For more information and
to read the report click through to Read
The press release below coincides with the launching
of the report describes how the report came to be written.
Harvard-Convened Group of Nationwide Leaders Release Plan for
Rebuilding Community Ties
Recommendations Include more Flexible Work Hours, Increased Money
for After-School Activities, and End to Sprawl
Washington, DC – The Saguaro Seminar today issued the report
Better Together, calling for a nationwide campaign to redirect
a downward spiral of civic apathy. Warning that the national stockpile
of "social capital" – our reserve of personal bonds
and fellowship – is seriously depleted, the report outlines
the framework for sustained, broad-based social change to restore
America’s civic virtue.
"America throughout its history has been exceptionally civic-minded.
However, we now see a public that is withdrawing from communal
life, choosing to live alone and play alone. We are becoming mere
observers of our collective destiny," said Robert D. Putnam,
professor at Harvard University, founder of the Saguaro Seminar,
and author of Bowling Alone. "A civic renaissance is a proven
possibility and the future well-being of our nation depends on
The report attributes the decline in social capital primarily
to the demographic shift that has taken place across the nation.
Namely, an exceptionally civic generation of older Americans is
slowing down and dying, and far less civic-minded generations of
Baby Boomers and Baby Busters are taking their place. Other contributors
include two-career families, urban sprawl, and television.
"Despite declines in civic engagement, such as voting, volunteerism,
or time spent with family and friends, there are numerous efforts
across the country to build social capital," added Putnam. "To
mention only a few unusual examples: in Chicago parents are given
report cards on their school participation; in Maine there are
new limits on compulsory overtime; and Missouri’s William
Woods University is giving tuition discounts to students for extracurricular
The report addresses why those efforts are important and how they
can be supported by foundations, by businesses, by faith-organizations,
by government, by schools, by communities, and by individuals.
Better Together examines social capital and recommends methods
to replenish the stock in five categories: The Workplace, Youth
and Education, Arts and Culture, Religion and Faith, and Government
Launched by Harvard University’s
John F. Kennedy School of Government, and Professor Putnam, Saguaro
Seminar draws its
30 participants from academia, the arts, clergy, business and the
top leaders and policymakers of both major political parties. Since
1997, Saguaro members have studied the essential character of public
participation in their effort to develop remedies to redirect a
"We must learn to view the world through a social capital
lens," said Lew Feldstein of the New Hampshire Charitable
Foundation and co-chair of the Saguaro Seminar. "We need to
look at front porches as crime fighting tools, treat picnics as
public health efforts and see choral groups as occasions of democracy.
We will become a better place when assessing social capital impact
becomes a standard part of decision-making."
In its examination of civic and social relationships, the report
identifies organizing principles for each of the five sectors identified
with approaches to cultivate social capital. Better Together recommends:
Overhauling Business Practices
Better Together puts business at the
center of civic renewal and calls on employers to help workers
create social capital in their
families and neighborhoods. Among the report’s suggestions
to transform the Workplace: Corporations and small businesses invite
civic groups to meet and form chapters on site; private companies
and government agencies provide incentives for employees to perform
community service; and legislators pass laws that expand leave
benefits and require or incent more flexible work hours.
Changing Curriculum, Size and Goal of Schools
In its analysis of social capital in
Education and its impact on Youth, Better Together lists shifts
in attitude and practice
that schools, youth groups and families must undergo to provide
the next generation with civic pride and a common spirit. Saguaro
believes service learning should be a mandatory part of each year’s
middle- and high school schedule. The report also calls for small
schools and classes, more public money for after-school activities
and entreats community organizations, City Councils and other public
and social policy groups to put young people on their Boards and
More Artistic Activism
In examining the role of Art and Cultural Institutions, Saguaro
outlines principles to transform patrons to participants. Saguaro
sees the arts as a tool to help cross cultural divides, by bringing
music, theater and art to those outside their natural audience.
Better Together argues that cultural events must become community
institutions and artistic leaders have a strong voice in community
planning. The report urges increased government funding for community-based
art and recommends artistic productions that address community
problems to catalyze civic dialogue.
Strengthening Influence Of Spiritual Faith
Religious and Faith Based Organizations
represent half of the nation’s total stock of social capital.
Better Together endorses fortifying congregations as civic institutions
and encourages inter-faith
partnerships. The report also calls for corporate and foundation
funding for churches and religious groups; partnerships between
issue advocacy and faith organizations; and instilling values of
virtue and morality in lay organizations.
Showing Citizens They Have Impact
Despite lackluster voting turnout in
the 2000 national election, Americans clearly wish for a democracy
in which they have a meaningful
say. Better Together maintains that in a compassionate society,
both voluntary action and government social programs are essential;
and that federal, state, and local governments’ must consider
the impact of their policies on family and community connections.
Political reform must include financial campaign limits, increased
citizen access to public spaces, an end to sprawl, government grants
to harness the Internet for civic ends, and real decision-making
and budget responsibilities for local communities.
Saguaro is supported by grants from the Carnegie Corporation;
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; The Lilly Endowment;
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; The Rockefeller
Foundation; The Rockefeller Brothers Fund; The Charles Stewart
Mott Foundation; Surdna Foundation; and the Lila-Wallace Reader's
The saguaro [pronounced sah-WAH-ro] is a cactus that grows in
the Sonoran desert in the Southwestern United States. There are
rich parallels between the saguaro and social capital (or civic
engagement). Saguaros were for some time undervalued by modern
American society and often razed. Saguaros are bellwether indicators
of the health of the ecosystem, and play the role of welcoming
host for an environmentally-rich community: vines grow on its trunk;
birds make nests in the saguaro; Native Americans have lived off
its fruit and celebrate its blossoms in festivals; and animals
use saguaro for precious shade. And like most social capital, saguaros
grow slowly and are tough, long-term survivors
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