What is “Community”?

If, from all the material posted on the Internet daily, you have picked this blog to read, then we share a common interest.  We likely, in fact, share many common interests with each other and with many humans we haven’t met yet, even virtually.  For example, do we not all want a healthy environment, now and for those will follow us?

To borrow from Wikidictionary:  “Traditionally a ‘community’ has been defined as a group of interacting people living in a common location. The word is often used to refer to a group that is organized around common values and social cohesion within a shared geographical location, generally in social units larger than a household. The word can also refer to the national or global community.  Since the advent of the Internet, the concept of community no longer has geographical limitations, as people can now virtually gather in an online community and share common interests regardless of physical location.”

Once we free our thinking about communities to go beyond proximity, it becomes much easier to see that every organization working to improve the world is a community benefit organization.  Charities are founded for that explicit purpose, and surely it is what we wish from our government.  Many businesses have adopted corporate responsibility measures, and act in socially responsible ways, understanding that, in the long run, loyalty to shareholders and the greater good of all stakeholders are inextricably linked.

This blog will address matters of interest to people involved with community benefit organizations, particularly the organizations more commonly referred to as charities, nonprofits, NGO (non-governmental organization), CSO (civil society organization) associations and other such terms for organizations that are not part of the government or business.  Many of the concepts will apply directly to government agencies, and somewhat to government departments and businesses that see themselves as having a public benefit purpose.

Canadian law uses the term public benefit, as well as charity, not-for-profit, nonprofit.  In US law, a common term is “exempt organization”.  I used to primarily call them nonprofits, but realized the term led to many misunderstandings and negative impressions. My wonderful colleague Hildy Gottlieb convinced me to try Community Benefit Organization instead, and it feels so right!  Check our the No More Nonprofits video at http://hildygottlieb.com/multimedia/.

Many trade and professional associations, as well as recreational groups, think in terms of mutual benefit – they exist to serve their members.   However, many progressive associations have realized the value of thinking beyond their own members to the impact those members have in the world.  How far might the term “mutual” stretch?

Please follow this blog to read periodic thoughts about how communities and community benefit organizations can make our world MUCH better, interspersed with my comments on current leadership and ethics issues as they occur.

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)