In the dictionary a community is a “group of people living in the same place with common characteristics” and the sense of community as “a feeling of fellowship with others” again with the emphasis of those “with common attitudes, intents and goals”.
The Stanford Social Innovation Review says it is “a sense of trust, belonging, safety and caring for each other” This review makes a clear distinction that it is not a place, buildings or an organisation but that it is both a feeling and “a set of relationships among people”.
This report also emphasises that people form and maintain communities to meet common human needs. So what are these needs and what needs are satisfied?
I feel these needs include the need to be with others working or playing with a common purpose. There is the sense of shared experience and the review suggests this feeling is fundamental to human existence which is why we seek it. They say that people know who is or isn’t part of their community, which probably comes from our tribal roots where such knowledge was essential for survival. Today this exclusivity although very present and obvious may be a negative trait for our survival, when our means of combat are so much more powerful than those in the past.
Community can appear in many different contexts including neighbourhoods, interest groups and places of faith. Technology has meant community has become possible in ways not possible even a decade ago.
In exploring whether these definitions of community embrace what people are searching for when they say they want to live in community or does the latter refer only to the idea of living overnight in the same proximity to a group of other people.
What people are searching for is the sense of community and as identified before this is something that is not constant so it could be possible to feel it across a broad spectrum of the contexts mentioned.
Different types of communities serve that same need of feeling connected to a group of others with whom there is something in common like a faith, values, beliefs, interests, hobbies etc I believe this feeling may arise if the connection is via the internet, Skype, Phone or in person.
However when there is the statement made that we need more community to solve the problems of racial, social, creed, sexual or any other prejudices then surely the type of community that embraces only those of common interest maybe not the solution. However an online interest group may extend across many other barriers and so break them down in that way.