The HR Juggler

Real Community Matters

Posted on: March 20, 2011

What does community mean to you? Where do you experience a sense of belonging?

I think I am perhaps unusual in that I still live in the same town that I grew up in and that all of my extended family (parents, both my brothers and their families and my parents-in-law) live within a 2 mile radius of my home. My children go to the same primary school that I went to as a child, and one of their teachers also taught my brother there 30 years ago. Two of my children’s three cousins also attend the same school and the connections become ever more intertwined: my daughter’s best friend is the sister of my niece’s very close friend; the mum of a child coming to tea with us tomorrow was taught by my mum in a local secondary school many years previously. I understand that to some people this may seem claustrophobic, but I love it and I love the true sense of community I get from continuing to be involved in the school and the local area.

I also love that I have a close supportive network of family and friends; my mum and mother-in-law help me out hugely with childcare and I have made many friends, some old and long-standing, others much newer, who live in and around the local area. I go to the same church I attended as a child and many of the older generation remember me as the 5 year old that my daughters now are. Visiting the library and the local leisure centre also, rather inexplicably, make me feel very connected to the local community.

We talk a lot about community and sometimes I think we are in danger of diluting the real sense of the word behind it. For me, community is powerful and strong, it is unconditional and accepting, it binds and centres you. It is lasting and real and plays a large part in defining who you are.

There is a much newer community that I also feel part of; tentatively, gradually strengthening its bonds and defining its relevance for those that are part of it…and that is ConnectingHR. It is early days and I would not yet put it anywhere near the level of the things above, and yet it is real and vibrant, it connects people who genuinely support and trust and help eachother….and it is only just beginning. All communities start somewhere and, if nurtured, will grow, develop and strengthen. I for one want to be a part of that.

What communities are you part of? I’d love to know what real community means to you.

10 Responses to "Real Community Matters"

Morning Alison

My immediate family all live within a few miles of each other. We help one another out and all that – my Dad is the best. He will often collect Keira from school when I can’t make it and he is a big help with me around the house. He’s great at decorating and stuff like that, and no he’s not for hire 😉

The ConnectingHR community is very important for me. As a small business owner who tends to drop in and out of lots of different businesses it’s great to feel a part of something…worky. Although this community goes way beyond that as you know.

I do have a fly in my community ointment. I’ve been a member of our cycling club for ten years and as a community it is missing something. For example the club puts on sporting events and it almost always struggles to find the twenty odd folk it needs as helpers from an alleged membership of 300 plus. Yet when it comes to turning out for a photo shoot with the local paper you can’t keep folk away. It’s odd. With a few very notable exceptions the club is pretty much all take and no give. I’ve decided not to renew my membership this year and I feel a lot better having come to that place. I guess for me being part of something means I expect folk to give to it and take from it. I believe in growing the market – and in doing so you grow yourself. That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning.

Cheers for the opportunity to reflect a while.


Thanks for commenting Doug – sounds like you have a similar family network to mine and I too feel very lucky.

Its funny how ‘communities’ can get into bad habits and it then becomes quite difficult to change. I guess at that point, you have to just decidewhether you still want to be a part of it or not.

I used to attend a cultural youth group (youth group is the wrong term, but best it closely describes), for many a year, and very much enjoyed the community feelings you’ve described above. They’ve also fed into determining what kind of work environment I work best in, and essentially it has to do with being around others. A team isn’t as necessary as having the support systems it provides. The strength, unconditional support, and acceptance are powerful motivators to continue existing within them.

This is also why I enjoy being part of #connectinghr. You’ve coined it spot on by saying we’re still growing, and it’s an interesting growth too. I’m enjoying both being part of it, and watching how various ‘members’ interact within it. Really nice post from both you and Merv today on this topic.

Thanks Sukh – sounds like you had a great experience with your youth group. I found it quite hard when I was a younger teenager to find that sort of a group to be a part of, but luckily did come across one by my older teens. I think that sort of thing gives kids a huge boost of confidence and support network, and as you say often helps define values and work environments later on.

Merv and I had a real ‘great minds’ moment – his blog is fantastic and you can find his piece on community here

It’s great to have you in the community, Alison. It’s also great that you have a local community to belong to too. Unfortunately a lot of people don’t, and there’s a lot of research to suggest that this is why people value newer, often interest- rather than geography-based, communities like Connecting HR. And I think it’s why community building, whether face-to-face or online, is becoming a key new skill for HR. And practitioners who involve themselves in the community, like you, are going to have a head start over those who won’t have developed these skills.

But do please continue to share your experiences of your local community with the rest of us. I’m convinced both sorts of community are more similar than they might appear – there’s a lot that we can all learn from life in the village!


Thanks for stopping by to comment Jon, I appreciate it.

Incidentally I know it sounds like a village, but actually its a large, commuter town…which makes all of the connections and connectedness more special somehow 😉

Today the sense of community touched me in 2 ways:

After a day job hunting, which left me somehow deflated, I turned to my “virtual community” – #connectinghr on twitter – and soon my spirits were lifted. Later on, 2 of the community were feeling a bit down and it was my turn to lend a helping hand (one actually wanted chocolate…lots of it). It felt great to receive/give support to this very special community 🙂

Whilst this was happening, I lost my wallet (really) and continued walking home through Greenwich Park, tweeting away, blissfully unaware. I was thinking about Alison’s blog about Community and conversation I had with a friend the other day about how much I enjoy living in SE London. There’s a real sense of community around Blackheath, Greenwich, Lewisham and Brockley. Shop owners recognise you and say hello, even the check out staff at Tesco. It feels great!
Then my phone rang…it was a recruiter, telling me a lady had found my wallet, looked at one of the cards in there – the recruiters, and called them to find out if they knew me, which they did. The lady, Lousie, lives in Blackheath and was walking home a bit behind me. Within 15 mins we were all reunited: me, my wallet and Louise.
It really is a lovely community in this part of SE London, where people really care and smile at you! In this case – go the extra mile to help you.

Different communities – one purpose: be helpful!

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