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A community is a social group of organisms sharing an environment, normally with shared interests. In human communities, intent, belief, resources, preferences, needs, risks and a number of other conditions may be present and common, affecting the identity of the participants and their degree of cohesiveness.
The word community is derived from the Latin communitas (meaning the same), which is in turn derived from communis, which means "common, public, shared by all or many". Communis comes from a combination of the Latin prefix con- (which means "together") and the word munis (which has to do with performing services).
Perspectives from various disciplines
German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies presented a concise differentiation between the terms "community" (Gemeinschaft) and "society" (Gesellschaft). In his 1887 work, Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft, Tönnies argued that "community" is perceived to be a tighter and more cohesive social entity within the context of the larger society, due to the presence of a "unity of will." He added that family and kinship were the perfect expressions of community, but that other shared characteristics, such as place or belief, could also result in gemeinschaft.
Individual and community
- Main article: Structure and agency
During human growth and maturation, people encounter sets of other individuals and experiences. Infants encounter first their immediate family, then extended family, and then local community (such as school and work). They thus develop individual and group identity through associations that connect them to life-long community experiences.
As people grow, they learn about and form perceptions of social structures. During this progression, they form personal and cultural values, a world view and attitudes toward the larger society. Gaining an understanding of group dynamics and how to "fit in" is part of socialization. Individuals develop interpersonal relationships and begin to make choices about whom to associate with and under what circumstances.
During adolescence and adulthood, the individual tends to develop a more sophisticated identity, often taking on a role as a leader or follower in groups. If an individual develops the feeling that they belong to a group, and they must help the group they are part of, then they develop a sense of community.
- Main article: Social capital
If community exists, both freedom and security exist as well. The community then takes on a life of its own, as people become free enough to share and secure enough to get along. The sense of connectedness and formation of social networks comprise what has become known as social capital.
Social capital is defined by Robert D. Putnam as "the collective value of all social networks (who people know) and the inclinations that arise from these networks to do things for each other (norms of reciprocity)." Social capital in action can be seen in groups of varying formality, including neighbors keeping an eye on each others' homes. However, as Putnam notes in Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (2000), social capital has been falling in the United States. Putnam found that over the past 25 years, attendance at club meetings has fallen 58 percent, family dinners are down 33 percent, and having friends visit has fallen 45 percent.
Western cultures are thus said to be losing the spirit of community that once were found in institutions including churches and community centers. Sociologist Ray Oldenburg states in The Great Good Place that people need three places: 1) The home, 2) the office, and, 3) the community hangout or gathering place.
With this philosophy in mind, many grassroots efforts such as The Project for Public Spaces are being started to create this "Third Place" in communities. They are taking form in independent bookstores, coffeehouses, local pubs and through many innovative means to create the social capital needed to foster the sense and spirit of community.
Sense of community
- Main article: Sense of community
In a seminal 1986 study, McMillan and Chavis identify four elements of "sense of community": 1) membership, 2) influence, 3) integration and fulfillment of needs, and 4) shared emotional connection. They give the following example of the interplay between these factors:
Someone puts an announcement on the dormitory bulletin board about the formation of an intramural dormitory basketball team. People attend the organizational meeting as strangers out of their individual needs (integration and fulfillment of needs). The team is bound by place of residence (membership boundaries are set) and spends time together in practice (the contact hypothesis). They play a game and win (successful shared valent event). While playing, members exert energy on behalf of the team (personal investment in the group). As the team continues to win, team members become recognized and congratulated (gaining honor and status for being members). Someone suggests that they all buy matching shirts and shoes (common symbols) and they do so (influence).
A Sense of Community Index (SCI) has been developed by Chavis and colleagues and revised and adapted by others. Although originally designed to assess sense of community in neighborhoods, the index has been adapted for use in schools, the workplace, and a variety of types of communities.
