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During the plenary session of yesterday's Connected Communities seminar at the AGM, Professor Stephen Coleman (from the University of Leeds) opened the comments by cautioning the panel against discussing digital and social communities as separate categories.  These communities, he argues, are not distinct, and so should not be treated analytically as such.

During the plenary session of yesterday's Connected Communities seminar at the AGM, Professor Stephen Coleman (from the University of Leeds) opened the comments by cautioning the panel against discussing digital and social communities as separate categories.  These communities, he argues, are not distinct, and so should not be treated analytically as such.

This comment stayed with me (perhaps I should take from this that I should from time to time try to make the first comment at an event!), and as I rode the train into work this morning crystallised into a recognition that ‘connected communities’ is not just about two case studies 'communities' (New Cross Gate and Knowle West).  Rather, even if the project were delimited to research in one geographical area, it would still be about a plurality of overlapping communities (which themselves are contested and defined in multiple ways).  The connections that characterise these communities would pass through (or within) the case study area, but would not necessarily cross.

In this vain ‘Connected Communities’ takes on a dual meaning, encapsulating both the intra-connections of a given community but also the inter-connections between communities at the local level. This arguably belies a need to understand not only the actors, networks and connections that help give rise to a given community, but also to map the connections (or dis- or mis-connections as the case may be) between these communities.

While this might suggest the need for multiple scales of analysis, e.g. a combination of social network analysis and the ‘small world’ theory of interconnectivity, in the long run it should provide a better idea of how to maximise the potential of connections not only within, but also between, communities.  As Jonathan recounts, how we measure the success of this process is an important question, and I would add, as I did yesterday, that increased community resilience (in the face of existing problems as well as unexpected 'black swan' events) may be one such measure.

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