What do we mean by community? (part 2)

What do we mean by community?
(part 2)


In a previous message, I talked about community as a feeling: "a feeling of fellowship with others," to be exact. However, when we talk about a community or communities at Step Up (like when we discuss our partner communities in the Neighborhood Residency), we mean something different.

When we talk about communities, we mean a group of people that has the following qualities:

  1. Gravitational Center: a place or activity that pulls people together
  2. Sustained Involvement: people are pulled back together again and again over time
  3. Social Significance: being part of the community is a meaningful part of one's identity

It might be helpful to illustrate this with an example:

My grandmother has lived in a small Iowa town for most of her life. When she was a young mother, she and a few other young mothers on the block would get together once a month to play cards. They called this "Mothers Night Out," or "MNO" for short. They would take turns hosting the evening, but a few things stayed constant: the card playing, snacks to eat (usually bridge mix), and husbands and children weren't allowed. As the decades passed, some of the women moved away from the small town and the card games became more and more infrequent. But the "MNO Ladies", as they call themselves, share a bond that hasn't weakened. They've watched each other's children grow up, they've supported each other through illness, and they've celebrated marriages and grandchildren. They've attended the funerals of spouses, children, and each other.

This is a perfect example of a community:

  1. The monthly card game was it's gravitational center - what brought them together.
  2. The community has lasted for decades, despite some of them moving away or becoming too old to play cards.  (sustained involvement)
  3. Being a part of this community really meant something - even in their 80's they still refer to each other as the "MNO Ladies.". (social significance)

Neighborhoods are full of diverse communities and any given neighbor might belong to many at the same time. The way all of those communities fit together is a big part of what makes each neighborhood unique. Do you know of a Chicago community with whom you think Step Up should consider partnering? Do you belong to such a community? Please click the button below to tell us all about it!

    Brad Akin