Community and its features are central to anthropological research. Some of the ways community is addressed in anthropology include the following:
- Cultural (or Social) anthropological studies of community
- Cross-cultural differences in community
- Ethnographic fieldwork
- Archaeological studies of the community phenomenon in ancient settings
- Anthropology of religion
- Anthropology of education
- Urban anthropology
- Ethnic and Racial Studies
- Community empowerment
- Virtual Internet communities (part of Cyber anthropology)
- Ecological anthropology
- Psychological anthropology
- Main article: Communitarianism
Communitarianism as a group of related but distinct philosophies (or ideologies) began in the late 20th century, opposing classical liberalism and capitalism while advocating phenomena such as civil society. Not necessarily hostile to social liberalism, communitarianism rather has a different emphasis, shifting the focus of interest toward communities and societies and away from the individual. The question of priority, whether for the individual or community, must be determined in dealing with pressing ethical questions about a variety of social issues, such as health care, abortion, multiculturalism, and hate speech.
Business and communications
- Main article: Organizational communication
Effective communication practices in group and organizational settings are important to the formation and maintenance of communities. How ideas and values are communicated within communities are important to the induction of new members, the formulation of agendas, the selection of leaders and many other aspects. Organizational communication is the study of how people communicate within an organizational context and the influences and interactions within organizational structures. Group members depend on the flow of communication to establish their own identity within these structures and learn to function in the group setting. Although organizational communication, as a field of study, is usually geared toward companies and business groups, these may also be seen as communities. The principles of organizational communication can also be applied to other types of communities.
- Main article: Socialization
The process of learning to adopt the behavior patterns of the community is called socialization. The most fertile time of socialization is usually the early stages of life, during which individuals develop the skills and knowledge and learn the roles necessary to function within their culture and social environment. For some psychologists, especially those in the psychodynamic tradition, the most important period of socialization is between the ages of 1 and 10. But socialization also includes adults moving into a significantly different environment, where they must learn a new set of behaviors.
Socialization is influenced primarily by the family, through which children first learn community norms. Other important influences include school, peer groups, mass media, the workplace and government. The degree to which the norms of a particular society or community are adopted determines one's willingness to engage with others. The norms of tolerance, reciprocity and trust are important "habits of the heart," as de Tocqueville put it, in an individual's involvement in community.
- Main article: Community development
Community development, often linked with Community Work or Community Planning, is often formally conducted by non-government organisations(NGOs), universities or government agencies to improve the social well-being of local, regional and, sometimes, national communities. Less formal efforts, called community building or community organizing, seek to empower individuals and groups of people by providing them with the skills they need to effect change in their own communities. These skills often assist in building political power through the formation of large social groups working for a common agenda. Community development practitioners must understand both how to work with individuals and how to affect communities' positions within the context of larger social institutions.
Formal programs conducted by universities are often used to build a knowledge base to drive curricula in sociology and community studies. The General Social Survey from the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago and the Saguaro Seminar at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University are examples of national community development in the United States. In The United Kingdom, Oxford University has led in providing extensive research in the field through its Community Development Journal, used worldwide by sociologists and community development practitioners.
At the intersection between community development and community building are a number of programs and organizations with community development tools. One example of this is the program of the Asset Based Community Development Institute of Northwestern University. The institute makes available downloadable tools to assess community assets and make connections between non-profit groups and other organizations that can help in community building. The Institute focuses on helping communities develop by "mobilizing neighborhood assets" — building from the inside out rather than the outside in.
Community building and organizing
M. Scott Peck is of the view that the almost accidental sense of community which exists at times of crisis, for example in New York City after the September 11, 2001 attacks, can be consciously built. Peck believes that the process of "conscious community building" is a process of building a shared story, and consensual decision making, built upon respect for all individuals and inclusivity of difference. He is of the belief that this process goes through four stages:
- Pseudo-community: Where participants are "nice with each other", playing-safe, and presenting what they feel is the most favourable sides of their personalities.
