Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Of youth clubs and ASBOs Here's Rowenna Davis in today's Guardian - 'For many young people, simply raising their heads in the community is grounds for a thwack. In the last year we have seen a wave of policies penalising young people before they've committed an offence. Mosquitoes [sound-emitting surveillance devices] are punishing young people simply for "hanging around" public spaces. Blanket curfews are being imposed for youths on estates in Cornwall. Stop and search policies are on the increase, and they've even started in schools.' I link back to last week's 'news' that there are more ASBOs issued in places where fewer youth clubs exist, covered here by the Guardian. (I have to break off to make the point that if you ever want to know how the internet will come to a halt, this will be a good example: the research on which this news was based is variously described as being the joint responsibility of Clubs for Young People, UK Youth, and the Social and Spatial Inequalities Research Group at Sheffield University. Not one of these agencies appears to refer to the research on their sites. No press release could I find this evening, one week on, nothing. The SASI site is frankly an embarassment, look away now, please, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have given you the link. But hey, what's a little national publicity for your organisation these days, just cos people might want to know more?) The research is welcome and we need to be able to point to it. But I ask meself why it still requires the efforts of these three agencies (if there's truth in the rumour of their involvement) to make this feebly obvious point about provision for young people? Simon Antrobus, into whose blog I occasionally dip, and I hope it resumes soon, says here that 'it's important that we lead a discussion on what turns a community facility into a world class provision where young people can have fun, learn and grow as individuals.' Discussion, good. Provision, even better. I'm not too bothered about 'world class provision', that's just Blair-talk. But where in all this is our esteemed government, whose minister spoke thirteen months ago about 'plans for a good youth centre in every neighbourhood'? Leading the applause and chipping in with some funding? Well, according to Children and young people now, the project for youth centres is being championed by someone called David Blunkett MP. The name has a familiar ring. Could that possibly be the same David Blunkett who was the godfather of the ASBO? Prime the mosquitos. Previously: Youth centres: are we allowed to ask questions?
'The weather is nice here': New Orleans and social capital As New Orleans shows the world how to organise for, and minimise, potential disaster, it's worth remembering that some of its citizens are still in post-Katrina recovery. The systematic creation of a ghost city got me thinking about levels of trust and social capital. They'll be busy at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, where scholars have been crunching material from hundreds of interviews following Hurricane Katrina. That output is summarised neatly in an article here by Kimberly Hendrickson: At the core of the project is a deep interest and faith in civil society and a rejection of the pessimistic view of social capital popularized by Robert Putnam. You can sense this optimism in a piece about Vietnamese-Americans’ attitudes about culture, linking New Orleans East’s rapid recovery to residents’ take on adversity and self-reliance. It’s in a piece about public opinion in the Lower Ninth, suggesting that the predominantly poor, black residents of that ward have a strong sense of community that survived both the storm and government malfeasance. It’s in a report commending Latino arrivals in New Orleans for their entrepreneurial spirit. This work is important, because it takes urban politics to a place many students of cities do not want to go: a serious examination of group and neighborhood values and of the diverse cultures within larger cultures that give places vitality and character. This paper by Emily Chamlee-Wright and Virgil Henry Storr, about the powerful expressed sense of place among returning residents in the heavily-damaged Lower Ninth Ward, refers to the importance of the 'signalling' effects of key services and businesses returning: When a grocery store returns, for example, people come to expect that the community will rebound. In turn, this positive expectation reduces the perceived risks of returning. Sense of community in times of adversity is not going to surprise anyone, but it will be interesting to see what social capital effects there are in the present context and the next few weeks. Meanwhile, I quite liked this interview quote: New Orleans people come outside because the weather is nice here. And they come outside. They do their flowers. They wash their car, and they just sit out on their porch. You notice how a lot a people sitting out now? ...And even in the evening, they do their work in the morning and they come out and they sit out and they listen to their music and their radios and stuff like that. And it be pretty outside and they fellowship with one another. They just don’t stay confined in their house. The pic above is by Eric Gay: source.

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