Thursday, November 18, 2010

Citizen Spartanburg hold First Chalk Talk Event

Last night Citizen’s Spartanburg hosted an event called “Chalk Talk”. The speaker for the event was Abraham Goldberg who is the associate Political Science professor at USC-Upstate. His chosen subject was entitled “The importance of Social and Community Connection, Finding Happiness”.

That dry sounding topic proved to be quite fascinating as professor Goldberg showed the audience an interesting connection between personal happiness and connections one has available to them within the community. Using a survey done by a South Korean entity, that polled people in ten different cities around the world, Professor Goldberg showed how things such as close availability to shopping, religious organizations, public amenities and volunteer opportunities had impact on a person’s happiness. The closer and the wider the availability the more happiness seemed to be scaled.

He acknowledged that things such as the wider impact on automobiles and the exodus from the inner cities have played a part as people have put more space between each other in recent decades. Now it is more difficult to interconnect because things such as shopping, homes and parks are not close together, or found in multiple use facilities. Several other factors have played a part as well, but the connection of these factors was the focus.
He also pointed out that the GDP or the gross domestic product, or what tracks income, does not necessarily ensure happiness, but it can help. What was found to be more important was things like living standards, health, education, personal activities, political and social voice and connection and the environmental issues. All of these are things that tend to be interconnected within communities. The more they were available, the more happy people tended to be.

The fact that technology has tended to pull people apart instead of together also seems to be a factor. Things like social networking via the internet, online classes and telecommuting, longer commutes to and from work, and the fact that busy lives tend to reduce the amount of time families spend together, all demonstrate a trend to insulate ourselves from others rather than connect. This trend seems to correlate with reduced happiness.

While Professor Goldberg offered no solutions, what he did was point out something that Citizen Spartanburg has already recognized, that community is vital, and a community that interconnects can be quite the happy one. During the question and answer session it was pointed out that Social Media such as Facebook can be a very helpful tool to bring people together into the same room, to discuss how we can help our community grow and thrive. It was in fact how many of the audience learned about the event.

Having data presented, and information given that suggests that caring for our own communities is important just reemphasized what several of us already know. We know that our community matters, and when community matters more want to be involved in that community. It was pointed out by several in the audience that Spartanburg is a bit unique, and that is not a bad thing. In some ways Spartanburg has bucked the trend to move away from the inner city district, and is recognizing the value of what is offered within that district. There has been some progress made at making a community more interactive.

In just our downtown area, more has opened up, within just the past year, to give residents more options without having to get into a car and drive somewhere else. There is of course more that we can do, much more to help foster businesses, and residents, and governments working together to encourage a trend towards more rather than less interconnectedness. What can be done in the city limits of Spartanburg can happen in every community and neighborhood in the county.

Will it happen? Probably not completely, as dynamics in the suburbs and rural areas do not offer nearly as many practical options for things as multi-use buildings as if found within towns and cities, but it is quite possible to encourage such development where it is possible