Creating vibrant communities

Women’s Academy for Political and Leadership Excellency, (Walpe), in partnership with African Women's Initiative in Developing Economies (Awide), is training women in communities to enhance their participation in all leadership positions, local and national.

Brighton Taruberekera
AN ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle once said that man is a social animal, which means that people are not meant to live their lives in isolation.

The drive to seek and maintain interpersonal relations is a basic need. We need each other. We need the acceptance, presence, and comfort of others.

That way we develop our potential, shape our identity, gain knowledge and learn life skills. Community is the best example of how people get along with each other.

The term community describes people who share a particular place and the resources located there. A community is defined on the basis of geographical location, interests or identity. In a community, people have shared interests, ties, and some form of identity.

A community is where people live and interact. Interaction is based on common interests and identity in terms of origin, culture, practices, beliefs, ethnicity and nationality.

A community forms or develops as a result of relationships and expectations among people who are geographically close to each other.

In a community, people interact with each other at multiple levels. They might meet at a school for education; at a borehole to collect water; at the local shopping centre to buy groceries, or they may gather to solve a common problem or to celebrate a happy event.

As a result of the continuous interaction, society becomes organised around common values in a specific geographical space. A sense of belonging develops around shared identity and interests.

Community in the Information Age

Today, people have instant access to information and knowledge through computers, the internet, and social media. Technology has made it easier for people to get connected across vast distances and between remote regions.

Due to easy access to information and connectivity, the concept of community has evolved to transcend geographical and political boundaries.

Modern information technologies have given rise to “online communities”.

Online communities are groups of people who come together through the internet or social media for a common purpose, interest or vision. They use chat rooms, mailing lists and forums as their primary mode of interaction.

Online communities form around hobbies, special interests, creators, influencers, and even companies and their products. They take many forms and express themselves in multiple ways.

Vibrant communities

A vibrant community is a place where all people can meet their socio-economic, physical, cultural, and spiritual needs; work together for the common good, and participate in creating their future. It requires leaders with a community development agenda to create vibrant communities.

Community development is not only a pathway to creating a vibrant community but also indicates the vibrancy of the community.

But what is community development? To answer this question, we first need to understand what development is.

Development is a process of transforming the infrastructure, socio-economic, environmental, and other aspects of life. It is about expanding the productive capacity of public and private institutions — large and small, rural and urban — at a sustainable pace.

Development involves encouraging the use of potentially productive resources as well as adopting appropriate technologies and institutions.

The focus of development is on enhancing opportunities for the poor, alleviating poverty, creating better health services, improving the quality of education and reducing infant mortality, among other gains.

Development is not only about satisfying basic human needs, but is also about developing people’s productive capacity and potential.

Development should be sustainable. In facilitating the empowerment of the current generations, it is necessary to ensure that the environment is well taken care of for successive generations.

A point has been made that community development is not only a pathway to creating a vibrant community but also indicates the vibrancy of the community.

Having laid out the parameters of development, the second question that arises is: What is community development?

“Community development” refers to a set of activities undertaken by individuals or groups in a given society to eradicate poverty, social injustices, and other socio-economic ills. It embraces the principles, practices, and values that make a society a better place to live in.

At the heart of community development is the provision of basic human needs — food (and water), shelter, education and healthcare. It aims to improve a community’s living conditions by encouraging community members to help themselves.

The forthcoming book, Ideas that Work; A Community Leader’s Handbook, is designed to answer questions on community development and brings forth actionable ideas on projects, programmes, actions, values and campaigns that are worth pursuing for the betterment of the community. The above is an excerpt from the book.