2017-04-20 / Viewpoint

The VIEW from here

A call to civic action

Nicholas Pugliese—Staff Writer Nicholas Pugliese—Staff Writer Every day is an anniversary of something, and most people are usually aware of the obvious or popular ones, like the Fourth of July or when Star Wars was released. But there’s more to the world than just the United States or wookiees (barely).

The New Community Movement was a political initiative launched on April 22, 1970 by South Korean President Park Chung Hee as a way to modernize the rural South Korean economy. The rural areas of South Korea at the time were becoming increasingly impoverished, and the urban areas, while wealthy, were finding their reliance on foreign goods was becoming too great. The idea was based on the Korean traditions which provided the rules for self-governing and cooperation in traditional Korean communities.

The movement focused on emphasizing self-help and community collaboration in order to bring these rural areas together and increase self-reliance and sustainability. Initially the movement achieved success, but it ultimately fell out of favor and was abandoned after only a decade.

The project was separated into four main stages, each one focusing on increasing the quality of life for rural communities. The first stage was designed to address organization. It established community leadership and committees that were tasked to oversee various projects for community life. Organization is the lifeblood of proactive change, but more than that, engaging the community to take an active role in that organization is key.

We need to convince our neighbors to take an interest in leadership and governance. We need to galvanize. The best way to do that is to show them that leadership can lead to real change for their lives, right now. And that leadership has to start here.

The second stage of the plan focused on enacting projects. This meant the leadership and committees from the first stage would analyze their community’s needs and design projects aimed to service those needs at a public level.

They’d assign jobs based on skill and enthusiasm and get to work.

This can also be applied to modern communities, and in a lot of cases, already is. We’ve seen the movements for local food gain momentum, leading to Farmers Markets. We’ve seen Lapeer’s DDA enlist the help of consultants to better judge the way it can improve downtown. This is the second stage in action. Seeing a need for something at a community level and getting it done for the benefit of the people. We just have to keep it up, and not let it get mired in bureaucracy.

The last part of the plan is probably the most quintessential when it comes to community building. It focused on interconnectivity and community pride and awareness. It established the creation of a community hall, a local newspaper, an education facility, encouragement of communal activities, and developing partnerships with other area communities.

The need for this today is as great or even greater than what it was in 1970s South Korea. The reason communities suffer in today’s society, in my opinion, is because people don’t feel like they’re a part of it. Increasing community activity, welcoming all members together to take part, and creating a way for each person to stay informed and feel like they have a way to speak their minds are all things are lacking in most communities, and we should work to bring them back to life.

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