Published on February 10, 2023
Community means we’re stronger together. Here are some of the incredible benefits.
When people come together, amazing things can happen.
Community helps us form relationships, find support and gain opportunities we might not otherwise have. Not only does a sense of community benefit individuals, but it can play a key role in creating vibrant and inclusive public spaces that are reflective of the needs and desires of the people who use them. We’ve certainly seen this happen with the Future City Builders program which brings together like-minded youth to design a concrete solution to address challenges in their city.
“We all go through life not just as individuals, but as part of something larger,” says Joyce Chau, Evergreen Program Director. “That sense of community is how we experience things.”
While there’s no perfect definition of a sense of community, it can be described as a feeling of belonging, a feeling that members matter to one another and that their needs will be met.
“We always strive to bring people together to create that sense of community at Evergreen,” Chau adds. “It’s the idea that ‘the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.'”
Community means we’re stronger together. Here are five important benefits from connecting with your community.
A sense of belonging is crucial to our mental and physical health. Further than that, belonging is a universal human need stemming deeply from our ancestral roots, according to research.
With Evergreen’s Future City Builders program, each cohort experiences a unique sense of community as they work together with other talented and energized youth to improve the health of our cities. Those who are part of a community centred around a hobby or interest may feel a sense of belonging with others who share their passion. While those who are part of a cultural or religious community may connect with others who share their beliefs or traditions.
“I think belonging is a huge piece, and one that, for me personally, has become more and more important,” Chau says. “It’s the kernel of what’s most important about community.”
A sense of belonging is also critical to placemaking. When community members feel welcome in a place, they are more likely to engage with others or participate in activities, which in turn creates a more vibrant community.
Sometimes we all need a helping hand. A sense of community can create a strong support network that you can rely on.
Ilta Nhinda didn’t know anyone when she first moved to St. John, New Brunswick three years ago. But she found the community to be very supportive.
“You can reach out to businesses or even just people you meet on the street, and everyone is so willing to provide advice,” says Nhinda, who works as a Youth Equity Liaison for Black Lives Matter in the St. John region. “Because of that, it makes you feel comfortable reaching out for support.”
Nhinda is now a consistent source of support in her own community, recently acting as a Healthy City Expert in the Future City Builders program, where she supported youth builders while they created and launched innovative ideas for healthy cities.
Having a sense of purpose can give our lives direction.
A community can help give us purpose and meaning, especially when contributing to something bigger or pursuing common goals. For example, members of a community focused on environmental sustainability may feel an even stronger sense of purpose because of their collective efforts.
But community can also contribute to your confidence and security. Nhinda says a lot of the youth she works with have very low self-esteem when it comes to their identity as a black person.
“Having other black youths around, and having black mentors, they’re able to see past the stigma that’s been created,” she says. “They see that we do have life mentors in very successful spaces. It gives them a bigger sense of self-worth.”
Why keep all that knowledge and experience to yourself?
Being part of a community provides people with access to a wealth of information and expertise that they might not have had otherwise. That knowledge could come from a single mentor, your entire community or even through interactions with other communities.
“I do a lot of community outreach with other organizations,” Nhinda says. “So, while I do learn a lot from my own community, I also go to these events with other community members and learn so much from them as well.”
Communities can provide a supportive environment for individuals to explore new ideas and take risks, and Nhinda adds that she’s learned how to network with people, make business connections and speak to people in a professional way, all because of these experiences.
Community isn’t just about knowledge and acceptance — it’s also about joy. Community events and festivals provide opportunities for people to socialize and connect with others.
“Joy is the fuel,” Chau says. “Having fun helps to make a community stronger. There’s also a multiplier effect, where you’re getting all these good vibes from your community and then you want to share that back out.”
Nhinda says that, because of community experiences, she gets to learn so much about other cultures. “We get together for different events, and I learn about their dances and their food. It’s such a fun learning experience.”
Want to learn more about community solutions to city building? The Future City Builders program brings together like-minded young people to design a concrete solution to address “healthy city” challenges in their city.
Evergreen also leads the Community Solutions Network, which is designed to help communities build service area capacity and improve the lives of residents using data and connected technology approaches.