Written by Lucy Connery, Executive Director of Healthy Communities 2030!, YNPN Ambassador
Our country and our communities have demonstrated strength and resilience in response to the challenges 2020 brought. In times of struggle, our local responses provide creativity, compassion, and support for one another. For example, Mayor Byron Brown, the Office of Citizen Services, and many local community members and volunteers joined forced to start the ‘I Need a Good Neighbor’ Campaign. This effort brought helpful resources and information to the front door of 150,000 homes in Buffalo, and gave families the opportunity to ask for help as needed. Through actions such as this, our community shows time and time again that we truly are in a region of good neighbors.
Social Capital is a term used to describe the networks of relationships we as individuals, organizations, and communities, have with others that live, work, pray, and play in a society. Social Capital is built between people and organizations, and is based on norms of trust and reciprocity. For example, that if a mother needed to leave the house unexpectedly, she would feel comfortable leaving her child with a neighbor, knowing that the child is safe, and that if the opportunity arose, she would do the same for her neighbor. Although a simple example, Social Capital is a crucially important component to our professionalism, society, and democracy. We (hopefully) vote for people that we trust, and that have our best interest in mind. Buffalo is blessed with a built-in sense of Social Capital, in that it is a big city with a small-town feel. The Social Capital in Buffalo is so strong that the Buffalo-Niagara Region was the finalist in the National Civic League’s All-America City Contest two times, earning us a designation and a sign as you enter Buffalo.
So what? Why does it matter that Buffalo has such a strong, ‘natural’ resource of Social Capital? Because as we, the Greater Buffalo community, enter the winter months, we know challenges lie ahead. Social isolation, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and many bumps along the way in mitigating COVID-19/flu-season will challenge our region. We need to encourage one another to ask for help when they need it, refuse to lose connection to our loved ones, and to be creative in how we carve out a NEW, new-normal. Professionally, building Social Capital is key to building strong foundations for partnership, community connection, and collaboration in our day-to-day work. Social networking may seem impossible now, but YNPN Greater Buffalo and many other organizations are working to integrate networking, connection, and coloration back into our work-weeks via virtual events, socially-distanced meetings, and activities to connect us! Our ability as humans to connect with one another is an invaluable skill, and connection provides us with more resources than we can begin to understand.
In an effort to promote Social Capital and community engagement, The Healthy Communities 2030! released a series of community wellness kits highlighting local organizations and resources to help support our region’s health. To learn more about these resources and/or Social Capital, contact the Healthy Communities 2030! Team at BeActive@City-Buffalo.org or call (716) 851-4052.