Care.
We hope that Care4Care will create the rituals and opportunities for cooperation that Sennett argues modern society has lost. By making popping into your neighbour’s house for a cup of tea a norm rather than a rarity, we hope that we will help people to develop their skills for cooperation. How successfully, we will discover over the next year.
It is an exciting time for Care4Care. We have recently appointed a new CEO in Yve White-Smith. Yve has enjoyed a successful career working within diverse, people-centred organisations such as the Alzheimer’s Society and Mindset² Education and Training. She has worked in support of vulnerable people of all ages (and their families), as a clinician, director, educator and as a senior manager. Further to our initial pilot on the Isle of Wight Care4Care has expanded to two new affiliate sites: in Portsmouth with Age UK Portsmouth, and with the Peaceful Place in Essex. We hope to expand to 10 sites in total by the end of the year. As the project grows I hope we will get a greater insight into whether Care4Care increases our member’s abilities to cooperate.
If you are interested in becoming a Care4Care affiliate please drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.