What is community and why is it important? | The Ikeda Center for Peace, Learning and Dialogue (2023)

In 2005, the center asked several people whose work involves community building this simple question and received some not-so-simple answers.

Riché C. Zamor, Executive Director, Professional Services Division
Latin American Health Institute, Boston, Massachusetts

To me, a community is a group of individuals bound together by one or more attributes. The element that binds them together is the core and essence of the group. As indicated by the root and suffix of the word (common entity), a certain section of the population is bound by a familiar thread. In public health, we see the community as a group of people who, because of their demographic, social and economic status, are at risk of being infected or affected by certain types of diseases. A community is a familiar thread used to bring people together to endorse and support each other in the fight to overcome these threats. As humans, we need a sense of belonging, and that sense of belonging connects us to the many relationships we form. Communities are also rich in resources, which is where their collective aspect comes into play. We are all members of many communities (family, work, neighborhood, etc.) and are constantly moving in and out depending on the situation. In community we find comfort in difficult times. If things are not going well in one church, we have the opportunity to move to another. For me, the community is the place where you find the balance between physical and mental fitness.

Sarah Michelson, intern at The Food Project
Aktuelle Programmbeteiligung: Building Local Agricultural Systems Today (BLAST)

Most people in today's world rely on community for practical reasons. The necessities of life rarely come from one's own hands, but rather from an intricate "web of reciprocity," as Martin Luther King Jr. once put it. While most people need to be part of a community for the necessities of life, most people want to be part of a community because there is something indescribably beautiful about being part of a group of people who share something more fundamental than geographic location. . . something they feel passionate about. Something that when shared makes the individual feel less lonely. A community is a safe place.

(Video) Ceasar McDowell - "Crisis or Opportunity? A Dialogue on Democracy, Inclusion, and Community"

But there is something potentially dangerous about communities. A safe, comfortable, and trusting community can be so alluring that individuals can forget the world outside their community or view other communities with subtle prejudices.

I am a member of the Sudbury congregation, an affluent suburb of Boston. As I work to give back to my community, I also need to spend some time outside of Sudbury to experience what life is like in Bolivia, in the American South, or in Roxbury, the inner-city neighborhood where The Food Project does much of its Work. I need to go to these places to remind myself that this way of life that I'm used to is not the only way or the best way. I need to be reminded that while I give to my community, other communities deserve no less. I need to be reminded that if I connect with someone based on shared experience, it's not because someone is from Sudbury. That's because we're both human and I'm part of a global community.

Alan O’Hare, Schenachie (Celtic Storyteller) und Director Life Story Theatre

In the stillness of a recent early morning walk, the crystal clear singing of a scarlet cardinal perched on an oak tree woke me stronger. As I listened to him and his companion in a nearby tree serenading each other, I was joined by a couple walking their dog. Without saying a word, it was clear that we were enchanted by the gift of her song, and we briefly joined in a celebration of nature's gifts.

(Video) 230301 Forum on the Art of Dialogue

The new light, the morning hymn, and the momentary connection with other travelers evoked images from other communities. Each of these, whether for learning, work, healing, prayer, or friendship, creates for us a safe experience of belonging, purpose, and shared values. In them each of us encounters who we are and what our gifts are.

The Sufi tradition teaches that the primary purpose of life is to awaken to the essence of who we are. Once we do, we are invited to lovingly embrace that realization. The gift of fellowship is that it offers each of us the fire of affirmation and support to achieve this. . . even on those days when we don't feel the fire.

But at that time we can remember the words of Thich Nhat Hanh: “I ask you all to put your hands up and tell me the truth. Do you think, like me, that someone in our hamlet is keeping the fire alive?”

(Video) Hope and Joy in Education | The Art of Inclusive Teaching and Living

Frances Moore Lappé, Autorin vonYou have the power: choose courage in a culture of fearandThe Edge of Democracy

Community – which means “enhancing human connection” to me – is our survival. We humans wither away from society. It's not a luxury, it's not a nice thing; Community is essential to our well-being.

