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SCI Founder David Crowley had over ten years of leadership experience in the nonprofit sector prior to starting SCI. In recent years, he had been thinking about the tendency of the nonprofit sector to be better at developing programs that focus narrowly on a particular issue, rather than developing effective strategies for addressing the interconnected nature of social problems. In addition, he was troubled by data showing that while youth volunteerism has risen, political participation rates among young adults remain disturbingly low.
With these issues in mind, David read Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam and was struck by the potential of using the concept of social capital as the primary organizing framework for building community and increasing civic engagement. He finished reading the book on a flight to San Francisco, and was so anxious to do something about the decline of social capital described by Putnam that he was ready to jump off the plane to get started...he waited, but not for long.
At the same time David was reading Bowling Alone, he and his wife, Jodi, had recently bought a home in Woburn, where David grew up. The process of reconnecting to his home community after some 12 years of living elsewhere provided tangible examples of barriers to building social capital in today’s society, but also suggested that there were many community assets that could be harnessed through collaborative, community-wide social capital building initiative. The basic idea of developing a local model that could be replicated in order to address the decline of social capital and civic engagement was born.
David began informal discussions with people about the concept for SCI in 2001. The first formal SCI community planning session was held in January 2002 in Woburn, followed by six months of planning work. The first SCI Woburn programming became operational in the summer of 2002. After a highly successful first year of programming in Woburn, in 2003 SCI began to develop plans to expand to communities throughout the Boston area, with the Boston Globe Foundation as the lead funder for this expansion. A partnership was established with the Health Services Partnership of Dorchester in March 2004 to create the first SCI expansion site, SCI Dorchester. In 2006, SCI began work in Lynn, opening an office there in early 2007.
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