Village In The City is a post-COVID initiative to help you build micro-local communications and communities where YOU live. Micro-local communities – ‘Villages In The City’ can build trust, provide mutual support and friendship, and create more resilience both to tackle current challenges and improve our lives right now.
As the post-COVID recovery gathers pace, we can build on the local initiatives which started with the pandemic and look to connect, share and invigorate local activities. The Manifesto gives a powerful and coherent framework for creating and building Villages-In-The-City.
There are so many potential villages in our city. Architect Richard Rogers identified over 600 in London alone! You can be a Village Builder in your own place, and we can provide tools, ideas, techniques, support, connection with others to help you from the first steps to a thriving village in the streets around you.
Our latest podcast is out today! I am talking to Sunday Assembly and Lifefulness founder Sanderson Jones about the benefits of community, which turn out to be many, varied, and very well researched and established. Do have a listen – Sanderson is an energetic and engaging speaker as well as a great friend of Mark’s and a supporter of Village In The City and our ideals of micro-local communities in urban settings (and indeed any settings) around the world.
In this age of Facebook and Whatsapp, Tiktok and Twitter, email and instant messaging, it’s easy to get carried away with the idea of digital communication. In our first Village Builders course we’ve been talking about build connection, one of the six key elements of the Village In The City Manifesto. Along with all the digital ideas, the community notice board has come to the fore as a very useful tool for the community builder.
Why? It’s very inclusive, visible to all who walk past. It’s socially distanced – nobody needs to touch anything. It’s controllable – usually someone chooses and curates which notices are displayed. It can (with a little effort) be made to look attractive and inviting. A good notice board needs a little care and attention, but can give an excellent return on getting the word out – to locals and visitors alike.
We found this in Edinburgh – the council has three notice boards which went unattended through the first lockdown and largely featured fading notices about ‘rules of the park’ and what people should not do. Here in the West End we (or at least my colleague Paul) managed to get keys from the city council to access the boards and restocked them with useful information about local contacts (councillors, MPs etc), local ‘hidden treasures’ like shopping streets and galleries, a link to a downloadable ‘Meet The Westenders’ tour of historical local characters which was devised some years ago and for which the pavement markers still exist. We also post Community Council meetings and notes, local news from the free sheet and things like COVID vaccination and testing availability. And there is STILL room for the council’s information on trees and birds to be seen in the area. And of course our local neighbourhood Facebook group too.
You don’t need a posh stand-alone notice board to start making an impact. Often shops will help display posters, and it’s good to look for local ‘bumping places’ where people congregate anyway. A notice board isn’t much use tucked out of the way where nobody looks at it!
This is a very exciting time for us here at Village In The City – our very first online training for people who want to create and build micro-local communities in their own neighbourhoods is about to start! The programme runs for six week from Tuesday 25 May 2021, with weekly calls (recorded so you can catch up or review later), a weekly challenge to connect the ideas to your own place, continuing conversation and social learning with both the facilitator (Mark McKergow himself) and your fellow participants, and the chance to meet people like you from around the world who want to tackle the challenges facing us all by starting micro-local.
Connect with your own neighbourhood in new ways, looking at what’s strong and what’s working as well as how you can help improve it
Assess how well your own place is functioning as a community, and get you started on connecting and building in your own street, block and patch
Learn about ‘leading as a host’ by bringing people together effectively (rather than trying to be a hero and do it all yourself)
Combine some basics about building connection and communication with the latest developments in place-making and the ’20-minute city’ movement
Ask lots of questions and share your own know-how, insights and experiences with an eager group
Meet people from around the world who are tackling similar situations so we can all learn together.
Although this is the first Village In The City course, we are in very good hands. Mark McKergow, the course facilitator and founder of Village In The City, is also one of the world’s leading trainers and teachers with over 30 years experience of creating effective learning groups. He has been running online courses including the highly successful Solution Focus Business Professional course at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee since 2011. Mark will be leading the course himself, bringing together insights from around the world with his encouraging and appreciative style.
The course starts on Tuesday 25th May 2021 with a Zoom call at 6pm-7.30pm UK time. The calls will continue each week:
Week 1: Communication (Tuesday 25 May)
Week 2: Hosting (Tuesday 1 June)
Week 3: Meeting places ((Tuesday 8 June)
Week 4: Inclusivity (Tuesday 15 June)
Week 5: Inclusive events (Tuesday 22 June)
Week 6: Building Identity ((Tuesday 29 June)
The course will take place within our Mighty Networks site which you will be able to join and access the special course forums and discussion areas.
Booking: Participation in the course (and continuing membership of our online community) costs £69 – nice! – (or $99) including all taxes. This is outstanding value, and supports our continuing work to make resources and support available around the world. However, if you are really not in a position to pay that, there is a reduced rate of £25 available. If even that is unmanageable for you, get in touch and we promise to help you if we can. Please contact Mark directly with ANY questions about the course and whether it’s for you at email@example.com . Booking and registration is at Village Builder course: May/June 2021 Tickets, Tue 25 May 2021 at 18:00 | Eventbrite.
Village In The City founder Mark McKergow shows you around the website, and outlines where to find all the great possibilities for resources, videos, connecting with other community-builders and much more. Take a look!
The podcast can be found on Apple and Google already – just use your preferred podcast provider and search on Village In The City to find it and subscribe. You can also listen online by going to our Podcast page.
There will be further episodes released every few weeks. Of course, if you are subscribed then you’ll automatically get them downloaded to your device.
Eagle-eyed regular readers may notice that these podcasts are edited versions of our calls. So now you can enjoy them easily and share them with others. What’s more, the music is by UltraSound, a band led by Village In The City founder Mark McKergow nearly three decades ago, and features the sound of his soprano saxophone. So it’s a win all around.
Fred London’s book Healthy Placemaking (RIBA Publishing, 2020) features his six principles for healthier placemaking, ways to create better health outcomes for city dwellers through good urban planning and design. While many of our community at Village In The City are not urban developers, it is still worth taking a look at these principles and how they support the creation, development and sustaining of micro-local communities – in other words, why our ‘thing’ is a good ‘thing’. The principles are:
Neighbourhood building blocks
The first three relate to scales of planning, in reducing size. Walkable communities is very much on the agenda today, and we’ve covered the 15-minute city movement in an earlier piece. What Fred London does is to emphasise the level below this – the neighbourhood – as the key building block. Community on this scale can reduce social isolation, nurture community and offer maximum scope for the creation of therapeutic, human-scale environments. He notes that to encourage people to congregate, places need to feel safe, served by easily accessible social facilities and free from the impacts of traffic fumes and noise
The second three elements are about movement networks, again at different levels. The importance of community empowerment – the way in which citizens can influence how spaces and transport connections are used and integrated – is emphasised. Initiatives like Incredible Edible, starting in Todmorden, West Yorkshire and spreading around the UK, show how much energy and progress can be created by engaging citizens (not paying them or giving them grants).