The Changing Face of Community

Submitted by John Howard Society on November 29, 2013 - 1:26pm
A community conversation with a group of staff at the John Howard Foundation

I had the great pleasure of connecting with the John Howard Society in Kitchener to talk about community.  There is a real interest in developing a strong organizational community here and a recognition that by doing this, it will bleed out into the different programs and groups they have and therefore, impact those they work with in positive ways.

We spent a lot of time talking about youth and their experience of community.  The advancement of technology has changed how youth interact with each other in a dramatic way. They are now able to form community in new ways but also get into trouble with the law in all sorts of new ways. You need to look no further than the daily headlines to see the rising occurrences of cyber bullying and criminal harassment in our society.

Technological is not altogether a bad thing, youth, like all of us, have a deep desire to foster a sense of home a sense of belonging. Therefore, they are working to develop this wherever they go. This means that they are using technology as a medium to find this community.  The whole group all agreed that we have a lot we can learn from youth about how to form and foster online communities and that we need to find opportunities to create space to learn from them.  The tech literacy gap between generations is manifesting itself in how we form communities and view communities.

One of the participants voiced a deep desire for a sense of connection and belonging, but that she was struggling to find it. This brought up an interesting conversation around where and how we learn about deep community.  There is a belief that, historically, we were much better at forming deep community. However, now, due to the breaking down of the old bastions of community (family and church), there is a whole generation growing up without the opportunity to experience a deep sense of community. Later in life, they have this craving for deeper connection and yet do not know what this looks and feels like.  Instead, they try to find it in material stuff or through having lots of facebook friends, but end up still feeling this thirst for more.

Another woman talked about how she grew up in a small town in New Zealand where everyone knew everyone.  When she went back recently, ten years after her last visit, she still knew everyone and everyone remembered her.  She contrasted this from where she lives now in Kitchener-Waterloo and how she knows very few of her neighbours.  It is this desire to know the people in your community that often draws people to small communities and away from the bigger cities.

This was the great start to a conversation.  By the end we realized that there is so much more for us to learn.  I am excited to see what emerges next.  


Great to hear form the youth!

Great conversation, it seems!

The thread of community in rural/urban keeps rearing its face. This is interesing- hoping to explore this dichotomy further.

Thanks for sharing!


Agreed, there is such a depth to the debate of urban vs. rural and I think by delving into it deeper we will have a better understanding of complexity surorunding community and also of what our true desire with community is.