Co-Creating the Community Social Contract
I recently had a conversation with a very bright, well educated, intellectually curious Millennial about the importance of the social contract as a tool to enforce accountable engagement in the world. She looked at me blankly, smiled and said, what a great idea, how did you think of that? I laughed and told her it was far from my original idea, in fact the concept went back to the Age of Enlightenment, well discussed and documented by philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the 18th Century. From that short exchange, it became clear that the concept of the social contract is no longer a standard part of the educational framework, even at the elite education level, which is a sad turn of events and could explain some of the disconnect in our communities today.
The concept of the social contract has been a part of my thinking as long as I can remember. It was a basic tenet of my family life, school groups, neighborhood organizations and every level of engagement inside and outside those organizational frameworks. I saw it expressed in daily news stories, setting the boundaries of every interaction we had as community members and reinforced our shared vision of how individuals interacted with institutions and with each other. Although I knew it didn’t exist as a written document, for me it had the strength of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. As such, there was an accepted order to life, presumed equal access to opportunity for all involved, and allowed reasonable expectations of outcomes. However, it seems that all that has changed, with the current unwavering focus on the financializing of all transactions, and markedly less value placed on the non-monetary and transformative capital forms such as wisdom, empathy and community.
Fortunately, with the evermore accessible forms of technology literally available at our fingertips, we can now co-create and enforce a Community Social Contract reflecting the core principles of the social network among the stakeholders in the community. We all must continually self-organize our relationships from a shared commitment held by each participant, to coordinate their living together to produce community thriving. The Community Social Contract is a framework within which we can co-create a common language to be used as the first and most powerful technology we have to develop our common vision of shared wellbeing. We speak this into being every day by listening to the voices in our community and honoring our commitment to create engagement spaces, those cornerstones of community wealth in which community members have always worked together to co-create their plan for living forward and thriving. The time is now to define and activate our shared story, catalyzing opportunity and laying the foundation for what’s next.
History and Future of the Community Social Contract:
Social Contract Theory, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
The Past and Future of America’s Social Contract, The Atlantic
The Gathering 2016: join Neighborhood Economics in San Francisco on Tuesday, September 13th and join with hundreds who are grounding impact investing and social entrepreneurship in their own neighborhoods, towns, and cities. Bring your community’s story and write the book of community wealth together.