What is Community?

Let’s begin with Community

Community is a dynamic whole that emerges when a group of people:

  • participate in common practices
  • depend upon one another
  • make decisions together
  • identify themselves as part of something larger than the sum of their individual relationships
  • commit themselves for the long term to their own well-being, to each other, and to the group

*Adapted from “Creating Community Anywhere” By Carolyn Shaffer and Kristin Anundsen

This website and the primary subject in my book Your Quest for Home is building community. It has occurred to me that I have not yet provided a definition of community here on the blog. I include this adapted definition of community on Page 63 of the guidebook.

Let’s take a few moments to unpack it.

The original quote from Creating Community Anywhere by Shaffer and Anundsen is as follows:

What is Community?
Community is a dynamic whole that emerges when a group of people:
participate in common practices; depend upon one another; make decisions together; identify themselves as part of something larger than the sum of their individual relationships; and commit themselves for the long term to their own, one another’s, and, the group’s well being.

This book is one of my favorites and a go to resource for me when I discuss community building in the context of aging.

I’ve adapted my own message just slightly.

Community, I’ve found isn’t just a thing. Community can be an organic growth of relationships and shared values. When community begins to form some of the aspects are quickly noticeable.

I’ve observed a number of similarities in all naturally formed communities and the lessons learned from these examples can be easily adapted for individuals looking to form a specific community to fit their needs.

Participation in Common Practices

A community of often formed by individuals who have some share experience. I’ve seen it happen within subcultures like the tiny house community or women without children. These shared experiences offer an opportunity to connect at a deeper level. However, it doesn’t have to be a life altering experience that brings people together. Community is formed around any level of common practices.

Dependent upon One Another

The continued development of community often brings about a dependency, but not a co-dependency. This isn’t an inability to live without another’s support but rather the support that others provide allows everyone within the community to succeed. For example, in a shared household community of older adults, shared cooking and cleaning duties can mean more free time for everyone overall.

Make Decisions Together

Decision making also becomes important for communities as they develop. A group of people organized within a community framework will need to ensure that everyone has equal representation and the ability to offer their own individual talents to support and benefit the community. When diverse people come together there can always be challenges to joint decision making but the overall structure of the community is stronger because of the shared ideas.

Identify with Something Bigger

One of the most heartening things I hear from others who are part of various communities is how much value they place on the feeling that they are involved in something bigger than themselves. A community doesn’t have to change the world to have an impact on the individuals participating. Even the smallest pebble makes ripples in the ocean.

Commitment to Long Term Wellbeing

Lastly, the only way a community will succeed is if everyone involved is committed to the long term wellbeing of the health of the group over an extended period of time. When I talk to individuals who are part of a healthy community they always express that preservation of the community and its continued wellbeing is their biggest commitment.

How do you feel your life impacted by community? Join the conversation here or at our Facebook page.

Women For Living in Community