The name of this blog, Rainbow Juice, is intentional.
The rainbow signifies unity from diversity. It is holistic. The arch suggests the idea of looking at the over-arching concepts: the big picture. To create a rainbow requires air, fire (the sun) and water (raindrops) and us to see it from the earth.
Juice suggests an extract; hence rainbow juice is extracting the elements from the rainbow, translating them and making them accessible to us. Juice also refreshes us and here it symbolises our nutritional quest for understanding, compassion and enlightenment.

Thursday 30 May 2013

Thinking About Community

During my time working within Community Development when I asked people what their community was they would often mention a place, usually a suburb.  However, if I asked who they related with or what groups they were involved with then I got all sorts of responses.  People relate with others through their sports clubs, their church, their art society.  People relate via their ethnic background or cultural identity.  People congregate together to play sport, read poetry or (as teenagers in particular are wont) to hang out at the local shopping mall.

Many join “communities of interest.”  Indeed, it is highly likely that (at least in Western nations) people have a greater sense of participation in a community of interest rather than a community of place.1

As Community Development workers we must be wary of how we think of community.  It can be very easy to fall into the trap of thinking of community in terms of place, location or neighbourhood.  It can be.  But that is not where our thinking should stop.  Rather, it’s just somewhere to start thinking about community.

Let’s take a step back and look at the roots of the word community.  Before arriving in the English language it passed through French and Old French, and before that, Latin.  It’s Latin source is revealing.

The word derives from two Latin words: com meaning “with” or “together” and munus meaning “gift.”  Thus, at it’s root community suggests “with gift” or “gifting together.”

With this understanding it is possible to find two interconnected features of community that allow individuals to feel a sense of belonging to a community.  First, as individuals we obtain benefits from belonging to communities.  Second, we are able to contribute to communities thus enabling them to develop and flourish.  For us as individuals communities provide us with gifts and we gift back to our communities.2

Two further words often get mentioned when academics and others talk about community: Gemeinschaft and Gesselschaft.  Ferdinand Tönnies coined the terms in 1887.  Gemeinschaft he thought of as community with a cohesive “unity of will”, whereas Gesselschaft was society of self-interest.

It is our role as Community Development workers to think widely about what constitutes community and to facilitate community development so that:
  • communities benefit members as well as providing space within which members can contribute,
  • communities recognise the unique gift that all members have and allow those gifts to be shared,
  • society might move from self-interest (Gesselschaft) to a “unity of will” (Gemeinschaft).
How do others think of community?  Is it even important what we think of as community?  I’d welcome your thoughts.

1. In the city in which I last worked as a Community Development Adviser the annual residents survey asked exactly this question.  Consistently, over 80% of respondents indicated that “community of interest” was of greater importance in their lives than “community of place.”
2. Recognising that within communities are individuals with gifts is a key ingredient of Asset Based Community Development (ABCD).


  1. When I think of community, I think of a group of people who come together for the better interests of the whole...

    1. Which is exactly the sort of community that I think Community Development workers are working towards. It's also the major difference between community work and social work: the whole vs the parts.


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