The term community has two distinct commutative meanings: 1) Community usually refers to a social unit larger than a small village that shares common values. The term can also refer to the national community or international community, and 2) in biology, a community is a group of interacting living organisms sharing a populated environment.
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.
Since the advent of the Internet, the concept of community has less geographical limitation, as people can now gather virtually in an online community and share common interests regardless of physical location.
The word “community” is derived from the Old French communité which is derived from the Latin communitas (cum, “with/together” + munus, “gift”), a broad term for fellowship or organized society. Some examples of community service are to help in church, tutoring, hospitals, etc.
If community exists, both freedom and security may 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 and species (who people know) and the inclinations that arise from these works to do things for each other (norms of reciprocity).” Social capital in action can be seen in all sorts of groups, including neighbors keeping an eye on each other’s 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.
The same patterns are also evident in many other western countries. 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 new and innovative means to create the social capital needed to foster the sense and spirit 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 valiant 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), Influencing new members to join and continue to do the same. Someone suggests that they all buy matching shirts and shoes (common symbols) and they do so (influence).
To what extent do participants in joint activities experience a sense of community?
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.
Studies conducted by the APPA show substantial evidence that young adults who feel a sense of belonging in a community, particularly small communities, develop fewer psychiatric and depressive disorders than those who do not have the feeling of love and belonging.
SAFE is a Community of Bank Tenants standing together to stay in our homes. We offer resources, emotional support, shared risk and powerful tools of public unity and numbers. Alone against the banks and the courts we don’t stand a chance in changing the system. Together we have a loud voice and ability to make a difference.
By Sonia; a family in foreclosure.
- Monday February 18th 5:30 PM – Mass Mailing for Neighborhood meeting, addressing and stuffing envelopes. Stop by if you can to help.
- Tuesday February 26th 6:30 PM – Neighborhood Meeting
Other Upcoming & Ongoing Events:
- 7:00 – 8:30 PM, Tuesdays: Weekly Meeting at the SAFE House at Bethany UCC. All are welcome!
- Working Group meetings:
- Message – Tuesdays at 5:00 PM at the SAFE House
- Organizers – Tuesdays at 6:00 PM at the SAFE House
- Resource – Tuesdays at 5:30 PM at the SAFE House
- Tactical – Wednesdays at 6:30 PM at the SAFE House
- ITC – Mondays at 3:00 PM on Google Hangouts
- 1:30 – 4:30 PM, Saturdays: Outreach meeting and Door-to-Door canvassing. We need more volunteers.
This Past Week:
- February 7th – Meeting with Larry Gossett, King County councilmember. Stephen, Evonne, Don, Luisa, and Kraig asked Larry to champion a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions in King County. Larry said he has too much on his plate, but would consider it. (We take this as a no.) He agreed, however, that the only thing that’ll move him and the county council is if the people and the media demand a moratorium. (Nothing replaces organizing!)