- Chaos: When people move beyond the inauthenticity of pseudo-community and feel safe enough to present their "shadow" selves. This stage places great demands upon the facilitator for greater leadership and organization, but Peck believes that "organizations are not communities", and this pressure should be resisted.
- Emptiness: This stage moves beyond the attempts to fix, heal and convert of the chaos stage, when all people become capable of acknowledging their own woundedness and brokenness, common to us all as human beings. Out of this emptiness comes
- True community: the process of deep respect and true listening for the needs of the other people in this community. This stage Peck believes can only be described as "glory" and reflects a deep yearning in every human soul for compassionate understanding from one's fellows.
More recently Scott Peck has remarked that building a sense of community is easy. It is maintaining this sense of community that is difficult in the modern world.
Community building can use a wide variety of practices, ranging from simple events such as potlucks and small book clubs to larger–scale efforts such as mass festivals and construction projects that involve local participants rather than outside contractors.
Some communities have developed their own "Local Exchange Trading Systems" (LETS) and local currencies, such as the Ithaca Hours system, to encourage economic growth and an enhanced sense of community. Community Currencies have recently proven valuable in meeting the needs of people living in various South American nations, particularly Argentina, that recently suffered as a result of the collapse of the Argentinian national currency.
Conversely, at least one community, The Los Angeles Skills Pool, is built around the sharing of services without the use of any currency.
Community building that is geared toward activism is usually termed "community organizing." In these cases, organized community groups seek accountability from elected officials and increased direct representation within decision-making bodies. Where good-faith negotiations fail, these constituency-led organizations seek to pressure the decision-makers through a variety of means, including picketing, boycotting, sit-ins, petitioning, and electoral politics. The ARISE Detroit! coalition and the Toronto Public Space Committee are examples of activist networks committed to shielding local communities from government and corporate domination and inordinate influence.
Community organizing is sometimes focused on more than just resolving specific issues. Organizing often means building a widely accessible power structure, often with the end goal of distributing power equally throughout the community. Community organizers generally seek to build groups that are open and democratic in governance. Such groups facilitate and encourage consensus decision-making with a focus on the general health of the community rather than a specific interest group.
The three basic types of community organizing are grassroots organizing, coalition building, and faith-based community organizing (also called "institution-based community organizing," "broad-based community organizing" or "congregation-based community organizing").
- Main article: Community service
Community service is usually performed in connection with a nonprofit organization, but it may also be undertaken under the auspices of government, one or more businesses, or by individuals. It is typically unpaid and voluntary. However, it can be part of alternative sentencing approaches in a justice system and it can be required by educational institutions.
Types of community
A number of ways to categorize types of community have been proposed; one such breakdown is:
- Geographic communities: range from the local neighbourhood, suburb, village, town or city, region, nation or even the planet as a whole. These refer to communities of location.
- Communities of culture: range from the local clique, sub-culture, ethnic group, religious, multicultural or pluralistic civilisation, or the global community cultures of today. They may be included as communities of need or identity, such as disabled persons, or frail aged people.
- Community organizations: range from informal family or kinship networks, to more formal incorporated associations, political decision making structures, economic enterprises, or professional associations at a small, national or international scale.
Communities are nested; one community can contain another - for example a geographic community may contain a number of ethnic communities.
Possibly the most common usage of the word "community" indicates a large group living in close proximity. Examples of local community include:
- A municipality is an administrative local area generally composed of a clearly defined territory and commonly referring to a town or village. Although large cities are also municipalities, they are often thought of as a collection of communities, due to their diversity.
- A neighborhood is a geographically localized community, often within a larger city or suburb.
- A planned community is one that was designed from scratch and grew up more or less following the plan. Several of the world's capital cities are planned cities, notably Washington, D.C., in the United States, Canberra in Australia, and Brasília in Brazil. It was also common during the European colonization of the Americas to build according to a plan either on fresh ground or on the ruins of earlier Amerindian cities.
- For more details on this topic, see Community of place.
- For more details on this topic, see Community of interest.
