The history of communities date back to the Stone Age or even beyond that. In fact, Community as a concept is said to have evolved from a Herd or a Pack. Take a Lion or a Wolf for example. There are distinct advantages an animal gets – by being a member of a Herd or Pack. First and foremost, there is greater strength in numbers. Second, there is a well-established hierarchy in almost every pack. Role of every member of the group is well defined. Thirdly, food / other resources are shared between all members of the herd / pack – in specific ways. Of course, younger members of the Pack are fed / cared for. Most importantly – there is a Bond that develops between members of a herd / pack – and it is this bond that is crucial for the survival of the species in the long run.

Applying the same logic to human communities – we might say – living in Groups (or Communities) has enabled man to achieve a much higher degree of Division of Labor. The entire foundation of Modern Society as we know it today – is based on this one facet – division of labor. If everybody had to do everything on their own – we’d never have gotten to the point of civilization – where we are today.

Now when we take into account some Social Issues / Problems – we find that the people who are affected by these social issues – invariably belong to our own community. And yet, most people are indifferent to many of our social problems.

It’s aptly said – ‘Impossible is a word found in the dictionary of fools’. This is very much true in Case of any social issue / problem that we can imagine. In reality, there is no dearth of resources, no scarcity of manpower and certainly no lack of time that people can spend towards creating a better society. If we, as a society have as many social issues / problems as we have today – it’s largely because of our indifferent attitude. If all members of a community are equally sensitive and responsive to each other’s’ needs / sentiments – such a community will not have any major social issues. This observation can be made for any community / society.

Illustration by Vishnu Raj Maniyil

Now in solving some of our most widespread social problems – people who are part of various communities – have to play a significant role. If one is looking at creating / joining such a community – there are some distinct advantages – both for members of each community and also to the society as a whole.

Benefits to Community members

  • Better understanding of various Social Issues / problems – By joining an Appropriate Community – students / citizens can gain a better understanding of some of our society’s most serious Social Issues / Problems. This awareness is very critical to enable them to become Active Citizens
  • Opportunity to contribute time and efforts for a good cause – By joining a community – members get opportunities to contribute their time and effort towards a good cause. This helps in molding their personalities
  • Internal Satisfaction – From an individual member’s perspective – there can be no greater motivation / incentives for joining a community – than Internal Satisfaction. It is something that cannot be quantified. Once members of a community start getting Internal Satisfaction from the work they do – they usually stick with their respective communities for life.
  • Values based Learning – In the present day – education has become more of a Business than anything else. Values based education has taken a backseat. This needs to change. And the best way to change it – is to have Communities (and their members) work on some of our challenging social problems. This is called Service Learning – and it goes a long way in building a Society’s Character.
  • Scope for Innovation – When students / people come together in communities – there is ample scope for innovation. Like many other problems, Social Problems too can be tackled by Innovation. There is this one aspect about innovation that make it interesting, promising and rewarding (especially for youngsters) – and that is – ‘Innovation never goes by the book’. If it goes by the book – then it’s not Innovation.
  • Sense of Belonging – We all Belong to some person / place. Our sense of belonging is an important part of our identity. By joining a community – an individual can gain an additional layer of belonging. It is this sense of belonging that helps members of a community become more dedicated / passionate.

Benefits to Society

  • Optimum utilization of resources – Resources are by nature unevenly distributed in the physical environment. This is also true in case of wealth / income distribution within the society. In order to achieve a more equitable distribution of income and wealth in the society – communities (and their members) need to work together over a considerably long period of time. If communities are able to achieve at least a partial balance in terms of distribution of income / wealth – then the efforts undertaken by the Community members can be considered to be a success.
  • Greater Inclusion and Tolerance – When people come together, join communities and work towards solving each other’s problems – they gain a better appreciation for each other’s place in society. This fosters a greater degree of inclusion and Tolerance. An Inclusive and Tolerant society is naturally more amenable to change and all round progress.
  • More equitable distribution of income and wealth – As already mentioned above – presence of Active Communities in the society – ultimately leads to a more equitable distribution of income and wealth. In such a society – there are no extremely poor or extremely rich people. Further, everybody is ready to go that extra mile to ensure that this balance is maintained.
  • Greater Influence / More bargaining power – When a society has a number of active Communities who are constantly working towards its progress – such a society starts having a positive influence on other societies / countries. Further, due to the presence of Active Citizens / Communities – it increases the bargaining power of the citizens against the government. Basically the citizens can demand for and get various benefit scheme / incentives that are announced by the government. So instead of a Push model (where the government doles out benefits to citizens) – the society can transition to a Pull Model (where citizens demand stuff from the government to achieve progress).
  • Sustainability and long term survival – Where there is equality, dynamism and a progressive attitude among all the citizens – such a society can survive for a much longer time. Sustainability here refers to the capacity of the society to weather through rough / challenging times. It also means that such a society would be more or less immune to external influences that might retard progress.
  • Healthy Core Values of the Community – Ultimately, everything boils down to core values. If communities engage with each other in a progressive manner – the society cannot deteriorate so easily. So the job of every individual, family and community – should be to instill, protect, preserve and propagate Uplifting Ideals / Human Values. The rest will automatically take care of itself.

To sum up – importance of having communities – cannot be overlooked or understated. Communities bind citizens together in a fabric of Humanity. And Humanity is what it takes to achieve ever lasting peace and prosperity.