What does community mean here?

Submitted by Marie Weinstein on January 19, 2014 - 5:12pm
A conversation with young adults at the University of Waterloo

 This conversation occurred at a small community college residence. The residence is home to a little over one hundred students, studying a variety of topics from the arts and sciences, to engineering. This event had a small attendance: there were 10 participants in the conversation.

We asked, “What does Community mean to you?”

  • There is an Innate desire in humans for community (similar to how some animals stay in a pack)

  • Provides support and care

  • Families

  • Sense of Belonging

  • Reliance

  • Conscious decision or arrangement to live in a community

  • Dynamic or static

  • Conforming or changing to each person

  • Everyone within the community shares a common purpose

  • Size has an impact on the intimacy

  • A burden felt by loss

  • Multi-dimensional

  • Lots of layers

  • Is a leader necessary?

The group was asked what intentionality means to them:

  • What is the difference in saying that “we’re a community” rather than just living together…. What’s the draw?

    • Huge health benefits recorded

    • Sense of belonging

    • “mother’s nurture”

  • You become accountable to people - those around you when you are intentional

The following responses were given to the question, “What do you think of when you consider the sense of community at the college?”

  • Hand-picked

  • Conscious group of people

  • Intentionality: wide range of students in program type and in age

  • Pass a test/initiation to enter

    • Prove you have something to give

    • Meet a certain criteria

  • Common purpose of everyone to learn

  • Living with those who are different from you

  • Commonalities even though everyone is different

  • Leaders and staff have members’ best interests in mind

The following responses were returned when asked what positive traits are associated to living in this college community?

  • Deep comfort in knowing there is a network of people around us: social security

  • Having people to experience day to day life with

  • Exposure to people in different areas of study

  • Sharing food together with others

  • What makes it different from living together or living in community?

  • Venue for open conversations

  • Past differences and various histories that each person brings provide a dynamic environment to learn and grow

  • Commonalities in some interests bring people together

  • Variety of ages living together, with different experiences

  • Some opportunities for certain academic groups to study and grow together

  • Tension of school being individual, competitive vs. collaborating while we learn with others… should people have to fail?

  • Making life more efficient: one person does this, the other does this for them… “many hands makes light work!”

  • Older students can stay connected, which enables students to ‘pass on’ – experience, wisdom, knowledge, opportunity to new members of the community, just as previous members did for you

  • Domino effect of nice behaviour to each other, instead of competing with each other

  • The many positives are taken for granted though and do not recognize or appreciate it for what it is

We asked the group, ‘what can we do to deepen our sense of community here?’

  • Heavier reliance on your peers

    • Physically, emotionally, mentally

    • If you need something, e.g. emotional or mental support, the community can provide it, drawing members closer as a result

Specifically at this college, how can you better rely on each other?

  • Student vs. Administration contribution to this?

  • Mostly student impacting

  • Encourage these links through examples?

Other thoughts:

  • Take advantage of opportunities to connect with people you wouldn’t get to on your normal life path - expand your social circles

    • Encourage mixing of groups via organized activities

    • Wide ranges of types of people living here

    • Encourage people to work together on common projects; build something awesome using the individual experiences of the variety of people here

  • Re-evaluating how our food is prepared

    • Students involved in preparation, or other maintenance tasks, beyond just cleaning the shared spaces i.e. student lounges

    • Depend on each other to be make their kitchen duty on time etc.

      • Allow for a decrease in fees?

      • Draw a specific crowd?

      • Just contributing, not taking over entirely?

  • Costs to living in a community do not serve the community entirely

    • Higher costs only allows those financial contributors to stay, as opposed to community contributors

    • Only certain people are able to come back who can afford it, pushing intentional community members away accidently

We asked, “What are some negative aspects of your Community experience?”

  • Catered to extraverts: constant social interaction, sometimes you feel like having alone time, hard for introverts to recharge

  • Being in a bubble

    • Everywhere is a bubble though, every social circle you place yourself in is exclusive to a degree

    • How to find the best bubble?

  • Outside perceptions of the community

    • Exclusive by definition

What are the key takeaways from this conversation?

  1. It is good to reflect on our situation and the unique environment we have to live here

  2. The community here is AWESOME and we need to make sure we do not take for granted what we have.

  3. Our community is isolated

  4. Our community is a strong, intentional, diverse bubble. Just as every social circle is a bubble, it is a good one to find ourselves in. It also though could always be expanded.




Sounds like a great time of reflecting for your group- thanks for participating in this national campaign- sharing your thoughts, ideas and dreams!

Love it

Huge thanks for holding this conversation and recording it. Great idea here