Involvement in the social life of society is the basis of community. By inclusion I mean universal access to entry, starting with legal protections from exclusion – for example racial discrimination – but far, far beyond that. Inclusion means access to jobs with fair pay, decent housing, efficient schools and reliable health care. When you "deny a man a job or an income," said Martin Luther King, Jr., "you are essentially telling that man that he has no right to exist...it's psychologically murder..."

But today the rising ethic is exclusion. We have allowed the government to let the minimum wage lose a quarter of its value in thirty years. One in five jobs in the US will not lift a family of four out of poverty. And we have allowed health care to become beyond the reach of so many that America now ranks 42nd among the world's nations for infant survival.

This deeply troubling assault on the community asks us to accept an irony: we must risk exclusion—alienating, or at least disrupting, others—in order to become advocates for community inclusion. This can mean speaking our minds even when it makes others uncomfortable, reaching out to the excluded, even when engaging in visible public actions such as a vigil or door-to-door education feels uncomfortable, even if we risk angry rejection.

Realizing that community is essential to human well-being calls for a special kind of courage: to walk with our fear of exclusion to stand up for inclusion.

Lisa R. Fortuna, MD, MPH, Psychiatrist, Cambridge Health Alliance, Center for Multicultural Mental Health Research, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Community means growing with others. I grew up surrounded by a culturally rich and loving community that shaped my identity and pride as a Black Latina woman. I am blessed to associate with young people and families who are always committed to improving the vitality of their community. Now, 35 years into my life, I am a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist. I meet young people every day. I have the opportunity to be there through some of her most difficult and distressing moments in her life. Because of who these young people are and because of the love I have received, I strive to be the best doctor I can be and to serve those who need me most.

My spirituality was a central stabilizing and informing force in my life, one that was very personal, very quiet and yet guided every decision I made in life. This intersection of community, medicine, and personal faith began with an early and longstanding fascination with the world around me. My spirit was ignited by a love of science and medicine and relied on the power of community and deep respect and appreciation for healing. This attitude towards the world was inspired by my grandmother, my mother and the elders around me who took the time to care. That's what community is about... caring for one another.

(Video) Ikeda Center Virtual Dialogue: "Climate Hope: Awareness Into Action!"

Shirley Suet-ling Tang, Assistenzprofessorin, Asian-American Studies & American Studies, University of Massachusetts Boston (UMASS)

I accepted an invitation to write for the BRC newsletter to reflect briefly on my own community building questions after spending twelve years teaching Asian American Studies both at university and on the street with students from urban immigrant/refugee communities and had developed. I was first drawn to Asian American Studies, and Ethnic Studies in general, for its revolutionary commitment to community building, justice-centered education, and practical work. I've always felt that the best places to learn/teach are not behind the closed doors of an ivory tower, but where people experience marginalization and exclusion from decision-making power and resource-rich opportunities.

A few years ago it was all theory. After hearing firsthand exactly how young people and their families are experiencing struggles, and realizing that they have always been on the front lines in the fight for a just and healthy community for all, I had started to figure things out to see from their perspective and apply myself to keep their – our – dreams alive. Since I began working at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, I have become a resident of the United States, and like many of the students and community members I work with, I have also found that my life has become more and more related to the political and social situation was connected to immigrant communities/communities of color in US society.

So why is community important? For community saves us from the isolation and alienation we fear. Because in the real world, people don't have a choice. Because community is about finding each other and finding a place to call home. But we are also compelled to build community, not only because we are survivors of an existing world order, but because we bring differences into a society that erases our differences. By dealing with differences, we ask ourselves the question of the social and economic foundations of our society. By building a community, we bring some order to the fragmented world.

(Video) 2022 Ikeda Forum | Our Stories Matter: Dialogue As a Way of Knowing, Being, and Becoming

(Video) Matt Meyer - The Importance of Dialogue Across Difference in Peace Movements


What is community and why is it important? ›

A community is a familiar thread used to bring people together to advocate and support each other in the fight to overcome those threats. As human beings, we need a sense of belonging, and that sense of belonging is what connects us to the many relationships we develop.

