Community: What We Have Left Behind

People living in twenty-first century industrialized nations have forgotten what community life means. Which is forgivable: we’ve all been preoccupied, focused on commerce (think Amazon and Tesla), media entertainment (think streaming), and the most broadly impacting thing of all, technology (think everything). But now, more than ever, we need to get our communities back to a place where they belong – in our lives.

People-to-People Networking (PtPN) makes the case for including personal relationships as an active and essential part of networking and community functions.

Today, the idea of networking very likely conjures visions of computers and glowing screens, maybe cellphones and Zoom video. PtPN is focused on people, not machines or machine thinking, as the critical component in improving community life.

For many people, facing the future will mean not a trip to Mars but a significantly increased reliance on local community. If that seems like a significant prediction, think about it: Economic, environmental, and technological changes are occurring at an increasingly rapid pace; where you live is where home is, and where changes can have great impact.

Ideally, and to be most effective, resources should have a direct tie-in, a clear relationship to existing local management functions.

In most communities, the built-in management functions are represented by two main resource providers: the local public library for social and cultural resources, and government departments for more practical services. However, understanding how these providers function, and being able to obtain relevant information can be difficult – for citizens and for officials.

The benefits of PtPN are:

  • Resources provided by nonprofit organizations are more accessible.
  • Decisions by local government are more effective and efficient in terms of expenditures, and clearer and more transparent in terms of communicating results to the community.
  • Relationships are improved between government departments, the public library, and nonprofit organizations providing services to the local community.

This plan improves local community resource management by establishing interactive relationship pathways between local resource providers and the public library and by enabling more effective communication between existing government departments.

This illustration shows relationships that to some degree already exist: Public libraries often have web links to resources available to the community, and local governments obviously have working relationships with their own departments. What can be missing are broader inter-personal relationships that can enable active connections – structured pathways – between those managing resources and the local community.

PtPN is, by nature, collaborative. It requires personal interaction allowing for better use of resources and new ideas to emerge.

Effective networking of information and resources is not just an essential component of a healthy community from an operational standpoint, it may be the single most important function a community can offer its citizens. And the most effective way of doing this is to develop connections – people-to-people.

Like it or not, directly or indirectly, communities will continue to be affected by a wide range of issues in the future, from social, economic, and political events, to climate change, disease, as well as the overuse and misuse of technology. Adopting PtPN can be a game-changer because it offers something online connecting can’t: personalized results. There is no link-to-page middle-man; relationships can be established that lead to a shorter path to resolution.

It’s the nature of being local that makes human contact and community networking uniquely personal and functional, it’s like the difference between walking out your front door and clicking online links. Government departments, the public library, and nonprofit agencies—which are already paid for and physically present in local communities—should be connected in ways that encourage participants to actually know one another.

Next Section: Library Nonprofit Network