April 22, 2015
City Strolls has been around for about ten years. It’s hard to describe exactly what it is. In essence it’s a web presence dedicated to helping communities help themselves. It’s mainly focused on the urban and mainly centred on Glasgow. But it’s more than that. It encourages grass root community action of all kinds and offers a platform to share new thinking and ideas. It’s always worth a peek if you’re looking for something slightly different from the community sector. Like this Citizens’ Handbook borrowed from Canada. As comprehensive as it is well written.
Click to see the Citizens Handbook
Why we need more active citizens
The Citizens Handbook is meant to encourage the emergence of more active citizens – people motivated by an interest in public issues, and a desire to make a difference beyond their own private lives. Active citizens are a great untapped resource, and citizenship is a quality to be nurtured.
A way of solving local problems
When people become involved in their neighbourhoods they can become a potent force for dealing with local problems. Through co-ordinated planning, research and action, they can accomplish what individuals working alone could not.
When people decide they are going to be part of the solution, local problems start getting solved. When they actually begin to work with other individuals, schools, associations, businesses, and government service providers, there is no limit to what they can accomplish.
A bridge to strong democracy
When citizens get together at the neighbourhood level, they generate a number of remarkable side effects. One of these is strengthened democracy. In simple terms, democracy means that the people decide. Political scientists describe our system of voting every few years but otherwise leaving everything up to government as weak democracy. In weak democracy, citizens have no role, no real part in decision-making between elections. Experts assume responsibility for deciding how to deal with important public issues.
The great movement of the last decades of the twentieth century has been a drive toward stronger democracy in corporations, institutions and governments. In many cities this has resulted in the formal recognition of neighbourhood groups as a link between people and municipal government, and a venue for citizen participation in decision-making between elections.
A way of rekindling community
Active citizens can help to create a sense of community connected to place. We all live somewhere. As such we share a unique collection of problems and prospects in common with our neighbours. Participation in neighbourhood affairs builds on a recognition of here-we-are-together, and a yearning to recapture something of the tight-knit communities of the past. Neighbourhood groups can act as vehicles for making connections between people, forums for resolving local differences, and a means of looking after one another. Most important, they can create a positive social environment that can become one of the best features of a place.