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Community

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In many instances, when a group of people leave together in a geographical area for example, they refer to themselves or they are referred to as a community. This is also true for people of the same country in the Diaspora. How clear is the concept of community in the mind of the members of these social groups is yet to be established. Do they consider themselves as a community? In case they do so, are they really living as a community? The purpose of this article is to trigger a reflection among the members of these communities regarding their status as community and to help identify gaps for improvements purpose.

What is a community?

There are several definitions of community.

Willmott (1986) cited by Crow and Allan (1994) suggested that basically ‘community’ refers to people having something in common, and that this shared element is often understood geographically; he terms this ‘territorial community’ or ‘place community’… Willmott identifies a second meaning where the basis of community is shared characteristics other than place, in which people are linked together by factors such as common ethnic origin, religion, occupation, leisure pursuits. …He uses the ‘interest community’ to describe them. He goes on to distinguish a third sense of community relating to people’s ‘spirit of community’ or community sentiments which he labels ‘community of attachment’. Willmott is of the opinion that there is quite a strong possibility of place communities and interest communities coinciding…. In the extreme it is possible to conceive of all the above elements of community being present simultaneously.

Hereafter are 3 other definitions that could help clarifying ideas community.

“A community is defined as a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists” (Dictionary.com).

According to Hampton (2004), a community is best defined as a group of people who, regardless of the diversity of their backgrounds, have been able to accept and transcend their differences, enabling them to communicate effectively and openly and to work together toward goals identified as being for their common good.

According to Margret Betz cited by Hampton (2004), community is a way of relating to other persons as brothers and sisters who share a common origin, a common dignity and a common destiny. Community involves learning to live in terms of interconnected “We” than an isolated “I”. It involves making choices which reinforce the experience of relatedness and foster the sense of belonging and interdependence. Community begins, but does not end, in our face to face relationships with the persons who are closest to us…

What are the characteristics of a community?

Characteristics of a community that we extract from these definitions include:
1) Sharing space
2) Group perception of being distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists.
3) Sharing common characteristics or common interests.
4) Sharing common destiny.
5) Living as interconnected “We” rather than isolated “I”.
6) Having been able to accept and transcend differences among members of the group.
7) Group members having been enabled to communicate effectively and openly.
8) Group members having been enabled to work together toward goals identified as being for their common good.
9) Relating to one another as brother and sisters who share a common origin, a common dignity, and a common destiny.

Jack (2008) referring to Mission Communities, outlined the following 10 principles drawn from the Bible about Christian Community:
1) Intentional end covenanted.
2) Commitment.
3) Relocation and shared space.
4) Shared resources.
5) Meeting together and worshipping together.
6) A place of love, acceptance, challenge and forgiveness.
7) A place of shared submission
8) A place of shared accountability, encouragement and celebration.
9) A place of shared vision.
10) A place of shared mission.

Building Community

Hampton and Margret Bretz definitions of community bring to the fore the element of interaction between members of a community which is an important aspect of community life. Stacey, cited by Crow and Allan, remarked that “Proximity does not always lead to the establishment of social relations.” Crow and Allan further stated that “the emergence of community life in its broader sense requires not only favorable local and social structures but also the active creation of community.” Building a community is not easy and it is a long process that requires the involvement of people and organizations as well as leadership. Hampton definition for example implies an active participation from people not only in addressing their differences and overcoming them but also in forging a common future. A community life requires also favorable social structures like those that give community members the opportunity to interact with one another, share views and get involved in common activities.

We strongly encourage readers to reflect on their own communities, identify the gaps and find practical solutions to improve their own situation.

By J.H. Mukendi Kazadi

Your opinion matters

1) Rate the usefulness of this article for the community/group you are living in. Take our poll on the front page of our website www.congoprogres.org
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Reference list

1) Dictionary.com. (n.d.) Community. Retrieved March 31, 2011 from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/community
2) Crow, G., Allan G. (1994). Community Life. An Introduction to Local Social Relations. Hertfordshire, UK: Harvester Wheatsheaf
3) Hampton,J. (March 31, 2004). Seven Community Definitions. Retrieved March 31, 2011 from http://www.community4me.com/comm_definitions.html
4) Jack, K. (October 4, 2008).10 Characteristics of True Community. Retrieved April 1, 2011 from http://www.servantsasia.org/index.php/news/8-general/348-10-characteristics-of-true-community Idealware

Last Updated on Thursday, 05 May 2011 22:06