Better Together

Topics: Community building, Robert D. Putnam, Community Pages: 3 (915 words) Published: February 6, 2011
Better Together brings together a dozen case studies of successful community-building efforts in the United States. The book is an outgrowth of the Saguaro Seminar on Civic Engagement in America, a three-year dialogue among leading thinkers and activists about how to build and strengthen the American community (though it bears little resemblance to the Seminar's final report of the same name).

As Robert Putnam and Lewis Feldstein note in the book's opening pages, the stories in the book represent "exceptional cases in which creative social entrepreneurs [are] moving against the nationwide tide and creating vibrant new forms of social connectedness." The book is presented as a response to civic leaders, local officials, foundation executives, community activists, and others who believe that the decline of civic engagement documented in Putnam's Bowling Alone can be reversed.

"We focus on these social-capital success stories," Putnam and Feldstein write, "hoping and believing that they may in fact be harbingers of a broader revival of social capital in this country." The examples they present are certainly robust and successful enough to serve as convincing models for how to build strong and sustainable communities.

They devote a chapter each to:

Valley Interfaith, a coalition of church and school groups in the Rio Grande Valley that, like its sister organizations in the Texas Industrial Areas Foundation, uses the grassroots organizing model to build relationships, develop civic leaders, create a culture of small-group dialogue, and mobilize broad-based political action. The branches of the Chicago Public Library that have become a major force for social connection and civic revitalization in and around Chicago by refashioning themselves as vibrant community centers. The Shipyard Project in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, an initiative that helped reconnect a divided community through a creative arts project that expressed through dance the history and...
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