Monday, November 21, 2005

Irish Community Spirit

I see in the Irish Times that a task force is being set up to look at ways of fostering community spirit. Apparently rates of volunteerism and civic participation are falling and the Taoiseach wants to do something about it...

Reasons for the decline are given in the article as long commutes, dual income families (ie little time), growth in materialism (which I don't really buy). I guess it would be worth carrying out a proper survey to see what the barriers are to volunteering, and trying to probe a bit further when people say that they don't have time. The Special Olympics were held in Ireland in 2003 and there was a huge response from people in terms of the amount of time they were able to give to it. A feature of that event would be that it was an event, so was time-limited. People often have little bags of time that they can donate, what is needed is some way of brokering that. The Internet can be a good broker (cf. ebay) so perhaps something worth looking at would be how volunteer organisations could tap into a network of people with a bit of time to help. I'm not sure if anything exactly like this exists?

Worth looking at how the Internet can be harnessed to promote community spirit and volunteerism. A few examples from the UK:
Pledgebank allows people to attract support for various initiatives
Timebank publishes volunteering opportunities -- can be searched by postcode
WriteToThem allows people to get in touch with their elected representatives

The survey or consultations should also highlight if indeed people are so ground down by commuting and work that they have no time. It's important that those things are tackled as well-- implementing the spatial strategy and helping families to reap the benefits of flexible working (not just employers) might spill over into community life. There is a big debate about childcare at the moment-- why not also look at how carers can be helped to look after their kids and work in way that is feasible and rewarding for family and employers? A bit of a digression but it's important.


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