COMMUNITY CAPACITY / GOVERNANCE
The IES identifies “community capacity building” as an important socio-cultural feature. Specifically, the IES notes that a city that builds community capacity is one that “supports full and equitable community participation in decision- making processes and provides the legal, physical and organizational support for neighborhoods, community organizations, institutions and agencies to enhance their capacities” (www.ecocitystandards.org).
Capacity in this context refers to the actual or potential ability to act. Action in an ecocity is informed by ethics, not only an environmental ethic, but an ethic of care as well. A society’s caring capacity is arguably the cornerstone of sustainability. Morality expressed as an ethic of care towards each other in the form of social justice and toward the planet in the form of environmental stewardship is the hallmark of a sustainable society.
In a study contrasting the effectiveness of regional governments in northern and southern Italy, Robert Putnam (1993) found that societies that care for each other also achieve fuller participation in decision-making processes. He qualifies caring societies as having a high degree of social capital. This is a fancy term for good social relations, predicated on familiarity, trust and reciprocity, integrity and accountability. Mark Roseland (2012) sees social capital as an important feature of “community capital, and is developing tools to help cities measure it. Mike Carr (2004) sees social capital as contributing to both bioregionalism and civil society.
The socio-political dimensions of an ecocity reflect the cultural values of the people who live in it. These values shape the political process and emergence of governing regimes. Ecocities depend on democratic participatory processes that enable citizens to participate in decisions that affect the places in which they live (Register 1987, 2006). Building community capacity, therefore, can be seen as an important starting point not only for building ecocities, but also for transitioning to the Ecozoic era.
Carr, Mike. 2004. Bioregionalism and Civil Society: Democratic Challenges to Corporate
Globalism. Vancouver BC: University of British Columbia Press.
Putnam, Robert, Robert Leonardi, Raeffaell Nanetti. 1993. Making Democracy Work:
Civic Traditions in Modern Italy. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press.
Roseland, Mark, ed. 2012. Towards Sustainable Communities: Resources for Citizens and their Governments. Gabriola Island BC: New Society Publishers.