What is Community? Explained with definitions.


Most of the time you might have questions in your mind that what exactly a community is, this blog will explain what is a community with various definition and prospects.Lets get started.

The community has been a primary emphasis of social work practice since its inception. Communities are one of the many social systems that impact peoples’ lives and shape their individual and group identities. People are born in social environments, they grow, mature and learn about and form impressions of social systems. They also build individual and collective identities through linkages that connect them to life-long community experiences.

Community offers the environment and setting for social work at all levels of intervention. For social workers involved in direct practise at the micro level there is need to comprehend the macro-environment in which their client groups live and work, how the resources are made accessible to them and how community dynamics effect individual behaviour. For macro level social workers whose practise is centred on program planning and administration, Community is important to their job. It is also the aim or vehicle for change where interventions are designed to address broader social problems that affect a big group of individuals.


Community is a set of descriptions of what is implied. It is essentially a subjective experience that defies an objective definition. It is felt and experienced rather than measured and defined.
The definition of community is linked to its construct. It is useful to look at it from a historical perspective as well as from the geographical and ideological backgrounds in which it evolved.
Robert Bellah defines community as “a group of people who are socially interdependent, who participate together in discussion and decision making, and who share certain practices that both define the community and are nurtured by it”
According to Foundation for Community Encouragement “A community is a group of two or more people who have been able to accept and transcend their differences regardless of the diversity of their backgrounds (social, spiritual, educational, ethnic, economic, political, etc.). This enables them to communicate effectively and openly and to work together toward goals identified as being for their common good.”
Bryon Munon (1968) defines “A community is a relatively self-sufficient population, residing in a limited geographic area, bound together by feelings of unity and interdependency.”.
C. Farrington and E Pine define a community as a “ group of people lined by a communications structure supporting discussion and collective action.”
Random House Unabridged Dictionary has many meanings on the term community. The meanings that are closest to social worker’s profession are as follows.

  1. It can be a social group of any size with members who all live in the same locality, share a common government, and all share a common cultural and historical history. An organization or group of people who have common features or interests but who view themselves as distinct in some way from the greater society in which they live, such as a business community or a group of academics. 
  2. The names "community," "Hamlet," "village," "town," and "city" refer to groups of people who live in close proximity to one another and who follow a set of laws. The phrase "community" refers to a broad concept, whereas the term "town" is frequently used in a figurative sense.
  3. According to a widely acknowledged set of connotations, a hamlet is a small gathering of people, a village is a little larger group, a town is even larger, and a city is quite large. Size, on the other hand, is not the actual source of difference, but rather just distinguishes a hamlet from another. The presence or lack of incorporation, as well as the kind of government, define the categorisation of the others.

There is also the concept of a Virtual Community, which is distinct from the traditional community.

  1. Virtual communities, also known as e-communities, are groups of people who primarily interact through communication media such as newsletters, telephone calls, emails, and instant messages rather than face-to-face interactions for social, professional, educational, and other purposes rather than face-to-face interactions with one another.
  2.  Whenever the method is a computer network, the group is referred to as a "online community." Additionally, virtual and online communities have emerged as a complementary mode of communication for those who are primarily acquainted in person with one another. 
  3. There are several different types of means that are used in social software, either individually or in combination, including text-based chatrooms and forums that use voice, videotext, or avatars. It is possible that the growth of such Internet-based social networks has resulted in significant socio-technical transformation in society.

Also feasible is the creation and usage of virtual networks by geographically and interest-bound communities to promote social uplift and take collective action in the name of justice. As an illustration, consider the instance of village blogs, which were established by peasants in Goa in order to take on the powerful mining lobby. 

Understanding Community 

A community can come in an infinite number of shapes and social arrangements. It can also have a large population or a small one. Communities are made up of relationships and people who have the same ideas and want to do the same things. In addition, these social relationships and shared perceptions go beyond time, structure, and location, as well. Some communities are based on shared beliefs, values, or interests, and they are formed by people who live together. These groups don't have to be in the same place or have the same physical structure.

The best way to understand communities is to look at them from the Social work is based on both sociological and practitioner ideas. This is because the field of social work has grown, and people have been trying out community organizations as a way to practice social work.

