Ray Oldenburg a sociologist in his 1989 book coined a phrase ‘The Third Place.’
He argued that the first place is work, the second place is home and the third place is where we gather to share ideas, friendships and find our place in society.
The third place has a vital social role in our cultures. Third Places should be encouraged, developed and celebrated. They make up social and cultural capital.
His book called “The Great Good Place” has been reprinted several times is still available, published by Marlow and Co and certainly a good read.
This book has influenced my thinking and writing quite a lot mainly because the concept makes so much sense.
Oldenburg argues that we all need a third place, a place to go that is away from home and work. A place where we feel accepted and comfortable. Sometimes the third place is a café, a pub, a sports group, a book shop or it can be a club, a choir or a local park.
I am particularly interested in this concept as I have spent a significant part of my life setting up places that are Third places - except I called them “Creative Spaces.” These Creative Spaces are for people with intellectual and psychiatric disability throughout New Zealand.
There are probably about 80 or 90 Creative Spaces in New Zealand. The first ones we set up were associated with the large psychiatric Institutions that were closing down in 1980s and 1990s. The space were set up with funding saved from big institutional budgets and were seen as being part of the community.
When the institutions which provided for people with intellectual disability were also closed ten years later we were not quite as successful in setting up Creative Spaces, but some groups followed the examples of the Creative Spaces for people with psychiatric disability. Most are still receiving health funding today, although cut backs are hurting this sector as well as others. It has always been harder to get funding for Creative Spaces for people with intellectual disabilities, but many Charitable Trusts came up with funding and many still of these Creative Spaces still exist today, with artists selling ‘outside’ art works, both nationally and intellectually.
To get funding for these Spaces we argued that these creative places (like the third places - which were participatory arts centres) could provide creative employment of time and meaningful relationships for people who had been institutionalised most of their lives.
Employment of time and meaningful relationships with adequate shelter were considered three things necessary for positive integration into society.
The success of the Creative Spaces made me interested in The Third Place concept.
These Creative Spaces provide people with third places and hence one of the ideal ways to provide employment or time and meaningful relationships. They did a lot more. They enabled people who attended the Creative Spaces to achieve and feel accepted–the artists with disabilities could produce art works and they could express themselves in visual, performing and literary arts.
Creative Spaces should now be set up for young people, particularly those who are unemployed and those who are underemployed.
The need for positive social inclusion and a positive place to hang out is essential if we are to avoid the kind of crisis facing young people these days.
In my books about young people I argued that resilience was created when a young person has a place to go, something in which they succeed, and someone who will mentor them. All these would happen in a Third Place – particularly if it is a Creative Space.