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Building community is a central and critical challenge of our time. Resilient, creative communities, made strong by encouraging and valuing the contributions of diverse citizens, are essential to our remaining a strong, resilient, creative people who protect and value human freedom and human responsibility.
Rapid change and strong societal forces are threatening to break down America's communities. The traditional community of place and its residents' sense of calling it home are further affected by the redefinition of community that is now occurring, encompassing "communities of interest" such as that fostered by the Internet and other alternatives. In the midst of these developments, an unexpected new pressure on communities is the devolution of decision-making authority for welfare and other federally funded programs. Devolution suddenly transferred more responsibilities to largely unprepared communities and their states.
Many people in communities are striving today to rise to this challenge of our time. Many foundations are trying to find how best to invest their dollars to support building community Together, community builders and their supporters are seeking ways to achieve lasting, significant impact. They seek not only protection and preservation but healing, renewal, and more: an explosion of meaning and satisfaction in human social relationships, a bounty of common human enterprise for the good of all.
Community builders and their supporters face daunting barriers. Today, walls are both a metaphor and a concrete expression of how we divide ourselves in the face of the conditions of modern life, rather than unite. The walls now rising in America are the physical image of division. The walls of prisons - the states' growth industry, creating economic security for towns wherever new ones are …