A community has been defined as a group of interacting people living in a common location. The word is often used to refer to a group that is organized around common values and is attributed with social cohesion within a shared geographical location, generally in social units larger than a household. The word can also refer to the national community or global community. The word "community" is derived from the Old French communité which is derived from the Latin communitas (cum, "with/together" + munus, "gift"), a broad term for fellowship or organized society.
Understanding a community entails having knowledge of community needs and resources, having respect for community members, and involving key community members in programs.
The author Robert Putnam refers to the value which comes from social networks as social capital in his book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. He writes that social capital "makes an enormous difference in our lives", that "a society characterized by generalized reciprocity is more efficient that a distrustful society" and that economic sociologists have shown a minimized economic wealth if social capital is lacking.
Putnam reports that the first use of the social capital theory was by L. J. Hanifan, a practical reformer during the Progressive Era in the United States of America. The following description of social capital is a quote from L.J. Hanifan in Putnam's Book:
Those tangible substances [that] count for most in the daily lives of people: namely good will, fellowship, sympathy, and social intercourse among individuals and families who make up a social unit.... The individual is helpless socially, if left to himself.... If he comes into contact with neighbor, and they with other neighbors, there will be an accumulation of social capital, which may immediately satisfy his social needs and which may bear a social potentiality sufficient to the substantial improvement of living conditions in the whole community. The community as a whole will benefit by the cooperation of all its parts, while the individual will find in his associations the advantages of the help, sympathy, and fellowship of his neighbors.
Putnam reported that many studies have shown that the highest predictor of job satisfaction is the presence of social connection in the workplace. He writes that "people with friends at work are happier at work." And that "social networks provide people with advice, a bonus, a promotion, and other strategic information, and letters of recommendation."
Community engagement has been proven to counteract the most negative attributes of poverty and a high amount of social capital has been shown to reduce crime.
"Social connectedness matters to our lives in the most profound way." -Robert Putnam.
Robert Putnam reports, in the chapter Health and Happiness from his book Bowling Alone, that recent public research shows social connection impacts all areas of human health, this includes psychological and physical aspects of human health. Putnam says "...beyond a doubt that social connectedness is one of the most powerful determinates of our well being." In particular it is face to face connections which have been show to have greater impacts then non-face to face relationships.
Specific health benefits of strong social relationships are a decrease in the likelihood of: seasonal viruses, heart attacks, strokes, cancer, depression, and premature death of all sorts.
There are online initiatives to improve local community's like LOCAL (www.localchange.com).
Sustainability in community programs is the capacity of programs (services designed to meet the needs of community members) to continuously respond to community issues.
A sustained program maintains a focus consonant with its original goals and objectives, including the individuals, families, and communities it was originally intended to serve. Programs change regarding the breadth and depth of their programming. Some become aligned with other organizations and established institutions, whereas others maintain their independence. Understanding the community context in which programs serving the community function has an important influence on program sustainability and success. See table:
|Sustainability elements->||Middle-range program results->||Ultimate result|
|Leadership competence. Effective collaboration. Understanding the community. Demonstrating program results. Strategic funding. Staff involvement and integration. Program responsivity.||Participant needs met. Confidence in program survival. Effective sustainability planning.||Sustainability.|