I want to be connected to a strong community network.
Those who are physically or socially isolated from strong personal and professional networks miss out on vital information, resources, and support.
Across the state, we heard about the importance of strong formal and informal networks. A network describes the people, institutions, places, and resources individuals contribute to, and leverage, to get by.
For our participants, formal networks like unions, associations, and congregations were critical resources — or delivered access to critical resources. For example, some participants found that unions gave them a way to learn about their rights as workers, meet other workers in their field, and provide a platform for their voice to be heard.
Informal networks, like family and friends, help supplement formal networks and were cited as critical for daily life. Family, friends, and neighbors provided childcare, rides to work, food, and other help. They also provided much needed empathy and emotional support.
We discovered resilient, reciprocal, and trusted networks across the communities we visited. However, many Californians were looking for ways to make them even stronger. For some, “strong” described a diverse network that connected individuals or families to people and resources outside of their extended family or neighborhood — like a job training center or English as a Second Language (ESL) class across town.
For others, “strong” described a tight-knit community where people knew and cared for each other. Community leaders we spoke to emphasized the importance of feeling like you are a valued member of a network. Individuals need to have confidence they have something to contribute to the greater good.
Networks produce positive results. Participants from across California repeatedly described experiencing strength in numbers. In East Oakland, single mothers shared contact information so they could forward website links to local childcare.
In Salinas, young adults described being energized by seeing other community groups come out to march for immigration reform. And in Los Angeles labor union halls, the power of being a member of an organization fighting for worker rights was palpable. When Californians band together, their individual voices and assets are amplified.