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Family and Consumer Sciences Building Caring Communities to Support Families Barbara A. Brahm, M.S., Extension Educator–Family and Consumer Sciences and Community Development, and Associate Professor, and

By Chester J. Bowling, Ph. D, Extension Community Leadership and Management State Specialist


Communities, from a social perspective, are highly complex human systems that are shaped by the actions of their members in response to internal and external, tangible and intangible forces. A community is a melding of cultural, social, political, and economic systems, into a more or less cohesive structure. Some of the structure is codified in laws and regulations and some is held by the community as a tacit understanding of “how we do things.” Set in a natural environment, over time the community creates a built environment to suit its collective values. It is often the built environment to which people point when describing a community, but in reality the built environment is a reflection of a deeper and more intangible essence that binds people together into a common identity, purpose, and culture. These three aspects—identity, purpose, and culture, all social constructs—form the essence of a community. The stronger the identity, purpose, and culture of a community, the more tightly knit the community will be. This essence is created through the relationships invented during the rich interplay of the collective/social and geographic or natural history of a place, the shared values of people, and how people live, work, and play together (Nozick, 1999). Communities are always changing because the relationships among the people in them are always changing. People grow and develop, move in and out of communities, and are influenced by the changing world around them. The constant merging of beliefs, experiences, present conditions, and future desires for the community is constantly reshaping the ways community members live, work, and play together. People and how they work out their relationships with one another are what count in developing a strong sense of community

Year: 2011
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