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Civil Consorts

Creating Space for Civil Consorts

by Roy Krantz

This post presents a new concept for supplying both physically and psychologically needed services and amenities to residents in urban environments.

We Begin With the Need

As society and technology continue to change at a furious pace, it is easy to loose sight of day-to-day events in our lives. There are many things our iPhones and Blackberries can’t do for us.

There have been three massive changes in our social structure over the past few decades… the weakening of churches’ support for our daily lives, the re-structuring of the American family, and the expectation that public schools can fill the vast void created by this shift.

Without social support for individuals we turn to government to meet our needs. We have demanded more and more rights without assuming enough responsibility for the ramifications of those rights. Rights without responsibilities confuse society. This void obscures our views of ethics and morality.

Our society’s way of dealing with all of this has been to create non-profit organizations. Oops, something’s broken… let’s raise some money and that will fix it. This simpleton approach is a losing battle. We must face the music and deal with the realities. We will never have enough band-aids to stop the bleeding until we address and cure the cause of the bleeding.

It is easy to pin the blame… “our schools are doing a terrible job.” Well, of course they are. Why is this a shock to people? Our churches don’t work anymore. Our families can’t offer the comfort and support they used to. We all expect the schools to pick up the slack and raise our kids for us.

What is needed in this country is a focused attempt to bring civility back to our neighborhoods. Our colleges and universities need to be challenged to create new, working models for a civil society. Our corporate structure must learn that their short-term thinking about spending is not a wise direction.

One Small Step for Humankind

I propose we begin where immediate results can be realized. It’s absolutely amazing what a smile from a neighbor can do for your mood. Here’s a new twist on an old concept.

Let’s get back to Mom & Pop operations… neighborhood-based businesses designed to support the people in the neighborhood… think of combining Mail Boxes Etc with the local coffee shop… throw in some space to watch a movie or do a jig-saw puzzle… how about grabbing a community bike to ride over to Newbury Street? …or use the cooperatively owned van to get a load of peat moss for the garden, or stop by and listen to some music. Running late? Need someone to pick up your laundry before the cleaner closes? Give a call, we’ll send one of the kids. UPS dropping off a package and you’re not home? Leave it here.

These entities could be membership-based franchises with a tiered level of membership and participation. Services could be available to all in the area, but free or at reduced rates, to members, depending on the level of involvement. We pay $35 per month to join a health club. We pay $50 per month to stay in and watch cable. We pay $40 per month to sit at home and connect to the internet.

I believe people will pay to belong to something meaningful.

Think of it a urban co-housing… where everyone has their own private space, but comes together to share common space for the things that don’t fit in their 800 square foot condos. Or a ‘neighborhood condo fee’ to support the common services needed by people in the neighborhood.

A business model like this will do wonders for our neighborhoods… then our cities, and beyond.

Finally… the concept of ‘Think Globally, Act Locally’ makes some sense to me.