Healthy communities have a number of infrastructure designs that are in common. Churches, schools, hospitals, public-safety personnel, local governmental systems, housing, parks and a vigorous civic infrastructure, should coexist in tandem when considering “healthy” communities. A strong robust civic infrastructure is as vital to the health of a community as all other infrastructure. Community-based organizations, foundations, philanthropic and nonprofit organizations, along with countless grassroots organizations convene in a common place called community, to ensure that the most precious of community life is realized within a context of shared goals.
The quality of life of a community is not just the responsibility of some, but everyone. Where poverty exists, there are indicators that shared power and responsibility is missing. Citizens oftentimes than not, are made to feel a sense of intimidation for speaking out and having their voices heard. They are made to remain anonymous and engage the system only when told to do so. There must be a commitment to become deeply involved in improving the overall community if there is movement out of poverty. Broadening public participation at the most basic level of community is a must.
To flourish means you have to address what is restraining progress. If the poor have not been given access as a system of change, by teaching them how to be engaged at every level of community and decision making, the true nature of the community is apprehended by the perspective of just a few. Poverty can never be stamped “done” given this level of community engagement.
The community must realize they hold the key to movement out of poverty. Civic mindedness in community constructs, gives voice to the voiceless. Actively engaging ideas and perspectives through mediums of conversation, technology and policy, moves communities closer to understanding the real roots of poverty. This is what revs the engine and builds momentum.
If civic infrastructures are weak, there is no real sense of community pride. Identifying community strengths are done with great difficulty. The community argues within itself and is ill-prepared to bring about change. Hopelessness ensues, and the common belief held by the majority is that nothing is going to change… and it does not. The power of the civic infrastructure is oftentimes dismissed. Budget cuts and elimination of programs and projects that seem frilled-full, are the first to go. If mentioned are parks and playgrounds, giving to nonprofits or being supportive of grassroots based organizations, churches, governmental institutions and others are referenced as the support to be sought.
Poverty calls for all hands-on deck. It admonishes us to build a strong civic infrastructure, engage the entire community and believe they can play an important role. Such a perspective bends the lens of poverty, and refocuses efforts of intervention with a vigorously active civic infrastructure as a tool to help get rid of the poverty.