Building Systems that Strengthen Individuals & Societies

Knology Fellow Erwin de Leon on the importance of understanding how the institutional infrastructure underpinning society’s systems operate to promote or prevent human flourishing.

by Erwin de Leon
Aug 19, 2020

These are challenging times for communities across the nation. The relentless pandemic has taken away the lives of over 100,000 people in the U.S. and cost millions of Americans their livelihoods and small businesses. Individuals and institutions are strained and struggling. Furthermore, the exponential growth of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, protests and demands for immediate action and change has exacerbated the situation.

However, COVID19 and BLM have laid bare the strength, heroism, and resilience of individuals, families, and entire communities. People who have been invisible are now regarded as essential. Community-based organizations and local initiatives have stepped up to meet the needs of neighborhoods and municipalities.

Based on my research and experience with immigrant organizations and communities, the importance of our overlooked classes of people comes as no surprise. The capacity and resilience of any place is dependent on the network of institutions present and working together. This includes immigrant nonprofits, community foundations, public agencies, businesses, places of worship, and other entities that welcome and sustain people who will contribute to and strengthen the community.

A key research area of Knology is systems, “sets of interrelated rules and practices within which each individual’s life and life plan is embedded.” Systems – public, private, and civic – interact and impact a person’s well-being. Understanding the institutional infrastructure of a given place and the interrelatedness of government, business, nonprofit, and civic entities is crucial to gaining insight into how systems operate to promote or inhibit human well-being and flourishing.

Photo by Rob Curran on Unsplash

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