Liberals and conservatives often disagree about the causes of poverty and other social ills. Broadly speaking, liberals point the finger at structural factors and advocate for policy changes, while conservatives look to individuals and families and favor behavior changes. Clearly, both points of view have validity. But what’s often overlooked is what lies between these two poles — communities and neighborhoods — and the value of focusing on this middle zone.
… [five community networks in Washington] built up their own capacity to create productive partnerships and coalitions, establish shared goals, and use evidence-based approaches to make progress — although all of them needed help to learn how to make good use of data, mobilize residents and sustain themselves.
The notion that a modest investment in a “community network” can chip away at entrenched social ills seems hard to believe. But the main lesson of the Family Policy Council is that when local citizens acquire the capacity to work together in smarter ways, communities change. “