Community Development and Local Culture

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COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT AND LOCAL CULTURE

Community

A basic definition of community refers to a social unit larger than a small village that shares common values.[1] The idea of a community presupposes the existence of a group of individuals whose values and norms shape a common identity, where the feelings of trust and belongingness are fostered, and the existence of shared responsibility towards mutual goals.

Smith breaks down the term into three concepts to further understand it, namely territorial or place community, interest or elective community and communion.[2] First, when people share a specific geographic location, this is known as territorial or place community. Next, interest or elective community is when people share a common attribute other than location. This can be the bond of ethnicity, religion, occupation, or sexual preference. It can be any mutual activity for that matter. When terms such as “Muslim community” or “cyber-community” are used then community is referred to in this context. As the term suggests, the common bond is a result of each individual’s choice or preference. Last, communion is when people have a sense of attachment to a place, group or idea. These three concepts of community coincide in many cases. When a town grows from a common industry, such as the case of Victorias City in Negros Occidental, Philippines, where people who work at the sugar mill also reside nearby, then more than one concept is at play.

The concept of attachment to a place, group or idea is an indication of people’s sentimentality. It occurs when they invest a part of themselves in the community. This makes them feel that they belong, and that their association with the group has meaning. To an extent, it gives them a sense of identity.

Smith goes on to discuss three linked qualities that he has found to be consistently present in various researches on the concept of community. These are tolerance, reciprocity and trust.[3] Tolerance means the capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others.[4] Through tolerance, people get along despite their differences. They tend be more open minded and willing to take in new experiences. This is one quality that allows people to stay together in one place.

Reciprocity is the mutual or cooperative interchange of favors or privileges.[5] Smith quotes Robert Putnam in describing reciprocity: “I’ll do this for you now, without expecting anything immediately in return, and perhaps without even knowing you, confident that down the road you or someone else will return the favor.”[6]

The Filipino cultural trait of “utang na loob” comes to mind when talking about reciprocity. It is a sense of obligation to appropriately repay a person who has done one a favor. In the western sense it is a debt of gratitude, however to a Filipino, it goes deeper than that as it has a profound internal dimension rooted in culture. Reciprocity builds deeper bonds between individuals allowing a community to exist and people within to co-exist.

The third quality is trust. It is the confident expectation that people, institutions and things will act in a consistent, honest and appropriate way.[7] Trust is essential in all relationships. In the study of social capital, it is an important mechanism that transforms various sources of social capital into beneficial outcomes that advance the goals and objectives of the group. It facilitates cooperation, which in turn allows communities to develop and flourish.

Humankind, being social creatures, would take on these traits naturally. Ridley confirms this by saying: “Humans have social instincts. They come into the world equipped with predispositions to learn how to cooperate, to discriminate the trustworthy from the treacherous, to commit themselves to be trustworthy, to earn good reputations, to exchange goods and information, and to divide labour… Far...
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