Community is a key concept in our group, but can be a tricky subject to pin down because the word is used in different ways. In accordance with our rules of communication which specify that we use language and definitions based on societal consensus, we want to draw attention to the ways in which people use the word "community", rather than trying to redefine the word as our own jargon.
- People use the word "community" to refer to a group of people who live in a certain area, like a town or neighborhood.
- People use the word "community" to refer to groups of people scattered over large distances, even globally, who share certain interests or common characteristics.
Essential to any use of the term "community" is that the people in a community have some sort of characteristics, either self-identified, or a function of geographic location, which identifies them as a cohesive whole distinct from the outside.
People also use the word "community" in a more specific sense, when talking about building community or a sense of community. This use of community usually describes:
- Connections or positive relationships between people.
- A sense of some sort of shared or common good, or interdependency between people.
- Some degree of common values.
- A sense of safety and belonging for people.
A local community is a community of people located nearby in their physical environment. Local community usually refers to people living in a certain area, but people who spend a substantial portion of their day, week, or year away from home can also experience local community in other areas. These other local communities can include scenarios such as students attending school away from home, commuters who work relatively far from home, and people who spend a lot of time in a physical location away from home for any other reason, such as spending time with friends or family, a religious community, or regularly attending some other point of interest.
What does local community look like?
This section talks a lot about people being connected to other people. This broad term is a concise way of saying that people know each other's names, have each other's contact info, are open to communicating with each other, and regularly see each other.
- People are connected to the people around them. Examples:
- People know the names of, speak regularly with, and have contact info of their neighbors in the area where they live.
- People are connected to people in their workplace, and, especially in smaller workplaces, to other people who work in the vicinity of their workplace.
- Students in school are connected to other people around the school. These people may include classmates and other students in the same school, as well as teachers, staff, and other people who interact with the school.
- People know of the businesses and organizations nearby their homes, workplaces, schools, or other places that they spend substantial amounts of time.
- It is easy for newcomers to become connected into the community. Examples:
- People in the community are open to meeting and talking to newcomers, and including them in their community.
- There are easy ways for newcomers to meet people in the community.
Promoting or building local community
Local community is something that anyone, at any point in time, can contribute to. It is also heavily influenced by structures in society, including physical structures like architecture and the design of buildings, and also by social structures and culture.
Making yourself open to communication with your neighbors is important for building local community and addressing potential concerns that relate to your neighbors or the neighborhood.
Some people may wish to contribute to building community by using some of the following methods:
- Reach out to your neighbors. Introduce yourself to your neighbors if and when you encounter them in your daily life. Invite them to events in your home.
- Spend time in public spaces where you are likely to come into contact with neighbors or people local to your school, workplace, or other places where you spend time.
- Greet people in public places and on the street.
- Introduce neighbors to each other, and when you have friends and family who live near each other, introduce them to each other too.
Some of the societal structures that can promote community include:
- Public or semi-public spaces which serve as community gathering spaces.
- Events, especially regularly-occurring events, which are widely publicized and open to the public.
- Public transit, such as buses, trolleys, subway systems and trains.
Culture and practices in society can also promote community, in particular:
- A tendency to use whatever public spaces exist for connecting with local people.
- A tendency to spend more time connecting with neighbors and people and businesses in the immediate vicinity.