So what is a community?

A couple of weeks ago we asked whether the local government twitter community could help CLG define what community is – now with the Localism Bill now just days away, I thought I’d better collate all the #ComDef suggestions (thank you very much to all who contributed) and see what key ideas and themes emerge. Many people that I’ve spoken to on and offline over these few weeks have remarked that this was an ‘impossible’ task, a sentiment summed up rather well by Louise Kidney when she tweeted 

Putting all contributions in to Wordle (which is a tool I recommend everyone interested in online communications to explore and experiment with) allowed for some instant and interesting insight to come through (see above).

I suppose it isn’t really too surprising that all the current buzzwords rose to the top – people, society, services, innovation, support, local, big.  What does this suggest then? To me, it’s that any true attempt to define a community has to develop ‘organically’ from the people who participate in that society. Community in one environment then is different to community in another. As James Cousins tweeted –

What this also suggests is that any geographical sense of community is beginning to be overtaken by issue-based relationships – many of which are rooted in online participation. With recent announcements of planed improvements to broadband services, surely these online communities are only going to grow in strength and influence?

We’ll find out on Thursday exactly what #comdef  Eland House came up with. As soon as I spot it, I’ll share it on twitter and the LGIU Localism Bill *LIVE* page. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this rather romantic suggestion from Ben Proctor –

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    1. James says:

      What interests me (coming as I do from a planning perspective though not a planner myself) is how a geographical community (or neighbourhood) is expected to unite around a ‘plan’ when the members of the geographical community are different in their membership of social, economic, housing, cultural etc. communities.

      The government’s drive for neighbourhood plans, welcome in the sense of theoretically giving power back to the people, does not really indicate how it sees this problem being resolved. Instead of the tension being between local authorities and residents, it may become tension between different groups of residents and their differing interests.

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