We’re not alone as a recruitment company that has an area of focus in the jobs market. For us, as well as a whole host of graduate recruitment and office-based roles, we are heavily involved in the commercial and residential housing sectors and more and more, the social housing sector.
Again, as a recruitment company, the focus word there is ‘housing’ but it got us thinking about the ‘social’ aspect of residential property.
More and more these days we live very insular lives. Some of us will know the names of our next-door neighbours but plenty more won’t. We’re on nodding terms with the same faces we see on the train every morning and by and large, we tolerate the people we work with but can we really call ourselves part of a community?
The Earliest Communities
For thousands of years, people lived nomadic lives. Small bands of hunter-gatherers would be continuously on the move, following the food supply and never settling in one place for any great length of time.
Over time, they learned how crops grew and how to keep animals without them bolting and this meant they could stay in one place. Known as a sedentary society, this gradual switch from being wandering nomads ushered in what’s known as the Neolithic era, or ‘new stone age.’
They built sturdy homes around central points and close to a water source, villages and towns were the net result and thanks to the development of controlled agriculture, people could grow more food than they needed. This meant that not everyone in the community had to toil the land and they could spend their time building or making things.
Suddenly, people found themselves with professions and societies became more complex and they needed to be governed by officials to determine how the societies were to be run. Then the Brexit chaos happened and lord only knows how that’s gonna turn out, but that’s for another day!
The World’s Oldest Civilisations
Mesopotamia | 3500 BC – 500BC | Modern-day Iraq, Kuwait, Syria & Turkey
There’s no known civilisation that developed before the Mesopotamians and their emergence allies with the start of written history. It is the location of the earliest Neolithic developments from around 10,000 BC and feats include the invention of the wheel and the planting of the first cereal crops.
Indus Valley | 3300 BC – 1900 BC | Modern-day Afghanistan, Pakistan and India
Eventually covering 1.25 million square kilometres, they developed into a sophisticated and technologically-advanced people who were the first to achieve accuracy in measuring length, mass and time as well as being rich in arts and crafts.
Ancient Egypt | 3150 BC – 30 BC | Modern-day Egypt
A majestic and powerful civilisation of kingdoms rich in architecture, art and science. Prodigiously cultured, their monuments and tombs remain standing today as a testament to their skills, as do many of their teachings.
Mayan | 2600 BC – 900 AD | Modern-day Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras
Culturally rich with a peak population of 19 million, the Mayans introduced their own calendar, their own system of writing and were highly sophisticated but suddenly died out around the 8th or 9th centuries. It remains a mystery ever since as to why.
China | 1600 BC – 220 AD | Modern-day China
A literate, city-based culture emerged from beginnings around the Yellow River and they gave us inventions that today we would be in trouble without including paper, gunpowder, printing, the compass and the most important one – alcohol.
There are of course many major civilisations that have helped shape the world we live in including the Romans, the ancient Greeks, the aboriginal Australians, the Incas, the Aztecs and the Persians but they all have one thing in common – the all started as small communities that lived together, worked together and flourished.
They Told Us How To Do It But Are We Doing That Now?
Bizarrely (or not as it turns out), an article written in 2010 by Ted Cantle who was then – and may still be today – a professor at Coventry University starts with this line which is as relevant today as it was nine years ago:
‘There is a sense of inevitability about the impending impact of this new age of austerity. We all now expect unemployment to rise, services to be cut and individuals and families to face real hardship.’
The article says that our communities are at risk. In the past, they have drawn on reserves of communal spirit during periods of hardship and for many now, those communities are dying.
More often than not, it’s a case of ‘I’m alright, Jack.’
The rapid decline of local amenities, clubs and facilities is combined with increasing job, financial and familial pressures and has created a culture of blame, rising tensions, misunderstandings and extremism of one form or another. That may be true but it’s now more important than ever, especially in areas with high numbers of social housing tenants, that community cohesion and support networks are strong to do exactly what has driven them into decline, see people through hard times.
Spirit of The Blitz and all that jazz.
Interestingly, a report came out in February 2018 from the London School of Economics called Overcoming the Stigma of Social Housing and if you want to read it all, it’s here but the results were fascinating.
A group of social housing tenants came together for a two-day session to discuss the ways that social housing works for them – the good things and the bad things they experience as tenants and the things they value or would want to change.
Asked what the good things were about being a social housing tenant, a sense of community came second behind security of tenure.
Asked what the bad things were about being a social housing tenant, a lack of community spirit came way down the list.
Perhaps most telling, when asked what things made tenants feel proud about their life and where they live, just under half ‘refer to being involved, community spirit, and neighbourliness as the greatest source of pride.’
Many of the respondents spoke about the phenomenal community spirit surrounding the Grenfell tragedy when people from all walks of life came together to help those who had lost (in some cases, literally) everything.
That word keeps cropping up throughout the report – community.
It’s alive and well and the most effective community and cohesion schemes or projects or just a natural coming together of like-minded people is at its strongest when it’s the very people in those communities taking ownership of who they are and what they represent.
Catch you soon.