The Localness of Global Trends

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Help us understand how the world works in the large and increasingly vivid civil sector.

I spent two hours the other night watching local cable access, which was broadcasting the selectmen’s meeting in the small town I live in. Okay, I know that makes me sound pathetic, but I couldn’t turn away.

Our town has a big public beach and is committed to keeping it open and available to all, but there are public management issues associated with that. Anyway, I had tuned in late, but as far as I could tell the town’s synagogue had been renting out parking spaces to “day trippers,” and the selectmen must have been asked to intervene on exactly how many spaces they could reasonably rent out in their parking lot. Maybe the neighbors had been complaining of overflow.

It went on and on and on. And on.

But in that scenario there were all kinds of other things going on. The synagogue whose congregation had declined but were still hanging in . . . the selectmen trying to crack jokes or getting tied up with small personal obsessions . . . and this was followed by a discussion of the seaside concerts that are a tradition in our town, where very old, oddly dressed people come from miles around to dance—by themselves or in lines or in couples.

But, lest you think our town is free and easy, let me disabuse you of that misconception: it is a mass of New England–style contradictions. I am an aficionado of the local police blog, and I remember one entry a few years ago that went something like, “Caller complains that people at the VFW hall are singing too loud.”

That always seemed kind of sad to me.

The thing is, you can see many of the same kinds of local dramas playing out all over the country in the newswires we write.

Today, for instance, we have a newswire about the bizarrely large number of tax liens placed on properties in Camden, New Jersey —many of them placed on nonprofits.

We also have a “Voices from the Field” entry about a conservative organizer working across lines of belief in East Texas to improve transportation resources.

Yesterday NPQ published stories from San Francisco and Iowa, and each story has its own local flavor but they also all eventually knit together into trends that are understood more deeply for the details of how they play out in each context.

We have a lot of partners out there who help us find and write these stories. Our job at NPQ is to make sure you can keep track of your environment through them. How will the Health Care Act affect community health and the nonprofits that are key to delivery of those services? How will small businesses be affected by nonprofit credit unions and their intention to lend more in their area? How will educational institutions be changed by private investment in public schools, by the availability of online courses from the Ivy League, and by an ever-greater sensitivity to salaries of top administrators? All of this is fodder for our information mill.

And all of these issues have global connections as well. We are here to help you connect all of these dots to the best of our collective ability, but you must be part of that “we” to make it work.

So make sure to let us know if you want to be a member of our newswire team. Be the first on your block…