The Community Construct: Sociological Perspectives

  1. In the late 1800s, a German sociologist named Ferdinand Tonnies was thought to be the person who came up with the concept of community. He looked at the relationships that make up communities and came up with two different names for them: Gemeinschaft and Gesselschaft.
  2. In the Gemeinschaft communities, people build friendships that are natural, informal, and face-to-face. People are accepted for who they are and for their natural abilities. This kind of human relationship can be seen in families, small groups, and traditional communities like the one we live in now.
  3. Gesselschaft communities are based on rational self-interest and have a more artificial feel to them. They pay more attention to specialized and segmented social interactions. The individual's needs are more important than the needs of the group. People have a lot of common goals and make a lot of agreements when they interact with each other. There is a lot of division of labor and social control is more formal, based on laws and rules with formal punishments for breaking them, like getting in trouble at school.
  4. This is mostly because of the rise of industrial capitalism in Europe and the United States at the end of the 19th century, which was causing major changes in the way people interact with each other.
  5. Because both types of community life are important in Indian society now, one can't be more important than the other. The people in rural, urban, and tribal communities all have different types of relationships with each other that are different from each other. If you think of them as the ends of a long line of human interaction, you can think of them as both informal personal relationships and formal institutional structures that are part of today's world.
  6. Because communities are so complex and multifaceted, no single conceptual framework can be used as a good theoretical foundation for understanding community.
Besides the above, two more things are important to know about communities. These are: as) a group of people who live together in the same place or area

Geographically Defined Community

  1. Brueggemann, 2006, says that a community needs to be embodied in order to exist. This means that it needs a physical space that represents the community for its members and for people who aren't in the community. Bounded is called a community that is based on where you live. Often, the boundaries of this community are set by a well-known person or group. 
  2. This could be the Panchayat, the Mohalla, the Municipal government, or a zoning commission. Also, the community can be found in physical places like a panchayat ghar or chaupal. These places are places where people can come together to talk about things like politics or religion. Geography-based communities are also called that because they're all in the same place and area, like Okhla, Harinagar, Ambedkar Nagar, etc.

Communities of Interest

  1. This refers to communities that aren't based on shared space but on shared interests or characteristics that unite members and give each person a sense of who they are. Communities of interest are often made up of things like race, ethnicity, religion, culture, social class, job, and sexual orientation. Because these communities are based on who you are and what you care about, you carry the community with you. 
  2. As an example, one can talk about the caste Mahapanchayats, which are a way to build community identity and protect the interests of the whole community. Communities can also be made up of alumni groups and old boys and girls groups. There could be groups based on professional interests, like the Indian Medical Association, the Engineers of India, or the Traders Association. 
  3. There could also be groups like the Indian Medical Association, the Engineers of India, or the Traders Association. As a result, there can also be language, religious, and cultural links. Karnatic Music group, West Bengal Mountaineering Association, Positive People's Network, Fish Workers Forum, Dalit Writers' Association, Schizophrenic Association of India, Association of Professional Social Workers in India, and so on are some of the groups you could say about. The term "functional community" is also used to describe them. They also work with groups like child laborers, sex workers, and so on.
  4. Some communities of interest and locality-based communities are mixed up. For example, when a lot of people in a residential area belong to one or more specific interest groups, like the slum and shack dwellers associations in Mumbai, the Mahila Milan in Delhi, and so on. Most people who live in cities belong to more than one community, with different levels of interest and involvement. T
  5. hese multiple community affiliations can be thought of as one's own personal community network. They represent a variety of local and interest-based groups that connect the person to others and the larger society. It is important to know that the person is spread out across different groups and in a variety of formal and informal systems in the community that help or hurt them. These are important tools for figuring out where an individual is in a social setting, which helps you make more realistic intervention plans that connect the different levels of human interaction, from micro to macro.

Community Construct: Social Work Perspective

In addition to the foregoing, a community's understanding Kirst-Ashma (2008) proposes that community theories can be thought of as a set of lenses that focus on various aspects of community, each highlighting particular facets of the community, its dynamics, and the ways in which it affects the lives of its members. Three frameworks are thought to be beneficial for examining a community through the lens of a social work practitioner. These are 
  • as a social system;
  •  as an ecological system; and 
  •  as a source of conflict and power. Let us examine each of the points mentioned.

a) The Community as a Socioeconomic System: 

