The Importance of Engaging Communities

We have all heard it once before, someone saying we need ‘a strong sense of community’, ‘well we use to all pull together’ and we have even allocated certain time periods where community was the backbone of society, via the spirit of the Blitz. What even is  a community though? Are they a thing of the past?

A community is a group of people that gather, or talk together that have a similar interest. This can be as simple as all enjoying games allowing for the ‘Gaming Community’ or you can have a community that is built up geographically, simply having to live next door to someone or sharing the same block of flats. This therefore means that not all communities get on, but usually you join a community in order to improve your social life or social states. Communities usually allow for  a freedom of expression or allowance for someone to talk about their passion with others. Therefore discuss topics of interest and hopeful gain more ideas, improving certain experiences or gain advice. Communities are usually formed as a result of the psychological need of humans wanting to be around others that agree with them. A strong factor that shows the want, need and desire of these groups can be traced back to the natural formation designed in the primitive human psyche. Our closest relatives, Chimpanzees or Apes for a more broader term, form tribes or groups in order to survive. In the wild these tribes are key to survival, all members of these ‘tribes’ will do as the alpha says. If they do not then they will be removed from the group, resulting in almost certain death. This is why we as humans develop gangs, groups or even cults, and are so highly obedient to what the leader wants,even if our moral compass compels us not too, if we do not we fear death waits. However over the millions and millions of mutations among the DNA that has allowed us to be 4% different from Apes, we have now began to form these tribes for pleasure activities.  Most animals form these groups to survive, so why would humans not? Do they have have a purpose in the human world of today? Falling out with someone over different taste in music does not allow for certain death these days. In these cases, these are no more than modern day problems caused by the manifestation of human need of appraisal and validation. These communities linked to pleasure, to me, seem to be only needed for people’s sense of purpose and to gain advice that they can not gain from other members in their lives, allowing for fulfilment in lives. So these are so important to today’s life, and these are usually very self sufficient, there is no need to fear these communities or attempt to engage with them, people join them with free will.

However the community we think of  the most and must engage with is the most problematic, this is the geographical community. People talk of a sense of community, but there is no such thing, we are forced into communities whether we like it or not, just depends if they are happy healthy ones or hostile ones. These groups of people do not share the same interest, they may not enjoy the same things or  even speak the same language. This is where the problems begin. Why would you care for someone that is no way the same as you. Due to the ever changing world in which we live, the concept of the idyllic community, of everyone pitching in to help neighbours etc is crumbling. All senses of communication are being broken down in these areas that need it most. Too many subcultures are being made, the gaps have no bridges between them. I am not a believer that things use to be so much better back in the day, I simply believe there was less people, less aggravation, less continuous stress and more resources.. As more and more money gets pulled out of community sectors, in my area alone I have seen the closure of 4 family centres out of 6, 1 of which (the most successful and left standing) is community ran. Engaging communities is becoming the only true form for self-sufficiency and sustainability in the modern world.

How do you get these people to engage though, and what are the true benefits. The most successful way to engage with communities, despite most wanting nothing to do with you, or pretend that they want to help,  then do nothing is via communal spaces and projects. These are best. When there are gardens or allotments for the community to look after, as it allows for pride in the area as well as a sense of care, in one way it is like a community child. These spaces are given to area as long as they are looked after by the people in that area. This  causes people to work physically with each other building trust, communication as well as allow for a co-ownership developing a sense of care form all. One thing to accept though through such work is that you will only, if you’re really lucky, engage with 5% or so of these people in this geographic group. However this core group, if made visible by attending and working on a garden or project together will case people to come out or ask questions, even once or twice. This breaks down communication barriers which allows for people to no longer fear others around them. Their self survival instincts are brought down, and their pact survival instincts take over. This allows for certain members of the area to become more confident, saying hi to others more often, and they may go ask for help from time to time from people they know, gain advise and this spirit will spread. These projects will not happen quickly, they will take years and years to develop, but could take only days to tare down, hence they problematic area and why councils do not allow for many resources in them.

The benefits of having a switched on and fully engaged community is phenomenal. Not only for the individual but also for the group as a whole. The main impact it will have is that it will help prevent many mental health problems that occur all around the UK. These problems are on the rise as result of modern day living. 1 in 4 (Mind UK Charity)  people have a mental health disorder, be it from anxiety, depression or loneliness or various others. These are all combated via the simple action of being part of an active and engaged community, if people feel they have someone to talk to across the road or hall then they will be able to turn to them for something as simple as a chat, this helps in immensely. Depression and anxiety are big problems in today’s society with around 8 people in every 100 suffering from a mixture of the two in the UK alone, which is usually a result from not feeling happy where they live, or feeling they only have a few friends to speak too. These communities allow for these problems to be battled by individuals secretly, without them having to do actually express what they feel. If there is a event occurring regularly just outside their building they will be able to join in for as long or as little as they like. It also gives them the option to go back to the comfort of their own home at any period, giving them the perfect opportunity to build up confidence, potentially even be able to speak to someone in the local area about these barriers in their life. Another benefit is that they don’t have to talk to anyone, as it can all be done personally and privately, unlike formal meeting or organisations that require paperwork and monitoring. It can also highlight certain people that may be struggling and have never said anything. Chatter may reveal that a certain member has not been seen leaving their home in weeks, and a simple check up, from a now concerned member of the community, could determine if this person is simply happy alone or might be in difficult circumstances. It also allows for the local areas to be a strong force to go to councils and local authorities to get things sorted in their area, that might be problematic, and even make the area safer for all.

Taken from BBC Article https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-41125009

So overall, communities can be any number of things. It is those usually of fandom, that allow for people to feel as if they have friendships and a sense of purpose when among that community. However physical communities despite being one of the hardest things to engage with, due to the diversity of the modern world, everyone living with their one truths, they can drastically improve the lives of all who live in that area. Communities must be engaged, for it is the idea of a caring community and looking out for people of all walks of life, that separate us from the standard tribal primitive lives of animals.

Craig

(1 Post)

I work in the environmental sector, specialising in conservation and engaging communities. There isn’t much to say about me… I am more or less just your average guy. Alongside my professional career I also work part time in retail and enjoy volunteering with local projects. I am fascinated and intrigued by the world around me and how it works. Everything from the way we see colour, to how a birds beak inspired the bullet train. Less an expert at any one thing, I'm passionate about better understanding how the world is interlinked. I am also a realist who loves to be challenged. I'm a devils advocate and I like to question society, how it is run and how it has come to be what it is. But what I love most are stories: stories of innovation, stories of the world and stories of people.
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