The Concept of ‘Community’

Community development is nothing without ‘community.’ One of the reasons it is so difficult to define community development is because of the diversity of communities and the diversity of the people within them! Generally speaking, the term ‘community’ refers to a group of people who share a common identity or interest. A community might share one or more of the following common identities or interests:
    • Socio-economic class – level of advantage or disadvantage experienced
    • Geographical location – suburb, state, council area
    • Cultural values – religion, heritage, beliefs, attitudes
    • Gender, age or ability
    • Race or ethnicity
    • Workplace, school or other place of congregation
    • Or, it may be self-defined on the basis of shared political or other special interests (e.g. a sports team or humanitarian group) 1
To be considered a community, these people will typically join together to demonstrate and celebrate their commonality, express solidarity or pursue common goals. For example, not all people who live in the same neighbourhood are actively involved with each other, they may not be considered a community. A person’s community is less about where they live and more about the relationships they have. 2

Community is about doing something together that makes belonging matter.

– Brian Solis

Community Development, especially in community centres, work will traditionally target a community of a geographical location, e.g. a suburb, catchment area, neighbourhood. However, some work may also be aimed at different communities within that geographical location, e.g. people in that suburb with a lower socio-economic status, women, ethnic minorities, seniors.

A Moment of Reflection...

Consider the different identities and interests that communities might share.

  • How many communities do you belong to?
  • In what ways are these communities connected? What is their common interest or characteristic?
  • How do these communities come together or connect?
  • Do you belong to any online or virtual communities? How is connection different?

Post your answers in the comments at the bottom of this page! See what communities others are involved in and how they connect.

The way a community is defined can effect the work done to develop and empower them. Click on the Next Topic button below to begin A Global Perspective of Community Development.
  1. Kenny, S. and Connors, P. (2017) Developing communities for the future. Cengage Learning.

  2. Moore, T., McDonald, M., McHugh-Dillon, H. & West, S. (2016). Community engagement. A key strategy for improving outcomes for Australian families (no. 39). Child Family Community Australia. Accessed on 18/01/23 at
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