Community Building and Obama

What follows is a post I uploaded to the Obama Transition site,, making some suggestions about how his administration might focus its proposed public works program on historically disadvantaged communities:

The proposed public works program will the largest of its kind since FDR. There is no modern template. Policy will be made on the hoof. I have spent several years working and living in historically disadvantaged Appalachian communities. Some thoughts:

1) Don’t let policy-makers assume they know what is needed and wanted at the grassroots. Ask. Put people on the ground to find out.

2) Don’t just focus on the causes of economic disadvantage and poverty. Address the immediate symptoms also.

3) We are a proud people. It’s dignity that matters as much to us as money. Don’t just throw money. Take the time and make the effort to set up structures and processes that empower our communities to help their own.

4) We’re not going to be able to give everyone a job. We are not going to be able to cushion all the effects of this recession. So, along with creating jobs (and by the way, some of us have three already…!), focus on efforts also to allow us to build and maintain community.

For example, what about a program to support small communities in their efforts to build multipurpose community centers?

5) Make it easier and more dignified for welfare recipients to apply for and receive that helping hand. One-stop, omnibus applications for Food Stamps, Food Bank, housing benefits, and the like. That can be completed at home. Where coupons are received at home. Possibly to be completed at the same time as IRS forms?

6) Enroll community-builders who know how to mobilize at grassroots level, and are also comfortable and experienced with translating grassroots experience upwards into regional and national policy. To be honest, I have applied with to be just such a community-builder/policy-maker. Don’t put the whole program into the hands of professional academics and bureaucrats, who may never have wielded a hammer.

For more, go to:, or

Good luck to us all!

Published in: on December 30, 2008 at 5:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

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