In some contexts, "community" indicates a group of people with a common identity other than location. Members often interact regularly. Common examples in everyday usage include:
- A "professional community" is a group of people with the same or related occupations. Some of those members may join a professional society, making a more defined and formalized group. These are also sometimes known as communities of practice.
- A virtual community is a group of people primarily or initially communicating or interacting with each other by means of information technologies, typically over the Internet, rather than in person. These may be either communities of interest, practice or communion. (See below.) Research interest is evolving in the motivations for contributing to online communities.
- For more details on this topic, see Intentional community.
Some communities share both location and other attributes. Members choose to live near each other because of one or more common interests.
- A retirement community is designated and at least usually designed for retirees and seniors –- often restricted to those over a certain age, such as 55. It differs from a retirement home, which is a single building or small complex, by having a number of autonomous households.
- An intentional community is a deliberate residential community with a much higher degree of social interaction than other communities. The members of an intentional community typically hold a common social, political or spiritual vision and share responsibilities and resources. Intentional communities include Amish villages, ashrams, cohousing, communes, ecovillages, housing cooperatives, kibbutzim, and land trusts.
Special nature of human community
Definitions of community as "organisms inhabiting a common environment and interacting with one another," while scientifically accurate, do not convey the richness, diversity and complexity of human communities. Their classification, likewise is almost never precise. Untidy as it may be, community is vital for humans. M. Scott Peck expressed this in the following way: "There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community."
From this it is clear that the concept of the individual is not and cannot ever be separated from the concept of community. Without the primary community of our family, or the secondary communities discussed above, we could not develop stable personalities as individual human beings. This conveys some of the distinctiveness of human community.
- Main article: List of basic community topics
- Brand community
- Community attitudes
- Community development
- Community facilities
- Community informatics
- Communitas (Victor Turner's theories)
- Economic network
- Intentional community
- International community
- Moral community
- Nationalism and Internationalism
- Sense of community
- Harper, D. 2001. Online Etymology Dictionary.
- Tönnies, F. 1887. Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft, p. 22.
- Newman, D. 2005. Chapter 5. "Building Identity: Socialization" pp. 134-140.
- Putnam, D. 2000. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of the American Community, p. 19.
- Bowling Alone web site
- Project for Public Spaces. 2006. Ray Oldenburg.
- University of Florida. 2006. Social Capital in Tampa Bay: An Update Report.
- McMillan, D.W., & Chavis, D.M. 1986. "Sense of community: A definition and theory," p. 16.
- Perkins, D.D., Florin, P., Rich, R.C., Wandersman, A. & Chavis, D.M. (1990). Participation and the social and physical environment of residential blocks: Crime and community context. American Journal of Community Psychology, 18, 83-115. Chipuer, H. M., & Pretty, G. M. H. (1999). A review of the Sense of Community Index: Current uses, factor structure, reliability, and further development. Journal of Community Psychology, 27(6), 643-658. Long, D.A., & Perkins, D.D. (2003). Confirmatory Factor Analysis of the Sense of Community Index and Development of a Brief SCI. Journal of Community Psychology, 31, 279-296.
- Newman, D. 2005, p. 141.
- Smith, M. 2001. Community.
- Kelly, Anthony, "With Head, Heart and Hand: Dimensions of Community Building" (Boolarong Press) [ISBN 978086439076]
- Community Development Journal, Oxford University Press
- ABCD Institute, in cooperation with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. 2006. Discovering Community Power: A Guide to Mobilizing Local Assets and Your Organization's Capacity.
- ABCD Institute. 2006. Welcome to ABCD.
- Local Exchange Trading Systems were first developed by Michael Linton, in Courtenay, BC, see "LETSystems - new money". Retrieved: 2006-08-01.
- The Ithaca Hours system, developed by Paul Glover is outlined in "Creating Community Economics with Local Currency". Retrieved: 2006-08-01.
