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What makes a community? Characteristics and examples of community
Definition of a community
What makes a community?
‘Community’ is broadly defined as a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.
However this definition is by no means complete. The definition of what makes a community is flexible depending on the situation.
For example, a geographical community may be defined by having a shared location, whereas a social community is defined by a sense of fellowship. An academic community may refer to a group of people who have all completed the same education level, whilst a religious community refers to a shared belief system.
In science, a community is the term used to describe two or more species coexisting in a shared environment.
The reality is that there are many types of community, and many definitions of what makes a community.
Characteristics of a community
Every group or team is not necessarily a community. For example, a group of students are not necessarily a community just because they are working on the same project.
To be a community, the members must have the intention and ‘sense’ of being a part of a community, and therefore a community is as much defined by the mind frame of its members as it is by its outside characteristics.
Developing a sense of community is something that has multiple aspects and requires certain conditions to be met over a continuous period of time. These characteristics help to cement the community and confirm its identity.
Some common characteristics that lead to community development include:
A shared purpose, interest, or goal
Whether it is socializing or solving world hunger, people join and form communities that match their interests or goals. This is because communities can strengthen and reinforce these beliefs and interests, as well as creating a safe space to explore their identity.
Communities need frequent interaction between its members to survive. In the modern day and age, this has become less frequent due to the rise of social media and globalization. In the past, communities used to be the main source of interaction for people. Nowadays there are millions of ways to interact and engage with other people, regardless of location.
As a result, many communities are facing a decline in membership, partly due to lack of frequent communication between its members.
One of the ways to combat this is to adopt, rather than reject, technology as a means to engage a community. Private community software platforms and apps exist that let community members interact and explore in a safe environment, therefore providing a new way to strengthen and increase the interactions between members, and therefore strengthen the community overall.
A level of sharing or pooling of resources
Part of a sense of community is having the trust and support of its members. Communities that help each other solve problems, provide support, and educate each other are stronger and more likely to survive over time.
A shared location
The same way a family needs a home, communities need a ‘space’ where they congregate and connect. This ‘space’ comes to form part of the sense of community itself, and so the quality and consistency of the shared space can impact the perceived quality of the community itself.
Previously communities would often pick a physical location to congregate, with an obvious example being religious communities coming together at their church or place of worship. Nowadays, the rise of online communities means that people can connect and come together in an online space, without ever meeting in person.
Some communities utilise a combination of both as part of their effort to keep their members engaged. By combining a physical location with an online space to interact, communities provide a more consistent experience. In keeping with a sense of consistency, online spaces should reflect the community identity, and be exclusive to members of the community where possible.
This is where private apps or platforms come in handy for communities who want to offer a mix of ways to engage their members.
Common features/characteristics of members
From entrepreneurial communities to retirement communities, members that share an interest or goal often also share a commonality. Whether it is age, profession, education, country of origin, language, favourite sport, or star sign, communities are strengthened by shared commonalities between members. The reason for this is that community plays an important role in helping people strengthen their identity and find their purpose and motivation. When people share common ground, it gives them a stronger sense of belonging, therefore creating stronger community ties.
With that said, anyone can join a community, whether they share the same characteristics or not. The main factors in creating and maintaining a sense of community come from having a shared purpose, interacting frequently, and members supporting each other.
Examples of community
There are millions of communities around the world, of all different shapes, sizes, types, and legacies.
Despite the vast range of communities and the even wider range of members that participate in a community, most communities can be categorized into a certain ‘type’.
For example, a community of interest refers to a community of people who share the same interests or passions, whereas a community of place refers to people who are brought together by proximity to each other, such as a retirement village, or a university campus.
The ‘types’ of communities vary slightly based on the field of study, but it generally can be reduced down to between 4 to 8 types.
Here are 8 examples of communities, which vary in size and type.
1. Volunteer community
A group of people who work together for the greater good. RSPCA and Homeless Shelters are good examples of volunteer communities.
2. Religious community
People who worship together and share a belief system. This might be a Hindu community, a Christian community, or a Rastafarian community.
3. Sport community
Team players, fans, family members, and coaches can all be part of a sport community. There are over 70,000 community sports clubs in Australia. Whether there are 20 members or thousands, like Collingwood FC sporting clubs are a great way to form and maintain a sense of community.
4. Vegan community
Joined by a shared belief in not eating animal products and reducing environmental impact, vegan communities are growing worldwide. Perhaps one of the most popular is PETA Australia, but there are plenty of vegan communities in Australia alone.
5. Neighbourhood community
Neighbourhood communities form between people based on proximity and beliefs or attitudes about their locality. For example, Neighbourhood Watch is formed on the basis of having a shared location and wanting to maintain their safety and comfort.
6. Business community
Usually consisting of business workshops, meetups, and networking, professional communities centre on sharing opportunities and learnings between its members. Women’s Network Australia is a good example of a community of professionals sharing insights and resources.
7. Support community
8. Brand community
Communities can form around brands, where customers come together to share their experiences, encourage other people to purchase and engage, and emulate the values of the brand. Nike is a great example of a brand community.
What other examples of communities can you think of? Let us know in the comments.
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