What Makes a Great Community?

 In Great News

What makes a great community? The Great Communities Collaborative (GCC) often answers that question by talking about places where families can afford a safe and healthy home, where it’s easy to get to work, to the grocery store, to the park, without having to own a car, or by taking transit, by walking, by biking. We also talk about communities where residents – especially communities or color and low income communities – are making decisions about what their neighborhoods should look like, how they should grow, and how to make sure they can stay and thrive.

Another way of thinking about what makes a great community is The Sanctuary for All movement and expanding the idea of sanctuary from non-cooperation with  the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to include building more inclusive, equitable, and safe communities. With this in mind, what might great communities mean in our political climate today? Are they places where neighbors “build bridges not walls”? Where we know and are in relationship with our neighbors? Where we welcome people from different cultures, faiths and racial and ethnic backgrounds, and celebrate those differences as we find commonalities as well?

Celebrating and reinforcing these elements of a great community – that go beyond the tangible elements of the built environment – means we can build a positive vision of the future, grounded in love and empathy. The #LeadwithLove campaign, is a particularly inspiring model, showcasing how we can do just that.

There are also very tangible actions we can take on the philanthropic side. From doubling down on our commitment to stopping global warming, to protecting and reinforcing the social justice wins, we’ve had on a range of issues, to resourcing community leaders and movements to educate and support leaders from the people most impacted.

From the philanthropic organizations at GCC’s Funders Network, two organizations have taken this on in innovative ways in the short term:

  • The California Endowment’s Fight4All Initiative – In response to current environment of uncertainty and concern about our progress toward a more equitable and inclusive democracy that has taken root since the 2016 presidential election, TCE announced the Fight4All Initiative to protect the health, safety and wellness of all Californians. More than $25 million will be invested over three years beginning in January 2017.
  • The San Francisco Foundation’s Rapid Response Fund for Movement Building – In order to advance racial and economic equity, The San Francisco Foundation (TSFF) believes that those who are most impacted should be at the forefront of efforts to change these disparities. They should have the resources they need to devise and lead campaigns and to take action to improve social and economic conditions in their communities, and across the region.  Recognizing this urgent need, TSFF launched the Rapid Response Fund for Movement Building.

And of course, understanding and being proactive about how the current federal political climate will impact our strategies to create equitable and climate smart communities locally is critical. We’ll be working with our partners both locally and nationally to continue to build towards the GCC vision of great communities – where both the built environment and the political and social networks align to create a socially equitable, economically prosperous, and environmentally sustainable Bay Area where communities are engaged in shaping their own future.


Photo by William Newton, from flickr.

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