The writer, Mohamedarif Mohamed Suleman (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania) is a digital marketing specialist and an Educator-cum-Trainer. He has involved himself in community organisations and matters from a young age, and through his writings, continues to speak of social and cultural reform to this day. He is also the founding moderator of this forum.
hile we all seem to know and ‘understand’ what communities are, at least at face value, how many of us really and truly comprehend the dynamics that not only form communities but those that keep them in motion, or alive if you may?
It seems like an opportune time to inaugurate this academic discussion, in light of the prevailing theme of What my community means to me. The community as we know it today is much different from the community that our parents knew through their childhood and is going to be vastly distinct from how we perceive the community today. This is a result of what is known as dynamics or the internal and external natural forces that keep acting upon and influencing our core, our practices, our thought processes, in short our way of living.
Thus, community dynamics are the changes in community structure and composition over time, often following environmental disturbances such as natural disasters, political landscape, technology, health and disease, communications, intercultural understanding and climate change.
On the other hand, community dynamics data can where available and applicable, influence decisions about whether services are provided in certain sectors such as health or education by revealing important information about how people feel about where they live. As a matter of course, we can accept how modern-day community leaders are headed towards the embracing of technology and other data collection techniques as a tool towards planning for the community. However, if not done felicitously, this can lead to the breeding of suspicion, opposition and even disintegration, for a leader cannot possibly choose the contemporary path of technology without first admitting the concept of information – information and awareness are tools with which communities can be navigated towards the acceptance of certain new methods of governance or even way of living.
Communities are also at the forefront of service creation and delivery thanks to community action.
Prior to implementation, this program strives to address the fundamental needs of the communities. For instance, a community with a sizeable settlement in a given location may find it imperative to set up foot in the education subsector, which may serve both the purpose of that community as well as meet the needs of the wider society surrounding it. And of course, objectives once met may be revised in the distant future, it is usually the united acceptance of all that can easily accommodate the changes, rather than the implementation by a chosen few ‘visionaries’ of the community.
Changes in a community are inevitable. Both internal processes (referred to as autogenic forces), such as class or gender competition, the buildup of unresolved matters, and external causes (referred to as allogenic factors), such as natural or anthropogenic disturbances (disasters), can cause changes in community structure (e.g., floods or nutrient enrichment). Social identity crises are today a leading cause of changes that are populating our Khoja communities, for instance. The innate and relentless search for the Truth, the objection or adherence to norms and practices, the contest of leadership and other assuaging elements causing the stir, are all ingredients that both cause short-term disturbance as well as long-term shapes of communities. The social dynamics of small communities impact people’s lives, problems, and perceptions of their challenges, as well as their opinions on how these issues might be best resolved.
Social dynamics can be defined as the study of the relationship between individual interactions and group-level behaviours as well as the behaviour of groups that arises from the interactions of individual group members. When we see differences in our communities, between bodies and individuals, these we must understand are ordinary and compulsory parts of any society, not necessarily harmful, but at times contributing to an improved identity. The challenge is always to see how much new can be brought in without losing the anchor of the past. How much of the past to keep without being left behind in the new? Such are the tasks with which both leaders and members of a community are generally confronted, and the decisions which are the ultimate determinants of the destiny of such communities.
Communities are also insular in nature, and nothing really is wrong with that, except that with the interactivity with other cultures and subcultures, the lacing of cultures seems inescapable. This leads us to the understanding that there are four main factors that affect communities. They are divided into four groups: resources, environment and geography, social issues, and human aspects. Each aspect mentioned in the article is merely one that might be present in a community and can help the development of that community. As an illustrative example, now that our members are able to freely travel across the globe, and especially to the holy lands, the interpretation they are bringing about on many hitherto hard-core issues is markedly different from what their parents used to hold as gospel. The tolerance to music, the presence of both genders within the same place in an appropriate environment, and many other issues are a few of the tenets that may be viewed by some as corroded and others as influencing development.
Based on this new knowledge we now have, what does the community really mean to us?
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