  • Social workers employ general systems theory to make sense of a variety of phenomena they experience in social reality. A system is considered a collection of interdependent components that interact in an organized, functional manner. Additionally, systems are embedded inside bigger systems, giving a framework for comprehending the relationships between the systems' many levels. For instance, an individual may be viewed as a component of a family or kinship group; the family or kinship group may exist within a community; the community may exist within a stagnation or society; thus, a system perspective provides a useful framework for comprehending the community's structure and the processes that connect the structural elements.
  • This presupposes that the community is formed of a collection of subsystems that conduct specific functions in order to meet the community's demands. Those subsystems' actions are viewed as coordinated and integrated in ways that benefit the community as a whole. The many social units and processes within a community are stated to perform five major roles. These are the processes of production distribution, consumption, socialisation, social control, social engagement, and mutual assistance.
  • Social workers must conduct a critical examination of how their client groups' subsystems meet or fail to satisfy their needs. Community assessment is a tool that can be used to determine both the community's needs and strengths. These must also be understood in relation to the global systems that have an effect on and impinge on these functions. These worldwide consequences may be tied to the way globalization, privatisation, and the erosion of the social safety net affect communities' lives and livelihoods.

b)  Community as an Ecological System

  • In this community, the environment is viewed as a symbiotic relationship. Between the numerous components of the society, regular exchange interactions exist in which each component contributes and receives in symbiotic relationships with the other components. There is a clear dependency between the various components that allow for the achievement of balance. It introduces what is known as a geo-cultural approach, in which geographical factors (land-use patterns and service distribution) of a particular area interact with the community's population characteristics (such as size, density, and diversity) and technology (production of goods and services, transportation, communication, etc) Physical characteristics are critical in determining the patterns of interaction in a community. The spatial relationship between individual groups and resources (water, land, and road) is governed by the community's social dynamics. As a result, lower caste communities are frequently dispersed around the hamlet.
  • Thus, significant territorial borders are not only physical in nature, but also social and psychological in nature, serving as a representation of the social hierarchy.
  • Additionally, this perspective enables social workers to comprehend how community structures emerge through dynamic processes of 
    • competition (competition between various groups for common-pool resources) and 
    • dominance (dominance of a particular group or caste in determining service delivery and access to services) and
    •  centralization (concentration of economic and social resources in the hands of particular groups – clustering of these in one area, say the Panchayat).
    •   succession (the process by which migrants move to less desirable areas as part of a natural process before moving up when conditions improve or they can afford better housing) and
    •  segregation (the process by which migrants cannot move to new areas due to antipathy from other groups—the sub groups function as isolated communities—for example, the Seelampur Jhuggi clusters in the northeast of Delhi.
These characteristics can be investigated over time by examining the spatial distribution, the concentration of resources and facilities, and the location of communities using Geographical Information Systems. These assist us in comprehending the relationship between the community's physical and social environments. Additionally, the community's social structure evolves over time, and the necessary corrections become readily apparent, as do the kind of interventions that could be implemented.

 C.Community as a Seat of Power and Conflict

  • The concept extends beyond the perspective of the social system, which views community as a collection of functionally distinct subsystems. Conflicts of interest and disagreements are downplayed, as is domination. While there is recognition of dominance, concentration, and centralization in the ecological system, little thought is given to how to deal with differences and inequitable resource distribution. How can social workers seek to effect changes in the society that will help persons with less power to achieve their basic needs more effectively?
  • Community as a locus of power and conflict is a concept that views power and politics as important to our understanding of community. It is predicated on the premise that conflict and change are essential characteristics of the majority of communities. Community decision-making is viewed as a process that involves not only rational planning, collaboration, and coordination, but also confrontation and negotiation.
  • Communities are viewed as venues in which contending factions are perpetually at odds for power and control of finite resources. Often, certain groups dominate others based on socioeconomic class, caste, religious, linguistic, and regional affiliations. There is a perpetual process of bargaining and confrontation between individuals involved in order to meet their basic needs. At times, the struggle is settled in favor of the marginalized, supported by the institutional presence of the law, judiciary, and administration; at other times, the institutions take a contrary position, and the conflict is resolved in favour of the powerful. This perspective enables social workers to comprehend community power structures, the processes by which decisions to favour or condemn groups are made, the ways in which conflict positions are taken and perpetuated, and the role that change agents should play in strengthening the capacity of those lower in the hierarchy to effect change. 
  • These difficulties are particularly pronounced in urban, rural, and tribal settings when populations are denied access to resources based on their social origins, economic circumstances, or political allegiance. Riots between castes and communities are an extreme manifestation of conflicting positions.


Thank You


Contact Form