Why community is important to you? ›

Being part of an engaging community gives us a sense of belonging. It enables us to share personal relatedness and support perpetual growth of each other, ourselves and our environment.

What is the importance of understanding your community dynamics and community action? ›

The Community Dynamics data gives valuable insight into how people feel about the place they live in and can shape decisions about which services are offered in particular neighbourhoods.

Why is community development important? ›

Community development is important because it provides the foundation a city builds off of to improve the lives of its citizens. It creates strong, diverse communities that are able to attract and keep talent, start and grow businesses, and overcome issues that arise.

What is the definition of a community? ›

: a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society. a community of retired persons. a monastic community. : a body of persons of common and especially professional interests scattered through a larger society.

How is community important to students? ›

Studies show that students who give back to the community perform better in school, particularily in subjects such as math, reading, and history. Furthermore, students who participate in community service are also more likely to graduate from high school.

What does your community mean to you? ›

A community is more than just a group of people living in a particular area. A community is a group of people we lean on when times are tough; our friends, family, and neighbors who are there for us when we need love, support and encouragement.

Why is it important to strengthen community action? ›

Strengthen Community Actions

Community development draws on existing human and material resources in the community to enhance self-help and social support, and to develop flexible systems for strengthening public participation in and direction of health matters.

Why is it important for a community to have a community action plan? ›

The plan describes what the community wants to achieve, what activities are required during a specified time period, what resources (money, people and materials) are needed to be successful. A community action plan becomes a framework for implementing the activities that are decided by the community itself.

What is the importance of understanding your community dynamics and 26 and community action for your future career? ›

This initiative aims to cater the primary needs of the communities before implementing it. In such way, **community action** will help the community dynamics or the degree of improvement of the community. It is important to understand these two because these will propel the success and stability of the communities.

What are examples of community? ›

community, also called biological community, in biology, an interacting group of various species in a common location. For example, a forest of trees and undergrowth plants, inhabited by animals and rooted in soil containing bacteria and fungi, constitutes a biological community.

What is community in simple sentence? ›

the people living in one particular area or people who are considered as a unit because of their common interests, social group, or nationality: He's well known in the local community. There's a large black/white/Jewish community living in this area.

What are the 3 types of community? ›

Community types: urban, rural and suburban.

What does community mean in education? ›

Community Education is an effective way to respond to the challenge of improving education at the international, national and local levels of society. It expands the traditional roles of public schools by creating relationships between home, school, and community.

What is community best answer? ›

A community is a social unit (a group of living things) with commonality such as place, norms, religion, values, customs, or identity. Communities may share a sense of place situated in a given geographical area (e.g. a country, village, town, or neighbourhood) or in virtual space through communication platforms.

What makes a great community? ›

A good community is a cohesive, safe, confident, prosperous and happy place. It is free of poverty and crime, providing a high quality of life for everyone that lives there. It values and promotes open, participative development processes underpinned by a continuous culture of trans-generational learning.

What does a strong community mean to you? ›

Strong relationships exist between people in the community. People come together to work toward shared causes. People trust one another. People trust in and feel represented by institutions. There are opportunities for communities to be included in decision making.

What is the importance of community and support? ›

Why are communities so important? Strong communities are critical because they're often an important source of social connection and a sense of belonging. Participating in a community bonded by attitudes, values, and goals is an essential ingredient to enjoying a fulfilling life.

What are the two main purpose of the community action? ›

Building community and social capacity – helping the community to share knowledge, skills and ideas. Community resilience – helping the community to support itself.

What is the main goal of community action? ›

The ultimate aim of community action is to improve public services and give communities more ownership over the services they use. Other key drivers for undertaking community action include financial, political and strategic need.

Why is it important to get the community involved in program planning? ›

Community involvement in program planning requires additional time and activities. In the long run, failure to address community priorities may jeopardize the success of the project since programs need to be valued by the affected community to ensure they are meaningful and sustainable.

Why does your community need to develop an action plan right away? ›

An action plan is an opportunity to turn your dreams for your community or initiative into a reality. It is also an opportunity to make your organization's vision concrete. An action plan outlines the strategies and action steps your organization will use to meet its goals and objectives.

