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Our national myths often exaggerate the role of individual heroes and understate the importance of collective effort.
Robert Putnam

Our Programs: Public Trust


An active citizenry that both serves and monitors the public and private sectors,


or a disconnected populace that relinquishes most decisions to elected officials, city staffs, and the business sector.

Donít Bowl Alone

  • Since the 1970s, many studies have documented citizensí withdrawal from the public sphere, whether itís declining voting levels, fewer participants at town halls and civic meetings, or not as many people helping at the food bank and other volunteer programs.

  • While scholars continue to debate the causes and consequences, itís generally accepted that Americans donít join together as they once did. This phenomenon is sometimes called "Bowling Alone," after the influential 1995 article by Robert Putnam. Putnam showed that while more people bowl today, there are 40% fewer bowling leagues; in other words, the sport epitomizes the individualism that characterizes much of America.

  • This "me-firstism" is evident in our town patterns and policies: we privilege single-occupant cars over mass transit, we wall off homes from one another and build many in gated communities, we fund fewer parks and other public spaces, and the suburbs contain few corner stores or "third places" where citizens can spend time together. We seem to have misplaced the collective foundation that democracy demands.

  • These developments are not good for "place-making," since we tend to build private enclaves instead of real neighborhoods, and because a disengaged public is not as protective of its historical assets. We endanger our heritage because joining together is part of our national character.