NOTE: If you ask a group of people to write one definition of community using only 15 words, each definition could be different. If you allowed more words you will still find differences but more similarities would emerge. The following are some definitions that have evolved over time.


I try to make a distinction between Community Building (a process), A Community (a group of 2 or more people), and Being in Community (a state of being). These all mean something different, yet all are related, but are often confused when talking about them. I like listing principles of community or attitudes of community rather than a single definition because attitudes and principles are easier to understand and put in practice. These definitions may not fit the bill for a new generation community, but I generally find them acceptable working definitions until a group otherwise defines community in terms of their task.

Definition 1. Community is a way of relating to other persons as brothers and sisters who share a common origin, a common dignity, and a common destiny. Community involves learning to live in terms of an interconnected "we" more than an isolated "I'. It involves making choices which reinforce the experience of relatedness and foster the sense of belonging and interdependence. Community begins, but does not end, in our face to face relationships with the persons who are closest to us. ..from Making Life Choices by Margaret Betz

Foundation for Community Encouragement Definitions:

Definition 2. (Taken from Preparation and Guidelines for Community Building)

A community is best defined as a group of people who, regardless of the diversity of their backgrounds, have been able to accept and transcend their differences, enabling them to communicate effectively and openly and to work together toward goals identified as being for their common good.

Definition 3 . ( taken from an untitled, 4 page handout they often used in mailings)

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.

The word community. . . can refer to a specific group of people (a geographical community, a church congregation) or it can describe a quality of relationship based on certain values and principles.

Definition 4 . (Community Building Process taken from brochure titled “1996 Schedule of Events”)

Reaching community is both intentional and challenging. The group process requires that an individual give up learned defenses and habitual way of behaving. Through increased responsibility, risk and vulnerability of its members, a group develops into a "safe place" providing an environment of acceptance, appreciation of human diversity, and nurturance of personal growth, healing and self-discovery.

Definition 5. (Taken from the “1996 The Community Continuity Conference brochure)

[sic] Emptiness is a central to the community building process. A challenging place to enter and inhabit emptiness is fertile ground for the growth of personal insights and deeper relationships. Community Building is a powerful process - a technology and a discipline -which helps us learn about ourselves and relate to others in new ways.

Definition 6. (Taken from Leadership Program Participants pre work manual --dated Sept. 1994)

A Learning Community is a group that can live the experience of authentic community. Competent and capable of vulnerable and authentic communication, individuals have developed their capacity to attend simultaneously to their own and the group's consciousness.

Definition 7. (From Community Insights -the booklet provided at the end of a workshop)

(The stage of) Community is the goal. When this stage is reached the full range of emotions can be expressed. Even though community is the goal, it is not a static state that once reached never changes. Community can be palpable to some and very subtle to others.

See Principles of Community to expand these definitions. (click)

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