What is a community practice and why are they important and how can they impact the culture within an organization? ›

Communities of practice draw together domain, practice, and members to provide benefits for both the members and the organization. They are a cost-effective way to enhance learning, reduce silos, and promote innovation. And as Wegner said, “We need others to complement and develop our own expertise.”

Why is it important to get your community involved and what will be the benefits of activating people to the cause? ›

Why should we use community engagement? Community engagement increases the visibility and understanding of issues and empowers communities to have their say over decisions that affect their lives, their towns, cities and neighborhoods.

Why is it important to be engaged in the community what are the benefits of community engagement to yourself? ›

Citizens can practice communication and decision-making skills. Empower and integrate people from different backgrounds. Groups that feel ignored can gain greater control over their lives and their community. When people from different areas of the community work together, they often find that they have much in common.

What are two reasons why community is important? ›

Being a part of a community can make us feel as though we are a part of something greater than ourselves. It can give us opportunities to connect with people, to reach for our goals, and makes us feel safe and secure. It's important for every person to have a sense of community.

What are the five roles of the community? ›

The list below describes Warren's five functions with my annotations about evaluating a community for a good fit for my heart's true path.
  • Production, distribution, consumption. ...
  • Socialization. ...
  • Social control. ...
  • Social participation. ...
  • Mutual support.

How do you describe your community? ›

You can define a community by the shared attributes of the people in it and/or by the strength of the connections among them. You need a bunch of people who are alike in some way, who feel some sense of belonging or interpersonal connection.

What are 3 benefits of community? ›

Living in a vibrant community gives people a sense of belonging, which reduces the risk of mental health issues, lowers heart disease mortality, and contributes to better overall health,* says AHC.

What is the most important part of a community? ›

A group of people is the most fundamental or essential characteristic or element of community. This group may be small or large but community always refers to a group of people.

What are some examples of a community? ›

Examples of these types of communities may include the following: Schools. Workplaces. Neighborhood associations.
These groups may consist of the following:
  • Families.
  • Friends.
  • Classmates and teachers.
  • Coworkers.
  • Activity or team members.
Aug 15, 2019

What are the 3 responsibilities at community? ›

Read and comply with the governing documents of the community. Maintain their property according to established standards. Treat association leaders honestly and with respect.

What is an example of community role? ›

Community involvement examples include engaging with, volunteering for or donating to local schools, neighborhood associations, government, and/or nonprofit organizations.

What words best describe community? ›

synonyms for community
  • association.
  • center.
  • company.
  • district.
  • nation.
  • neighborhood.
  • people.
  • public.

What makes a community a true community? ›

To be part of a real community, you need to care about what it is you have in common. To be in a real community, not only do you need to care about the community, but you also need to care about and respect each other. You need to be loyal to one another and build healthy relationships.


1. 2022 Ikeda Forum | Our Stories Matter: Dialogue As a Way of Knowing, Being, and Becoming
(Ikeda Center)
2. Monisha Bajaj - Glimmers of Hope: Peace Education Around the Globe
(Ikeda Center)
3. Anita Patterson - Bringing Lessons of Peace Into the Classroom
(Ikeda Center)
4. Virtual Dialogue Nights | A Conversation on Self-Love
(Ikeda Center)
5. "God and Apple Pie: Religious Myths and Visions of America" | Chris Buck
(Wilmette Institute)
6. A new paradigm for peace | Han Park | TEDxUGA
(TEDx Talks)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Terrell Hackett

Last Updated: 08/04/2023

Views: 5298

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (52 voted)

Reviews: 91% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Terrell Hackett

Birthday: 1992-03-17

Address: Suite 453 459 Gibson Squares, East Adriane, AK 71925-5692

Phone: +21811810803470

Job: Chief Representative

Hobby: Board games, Rock climbing, Ghost hunting, Origami, Kabaddi, Mushroom hunting, Gaming

Introduction: My name is Terrell Hackett, I am a gleaming, brainy, courageous, helpful, healthy, cooperative, graceful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.