“Every successful individual knows that his or her achievement depends on a community of persons working together.” – Paul Ryan
Humans are made to live and work with others; we are social beings evolved to exist within communities. The quality of the communities productive to the degree of engagement and happiness individuals can draw from community interactions and sadly some communities promote feelings of self-doubt and isolation.
Positive communities are groups that inspire their members in ways that promote sense self-discovery and group connection, encouraging members to express their beliefs and values, as well as build relationships with others.
The Importance of Positive Communities
Involvement in a positive and encouraging community has a tangible impact on individual self-awareness and fulfillment. Positive experiences with communities allow individuals to feel more connected to their environment and the people in it. This form of connection also provides a support system for members when they are in need of encouragement or sympathy. The strong feelings of connection to the group also work to combat any mental illness that can arise from alienation in the form of anxiety and depression.
Positive community experiences also provide members with a sense of belonging and the feeling of being able to express themselves without feeling judged. Communities that excel at promoting this feeling of belonging encourage members to speak up about their ideas and opinions, which, in turn, leads to members considering their positions from a deeper perspective. Involvement in positive and encouraging communities facilitates self-reflection and exploration of core values and beliefs.
10 Traits of Positive Communities
Positive communities may differ in what they encourage and how their values get implemented into policy, but, overall, these groups share ten characteristics:
Work Together for a Common Goal
The most effective communities share similar values and belief systems that cooperate to help accomplish one or several goals. These goals can vary radically depending on the community in question. For example, one community may value environmental goals such as promoting recycling and making forest areas more friendly to wildlife while another community may put more value on improving the education system.
Allow for Freedom of Expression
Central to developing a positive community is comfort among citizens when it comes to speaking their minds and expressing what is important to them. Individuals who feel encouraged to give their input about an issue, who feel heard when they do speak their mind are more likely to feel connected to their community.
Diversity is abundant in all communities. However, among every group containing diversity, there are always individuals who fall in the minority. Positive communities work to ensure that those who fall in minority populations are not treated differently. These communities give a voice to minority populations through frequent consultation with members of those societies about how the community can improve to meet their needs better.
Set Clear Policies and Obligations
Positive communities do not set rules. Instead, they work to encourage community members to fulfil their obligations. This may include things as simple as attending community meetings or paying taxes to support the public school system.
Maintain Sensitivity Towards Members
In addition to feeling heard, members of positive communities should also feel as though their concerns are adequately addressed and that they are cared for by the community. Positive communities should prioritize the well-being of every member of the community and address concerns in a timely and sensitive manner when they arise.
Celebrate Community Heritage
Every long-standing community has heritage and traditions that have risen during the community’s development. Positive and efficient communities embrace their culture by reminding members of the long way the community has come. This could be as simple as sending out an annual newsletter commemorating the accomplishments of the year or as complex as an annual festival held to celebrate the birthday of the community.
Promote Interaction Among Members
Positive communities work to foster a feeling of genuine connection among members by providing plenty of opportunities for interaction. Creating a feeling of connection works to make members more motivated to meet their obligations and work towards the established goals of the community.
Elect Leaders that Stand by Community Values
Individuals elected to leadership positions within positive communities should be fair and just in their political focus. Their shared values should inform the decisions they take for the community. Additionally, leaders should also take the thoughts and suggestions of the community members into account when making decisions that will affect their lifestyles.
Prioritize Effective Communication
Communication is essential for any effective community. All of the wheels need to be moving at the same pace for the project to continue successfully. Positive leaders ensure that all members are aware of the projects currently in process, as well as what they can do to help those projects run smoothly.
Make Smart Decisions
Decisions made by positive and encouraging communities focus primarily on the promotion of happiness among its members. Members will inevitably disagree on some issues or values, but an effective community leader incorporates concerns from both sides into the eventual decision made.
A Take Home Message
Only the highest standard of a community can be classified as “positive” in this context, since the bar for these groups is set extraordinarily high. However, with dedicated effort and commitment to a better world, any community can become more positive and encouraging for its members.
“A community is like a ship; everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm” –Henrik Ibsen
Morrissey, K. M. & Werner-Wilson, R. J. (2005). The relationship between out-of-school activities and positive youth development: An investigation of the influences of communities and family. Adolescence 40(157). 67-85. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.uky.edu/docview/195936458?accountid=11836&rfr_id=info%3Axri%2Fsid%3Aprimo
Six characteristics of strong communities. Student Resources, MIT.
Timmons, R. Five traits of a successful community. Hoa-USA.com. Retrieved from http://www.hoa-usa.com/newsletterfeaturearticle061212.aspx