In our present world when we talk about community in public at all we usually talk about it in terms of deficit, as an artificial entity that has to be fixed or made better, or as a story-line in Public Relations to promote ourselves and attract tourists.
For a Peer Leader these are both superficial understandings, and limited as practices of community.
Communities are extensions of ourselves, and express the ways we understand ourselves and interact with one another.
It would be more insightful, and more useful, if we understood that when you put a person with an innate sense of being attuned to his or her surroundings, and who is also socially ‘wired’, into close proximity with others, the result is the variety of human made versions of community we see in history.
But before we look at communities in history, it is more beneficial for a Peer Leader to look at the actuality of our present idea of community, what it is composed of and how it works.
Looking closely at any gathering of people living together in a defined space we see that any community is made up of:
- Their Associations
- ‘Services’ towards the “common good” ie maintaining some degree of equitable functioning of the whole
- Narratives – popular ideas and fictions- news sources local national global – (all related to the functioning of our ‘Autobiographical Self’)
The primary dynamics, or motivators, for action in a community are:
- Meeting Needs – physical, social/emotional, intellectual, spiritual
- Expressing Desire, our core passion to live and experience
- Searching for and creating Identity
The ways that people meet their needs, express their desire, and search for identity, is then extended to their relationship to their physical surroundings-which would imply that physical communities are ultimately the expression of our prevailing consciousness in a particular era.
Consequently, primary energies in a community flow or manifest – in an order of importance determined by the consciousness of an era- in the following areas of endeavor:
- Commerce and technology
- Politic/ Advocacy/ Management of Services
- Education and Learning
- Recreation and leisure
All these areas of activity in community are extensions of ourselves, and platforms for the exercise of our creativity, while remaining basically reflective of our consciousness of ourselves and our surroundings in a given period.
Consequently, any significant approach to community can not be primarily conceptual or theoretical or managerial alone, but one that is based in the multiple demands and consequent complexity, or messiness, of real life, and inspired by the hope and intent that our approach will produce useful outcomes for the positive welfare of all its citizens.