Social Health

Healthy community requires six interrelated dimensions (see Figure 1).[1] In a healthy community, all six dimensions are strong.[2]

Figure 1: Dynamics of Individual and Collective Prosperity

As a collective is able to construct an integrated expression of its communities, its intercultural identity clarifies, which leads to stronger social structures and processes that support everyone. Strengthened social structures and processes strengthen the social fabric, the social milieu that supports, for all, the ability to self-determine. With an ever stronger ability to self-determine and social fabric, the intercultural identity is reinforced. This is a socio-political, reinforcing feedback loop, which we refer to as the “first flywheel.”

As one’s economic opportunities improve, one’s ability to self-sustain increases, permitting one to improve one’s ability to self-determine. A stronger ability to self-determine – developing one’s gifts and skills in a given area – feeds back to improve on economic opportunities. This is an economic-vulnerability, reinforcing feedback loop, growing or decaying exponentially, which we refer to as the “second flywheel.”

These two dynamics also influence each other as the social structures and processes provide more equitable economic opportunities for all. The interaction of these two dynamics highlights simultaneously the great possibilities and immense challenges facing a collective. There is both a collective, cultural dimension and an individual, economic dimension of the ability to self-determine. And while the strengthening of one opens the possibility for the other, a downward trend or repressed trend in one weakens the other.

While the above logic demonstrates the dynamics that would strengthen the health of the whole community, according to this same logic poverty is dynamically created on a continuous basis by the lack of access to the few economic opportunities that exist, which decreases the already low ability of the individual to self-sustain, which incapacitates their already low ability to self-determine. The lack of supporting social fabric exacerbates this, frustrating attempts to develop a shared, intercultural identity, which is crucial to growing and sustaining stable social structures and processes. Thus, the whole system is low and needs to be kick-started on multiple fronts, in a coordinated, integral manner.

[1] The model was developed in a societal level, multi-stakeholder effort in Guatemala, see (Ritchie-Dunham, 2008a; Spann & Ritchie-Dunham, 2008).

[2] From the integral perspective, the individual subjective includes the ability to self-determine.The individual objective includes the ability to self-sustain.The collective subjective includes intercultural identity and social fabric.The collective objective includes the social structures and processes and economic opportunities.

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