Yesterday I wrapped up a graduate course in community development and social planning. The closing assignment for each student was a 10-page paper envisioning a physical community that reflects social work values and commitments.
The range of community concepts was, predictably, wide – from smallish Spartan rural enclaves to upscale high-density metropolitan neighborhoods. Yet there was a remarkable consistency in the priority concerns identified for any successful and sustainable community, with a common theme that public investment is essential to ensuring quality of life.
Where should public investment flow? Topping the list – Health care, universally available to all. Education, free, unlimited, and continuous. Economic development that features small businesses, applies smart regulation to big ones, and fosters social capital formation (i.e. bonds of trust and solidarity). Physical infrastructure – roads and bridges, yes, but also public works (e.g. parks and plazas) and public beautification.
Without serious and steady investment in these areas, say our future social work leaders, the future is bleak. If only our elected state and national leaders were blessed with the same insight.