The unifying methodology of our strategy to create A City That Works For Everyone – Including Men And Boys – is that in everything we do we will seek to build and strengthen community networks, tackle low male social capital and boost male social mobility.
The Government’s new Equalities Strategy commits to tackling inequality by taking action to “strengthen communities, promote social capital and social mobility and ensure children develop the skills that they will need to get on in life” and recognizes that people who are “isolated and lack effective networks to support them in accessing opportunities” are more likely to experience inequality.
What is missing from the Government’s thinking is a recognition of Office of National Statistics research that shows that men and boys are more likely to experience low social capital, and emerging evidence on educational achievement and career progression that suggests that boys will have less social mobility than girls from the same family.
And men are significantly outnumbered in the communities that children are growing up in – so our families, community groups and public services no longer provide a balanced mix of male and female adults – which means that both boys and girls have significantly less opportunity to access male support networks.
Low Male Social Capital is something that occurs at an individual, cultural and community level.
At an individual level, it is a person’s ability to access the help and opportunities they need in life. We know that men’s help-seeking skills are generally less well developed than women’s and this can have a serious impact on their health and wellbeing – in populist terms this is often thoughtlessly called “men being rubbish at looking after themselves”.
At a cultural level, we know that social expectations of masculinity place an expectation on men to be strong and independent which impacts on their ability to seek help – in populist terms this is the attitude that “boys don’t cry” which means culturally we are less inclined to demonstrate help-giving behaviour towards men and boys than we are towards women and girls.
At a community level, Low Male Social Capital can simply be measured in terms of the proportion of men who are available to give support and help in families, schools, community settings. In populist terms this is referred to as a “lack of male role models’ which prompted the Spring 2010 conference of the Association of Teachers and Lectures to passed a motion calling for a delegation of public bodies, including the Trades Union Congress, to investigate the issue.
While there is little research on Low Male Social Capital, it is worth considering the possibility that communities with Low Male Social Capital where men and boys are less able to both seek and access help are more likely to experience negative male behaviours that impact the whole community as boys without the capacity to access or seek help will often “act out” for help instead through disruptive, ant-social, destructive and criminal behaviour.
As many communities and individuals in our city experience low Male Social Capital, our aim is to build communities that ultimately ensure every individual man and boy has strong social capital and every women and girl has access to male help and support when she needs it.
We will aim to do this through distributed solutions that are hyper-local, mass-local, strategically managed, globally sourced and can be taken rapidly to scale through a dynamic network of global communities that inspire community-led innovation and empower individuals to come together to design, develop and deliver solutions that address their passions and their priorities at local level.
This is a very exciting sounding methodology – but what doe this actually mean?????
By distributed solutions we simply mean one size doesn’t fit all so we will encourage the development of different solutions for different individuals and communities as appropriate.
By hyper-local we mean stuff that happens at grassroots level and can be accessed by people in their own neighbourhoods.
By mass-local we mean that we will take a citywide approach that enables locally appropriate solutions to be delivered across a range of different hyper-local areas.
By strategically managed we mean this mass local intervention and innovation is delivered in a way that is informed by and can benefit from local, national and international strategies AND that each hyper-local part is connected to the mass-local whole as well as central services too wherever appropriate.
By globally sourced we mean that then when seeking hyper-local solutions we give people access to knowledge and ideas from all over the world through a dynamic network of global communities.
By a dynamic network of global communities we mean a broad range of communities of interest and identity who are interconnected locally, nationally and internationally both in the virtual world (online) and in the real world.
This is The Men’s Network in action – where even the most hyper-local member – eg a man in a separated dads group that meets in a church hall at the end of his street in Portslade – could be connected to another dad in another community anywhere in the world – so if experienced a particular issue with his children, he could access other dads around the world with the right experience to give him the type of support and advice that might not be available locally.
A community of interest is a group of people linked by a common interest – eg people interested in improving education for boys.
A community of identity is a group of people linked by a common identity – eg men, dads, gay men, disabled men, Sudanese men living in Sussex etc – and that identity can be as broad or as narrow as the community chooses.
By community-led innovation we mean ideas and solutions that can be designed, developed and delivered solutions from within the communities they serve.
To make this real, an example of this methodology in action could be:
A literacy campaign for boys which is strategically managed in the sense that it would be designed with reference to existing local and national and international initiatives in the field for improving boys’ reading abilities.
We would then assess the impact of Low Male Social Capital by asking “to what extent to boys face barriers to accessing male help and support in this area at home, in school etc?”.
Having identified the scale of the problem we would then seek mass-local, distributed solutions inviting communities of interest and identity (eg heads, teachers, organisations already working in schools, individual dads connected to a school, groups working with boys outside the school setting etc) to propose different solutions drawing on globally sourced ideas through a dynamic network of global communities.
We would then seek to support individuals to deliver these solutions at a hyper-local level (eg a specific school, neighbourhood, school etc) which is what we call community-led innovation.
We believe that only when we harness the potential of community-led innovation can we create and sustain A City That Works For Everyone – Including Men And Boys – by taking action to strengthen community networks, tackle low male social capital and boost male social mobility.