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For collaboration to be effective, it must be democratic and inclusive. Hierarchies of any kind get in the way of sound decision-making, just as excluding some individuals or groups with a stake in the issue can derail the process. It also requires the involvement of a wide range of community leaders, such as mayors, city council members, nonprofit directors and members of the local school board.
Since the late nineteenth century, ‘the use of the term community has remained to some extent associated with the hope and the wish of reviving once more the closer, warmer, more harmonious type of bonds between people vaguely attributed to past ages’ (Elias 1974, quoted by Hoggett 1997: 5). Before 1910 there was little social science literature concerning ‘community’ and it was really only in 1915 that the first clear sociological definition emerged. This was coined by C. J. Galpin in relation to delineating rural communities in terms of the trade and service areas surrounding a central village (Harper and Dunham 1959: 19). A number of competing definitions of community quickly followed. Some focused on community as a geographical area; some on a group of people living in a particular place; and others which looked to community as an area of common life.
The development of community is a dynamicprocess involving all segments of the locality, including theoften-overlooked youth population. The key component to this processis found in the creation and maintenance of channels of interactionand communication among diverse local groups that are otherwisedirected toward their more individual interests. By facilitatinginteraction and developing relationships, these diverse individualsinteract and begin to mutually understand common needs. Whenrelationships, consistent interaction, and channels of communicationcan be established and maintained, increases in local adaptivecapacities materialize and community can emerge.
Youth typically spend a substantial amount oftime in activities extracurricular to school, including involvementin community-based organizations, school and local sports teams, andschool-based clubs. All of these, and the interaction withindividuals within them, directly influence youth involvement intheir communities.
Other factors have been reported by youth asinfluencing their need for and willingness to be a part of a greatergood through involvement. These include: feelings of efficacy(Sherrod, Flanagan, & Youniss, 2002), the need to be valued andtaken seriously by others in the community (Flanagan & Van Horn,2001), increasing their own self-esteem, and having a responsibilitytoward society by performing a public duty (Independent Sector,2001). Recognition by the community at large is part of feelingvalued (Scales & Leffert, 1999).
Finally, other factors, such as parentalinvolvement, can facilitate influences on youth involvement. Youthwhose parents are actively involved in the community are more likelyto become active themselves (Chan & Elder, 1999). Youth whoseparents do not participate in civic activities may still becomeactive in their communities; however, a supportive and reinforcingparental relationship may have a greater contribution to civicengagement than parental modeling (Fletcher & Van Horn, 2000).Perhaps as a result of an increased awareness of the advantages foradolescents, parents play an important role in linking their childrento the world around them (Parke & Ladd, 1992).
Youth also report becoming active forself-actualization (recognition, raise self-esteem) and socialresponsibility (setting an example, public duty) (Clary, Snyder, &Ridge, 1992; Independent Sector, 2001). Feelings of efficacy (Clary,Snyder, & Ridge, 1992; Sherrod, Flanagan, & Youniss, 2002),having responsibility/leadership (Kubisch, 2005), and the need to betaken seriously (Flanagan & Van Horn, 2001) have all emerged asimportant reasons why youth pursue community involvement.
Previous research supports the premise thatparticipation in community activities is associated with behavioralwell-being among adolescents. Influences on youth becoming involved,such as increasing academic performance during high school,increasing the likelihood of college attendance (Eccles & Barber,1999), greater school engagement (Lamborn, Brown, Mounts, &Steinberg, 1992), and reinforcing positive social values or settingan example (Youniss & Yates, 1997), have been found to affectinvolvement.
Cohen argues that ‘community’ involves two related suggestions that the members of a group have something in common with each other; and the thing held in common distinguishes them in a significant way from the members of other possible groups (Cohen 1985: 12). Community, thus, implies both similarity and difference. It is a relational idea: ‘the opposition of one community to others or to other social entities’ (op. cit.). This leads us to the question of boundary – what marks the beginning and end of a community?
Despite the influences and motivations,significant obstacles exist that inhibit, and often discourage,community activeness among youth. Among the leading obstaclesprevalent in the research, not being taken seriously, not beingasked, and not being assigned or having an identifiable role areconsistently noted in the research literature (Independent Sector,2001). Felix (2003) identified other challenges to youth involvementin communities, including a lack of communication and awareness ofopportunities, turf issues among organizations competing for youthparticipants, youth fears of speaking out, lack of diversity, andadultism or the systematic mistreatment of young people simplybecause of their age.
Cohen’s argument is that boundaries may be marked on a map (as administrative areas), or in law, or by physical features like a river or road. Some may be religious or linguistic. However, not all boundaries are so obvious: ‘They may be thought of, rather, as existing in the minds of the beholders’ (Cohen 1985: 12). As such they may be seen in very different ways, not only by people on either side, but also by people on the same side. This is the aspect of community (or communion) boundary and is fundamental to gaining an appreciation of how people experience communities (and communion). An obvious example of this is the sorts of ritual people connect with in terms of religious observance, for example, the rites of worship, the objects involved and the actions of the priest, imam or rabbi. Indeed, it is very significant that the notion of community recurs in major religions: