"Social Capital is the currency of the Big Society, and social networks hold the reserves of that currency." -RSA
The connected communities report is a serious piece of work and the result of a sustained team effort, but in case you think it sounds a bit 'heavy', here is an alternative perspective on what we did and why you should read it:
1) We arranged a marriage.
We brought together the explanatory power of social network theory and an analysis of community policy and practice in the UK.
2) The marriage was timely.
You need to read the report to know the couple better. They are interesting in their own right, but together they are remarkably productive and help to:
Give shape and definition to the still somewhat aspirational notion of 'The Big Society; suggest a new way to measure 'efficiency' in the age of austerity; highlight the importance of hidden wealth and how to make better use of it.
3) The marriage gave rise to three offspring:
Building on the work of Christakis and Fowler at Harvard, we called them Connectivity, Contagion and Reflexivity. Together they define the structure, function and process of community networks.
4) Connectivity is the first born.
He (tough call on gender) features most prominently in our year one report, giving a diagnosis of patterns of connectivity in New Cross Gate, signalling weak ties as opportunities for employment, patterns of isolation, under-utilised resources, access to power and influence, and much more.
4) Contagion is the second born.
A powerful specimen, Contagion indicates possibilities to spread pro-social behaviour, including neighbourliness, volunteering, and environmental behaviour. In years two and three of the Connected Communities project, we will get to know her better. Her sibling, Connectivity, suggests how such contagion could spread, but as Ormerod and others have argued, we never really know for sure.
5)Reflexivity is the third born.
A young creature, not yet fully formed, but with massive potential to empower, Reflexivity concerns what happens when we become aware of the conditions of our actions. In this case, when we involve a community in learning about their networks, how will that change their view of themselves, and their possibilities for engagement?
So here is why you should read the report: It's about a marriage and three kids, and our belief that they have the potential to live happily ever after.