Can community engagement stimulate the creative economy and lift people out of poverty?


Abeer Al Fouti


Today is Global Community Engagement day, a day when we shine a light on the power of individuals and organisations engaging with their community, working collaboratively to improve the health and well-being of society.

Over the past twelve months the world has witnessed many examples of individuals and groups stepping up to assist their communities in these unprecedented times. Across the world we have seen hotels house Covid-19 patients and the homeless, volunteer groups deliver vital supplies to those unable to leave their homes and retired medical professionals re-join the frontline to relive the pressure on struggling health services. These are just some examples of the incredible community engagement that we need to carry into the future, and it is vital that we don’t drop the baton.

Covid-19 has unfortunately pushed back many parts of the economy and people’s livelihoods, edging more people closer to poverty. As we look to rebuild, community engagement has a crucial role in lifting people out of hardship. By taking the time to properly engage with and talk to the more marginalised and impoverished parts of society, we are better able to identify their needs and collectively find long-term solutions to address them. This not only serves to lift people out of poverty but also helps to strengthen relationships between professionals, businesses and organizations with different groups of people including local residents, cultural groups, voluntary groups, and even virtual groups.

This year, Global Community Engagement Day has a special resonance as 2021 is the year that the UN designated the ‘International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development’. Countries, international institutions, civil society, the private sector, academia and individuals are being encouraged to promote cooperation and networking, share best practices and experiences, and create an enabling environment needed for a creative environment. To stimulate the economy, global community engagement will be vital in promoting sustained and inclusive socio-economic growth, fostering innovation and providing opportunities for all in the aftermath of Covid-19 pandemic. The creative economy so often starts close to home, in the communities where people grow up and allow them to thrive. Whether it is art, theatre or design, influences will often come from the surrounding community.

If the world is to recover from Covid-19, collaboration and engagement between government entities, non-profits and private organizations is key, and this can only be fostered through providing equal opportunities to the public and forging strategic alliances. Alwaleed Philanthropies has long encouraged this type of engagement – examples of this include our partnership with the Turquoise Mountain Institute in Saudi Arabia, which aims to preserve and revive traditional crafts, while empowering local communities; in partnership with the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, the Multaka program, works to train Syrian and Iraqi refugees as museum guides to foster open-mindedness and acceptance; and our collaboration with the Nubian Vault, which provides affordable housing to communities in Africa through a social entrepreneurship approach.

Going forward, successfully integrating community engagement into the creative economy will involve breaking down barriers and strengthening partnerships. Philanthropy will also play a vital role in supporting those often marginalised or lacking economic opportunities such as women and youth.

For there to be a successful global recovery, the world must come together as one global community. At Alwaleed Philanthropies many of our projects are aimed at building this global community, an example of which is our partnership with the World Scouts Foundation to inspire young men and women throughout the world to work and improve their communities especially in areas of education – specifically in disaster management, child protection, gender equality, environmental action and intercultural dialogue.

By breaking down cultural barriers and considering ourselves to be a global community we can create the inclusivity needed for a creative economy that will encourage citizens of the world to get involved in improving their communities and in the process, making the world a better place. 

Abeer Al Fouti is the Executive Manager of Global Initiatives, Alwaleed Philanthropies

Tagged in: Covid-19

Comments (2)

Mira Pirdeni

The historic community could not STOP the inhumanity of Tirana Municipality. ASAG, Albanian Society for All Ages, presented the case of a neighborhood of 170 families with 69% elderly population where the local government turned their yard into a car parking lot, in early 2019, despite the residents’ calls to preserve green spaces. As residents face Covid-19, their windows have lost their green and non-residential cars were installed. The demographic situation, history, perspective is ignored by the local government, which is repurposing the external environment of community. The inhabitants of the garden demand the rehabilitation of environmental sites and community spaces, the return of public land to public benefit, ie community centers for social and civic engagement and not only available to "elite" users. Meanwhile our legislative system, central and local was full with ineffective human resources and in implementing policies in favor of Albanian communities, which came from civil society supported by many donors. But you can see in the video how donors, who can not be out of responsibility, have affected the lives of a poor community:

Jon Hanzen

Another post-capitalist term for this concept is a solidarity economy. And starting non-Colonial based non-profit organizations such as Community Land Trusts (residents cooperatively live together in leasing land for their houses) which directly addresses the affordable housing crisis, can serve multiple purposes in society in the vein of this article. When globally connected citizens participate in everyday proactive democracy they are empowering interdependent community development to take place. And in learning to become stewards to both the sociological and ecological environments citizens are empowered to fundamentally respond to any social ill within the era of climate change.

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