- [http://www.strohalm.net/en/site.php%7C Social Trade Organisation
- Los Angeles Skills Pool website
- Jacoby Brown, Michael, (2006), "Building Powerful Community Organizations: A Personal Guide To Creating Groups That Can Solve Problems and Change the World" (Long Haul Press)
- Tropman John E., Erlich, John L. and Rothman, Jack (2006), "Tactics and Techniques of Community Intervention" (Wadsworth Publishing)
- Australian Academy of Science. Nova: Science in the News. Retrieved: 2006-07-21.
- M. Scott Peck, 1987. The Different Drum: Community-Making and Peace, p. 233.
- Barzilai, G. 2003. Communities and Law: Politics and Cultures of Legal Identities. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
- Beck, U. 1992. Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity. London: Sage
- — 2000. What is globalization? Cambridge: Polity Press.
- Chavis, D.M., Hogge, J.H., McMillan, D.W., & Wandersman, A. 1986. "Sense of community through Brunswick's lens: A first look." Journal of Community Psychology, 14(1), 24-40.
- Chipuer, H. M., & Pretty, G. M. H. (1999). A review of the Sense of Community Index: Current uses, factor structure, reliability, and further development. Journal of Community Psychology, 27(6), 643-658.
- Christensen, K., et al. (2003). Encyclopedia of Community. 4 volumes. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
- Cohen, A. P. 1985. The Symbolic Construction of Community. Routledge: New York.
- Durkheim, Emile. 1950  The Rules of Sociological Method. Translated by S. A. Solovay and J. H. Mueller. New York: The Free Press.
- Cox, F., J. Erlich, J. Rothman, and J. Tropman. 1970. Strategies of Community Organization: A Book of Readings. Itasca, IL: F. E. Peacock Publishers.
- Effland, R. 1998. The Cultural Evolution of Civilizations Mesa Community College.
- Giddens, A. 1999. “Risk and Responsibility” Modern Law Review 62(1): 1-10.
- Lenski, G. 1974. Human Societies: An Introduction to Macrosociology. New York: McGraw- Hill, Inc.
- Long, D.A., & Perkins, D.D. (2003). Confirmatory Factor Analysis of the Sense of Community Index and Development of a Brief SCI. Journal of Community Psychology, 31, 279-296.
- McMillan, D.W., & Chavis, D.M. 1986. "Sense of community: A definition and theory." American Journal of Community Psychology, 14(1), 6-23.
- Nancy, Jean-Luc. La Communauté désœuvrée (philosophical questioning of the concept of community and the possibility of encountering a non-subjective concept of it).
- Newman, D. 2005. Sociology: Exploring the Architecture of Everyday Life, Chapter 5. "Building Identity: Socialization" Pine Forge Press. Retrieved: 2006-08-05.
- Peck, M.S. 1987. The Different Drum: Community-Making and Peace. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-684-84858-9
- Perkins, D.D., Florin, P., Rich, R.C., Wandersman, A. & Chavis, D.M. (1990). Participation and the social and physical environment of residential blocks: Crime and community context. American Journal of Community Psychology, 18, 83-115.
- Putnam, R. D. 2000. Bowling Alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon and Schuster
- Sarason, S.B. 1974. The psychological sense of community: Prospects for a community psychology. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
- — 1986. "Commentary: The emergence of a conceptual center." Journal of Community Psychology, 14, 405-407.
- Smith, M. K. 2001. Community. Encyclopedia of informal education. Last updated: January 28, 2005. Retrieved: 2006-07-15.
- Tönnies, F. 1887. Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft, Leipzig: Fues's Verlag, 2nd ed. 1912, 8th edition, Leipzig: Buske, 1935; translated in 1957 as Community and Society. ISBN 0-88738-750-0
- "Community", an article in American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia
- "Community", an article in Encyclopedia of Informal Education
- Subdivided A documentary film about community featuring Robert Putnam
- Online Community Building: Three Critical Ingredients An article about building online communities
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