Giving Compass' take:

• David Brooks discusses the power of civil society to reconnect communities, which he sees as a solution to the spectrum of political and societal issues of today.

• How can civil society be more intentional about taking a leadership role in this area? 

• Read about civil society as an immune system for democracy

I started paying attention to the social sector by looking at the sector as a whole, and it has given me a different perspective on the work that many people in the sector do.

I was doing my job as a political journalist, covering issue after issue. And I started noticing that many social problems really pointed back to the same macro issue, the weakening of our social fabric.

The problems were different—rising suicide rates, men dropping out of the labor force, opioid addiction, political polarization, worsening racial divisions, the violation of our basic democratic norms. But they all flowed back to social isolation, loneliness, the fraying of our communal bonds. They all flowed back to the fact that many people are less connected than they were.

I was covering politics, but it was crystal clear that the real problems afflicting the country were pre-political. They were about the withering away of the quality of our community, the level of trust we have for one another, and the common stories that make us one people.

It became blatantly obvious to me that the problems of politics were downstream from the problems of community. So then the question became: Well, who is addressing the problems of community? It’s the social sector. People in the social sector may see themselves fighting racism or poverty or hunger or homelessness, but when I look at the sector as a whole from the outside, what I see is a group of people collectively reweaving community.

Moreover, I see an emerging system of values. Now, especially in the social sector, I see a new ethos forming. I don’t pretend to understand it yet. Somehow this new ethos is more communitarian. It is suspicious of big institutions but trusting toward small ones. It is about commitment and service and redistributing power in new ways.

Read the full article about civil society values by David Brooks at Stanford Social Innovation Review.