disability service organisations ! An
alternative model ! Community
research ! Community
What is community?
What is community?
What is society?
society or a human society is (1) a group of people related to each
other through persistent relations. (2) A large social grouping that
shares the same geographical territory, subject to the same political
authority and dominant cultural expectations.
The term society came from the Latin
word societas, which in turn was derived from the noun socius
("comrade, friend, ally"; adjectival form socialis) thus used to
describe a bond or interaction among parties that are friendly, or at
least civil. Human societies are characterized by patterns of
relationships (social relations) between individuals sharing a
distinctive culture and institutions; a given society may be described
as the sum total of such relationships among its constituent members.
Without an article, the term refers either to the entirety of humanity
or a contextually specific subset of people. In social sciences, a
society invariably entails social stratification and/or dominance
Societies are more than a bunch
of people stuck together in the same space and time. They are organised into groups that have various functions
within society. These functions are organised
into various roles that fit together like a clock or a play.
These groups can be described in
any number of ways according to the relationship of a group with other groups in society. They provide a way to
understand our relationships with each other and
the others around us:
probably the most inclusive or generalised
... Community: defines our relationships within
... Clubs: defines our relationships within the
... Teams: defines our relationships within clubs
... Groups: defines our relationships within
can be reorganised any way according to the perspective of the user)
The expressions "society", "social" and "community" have often been
used to mean the same things. A social group describes the common
characteristics of a group, but not the personal relationships within
the group. A community group is the shared interests, networks and
relationships we have with each other within society. While a person
can move from one community to another easily according to his/her
needs at a particular time, it is more difficult to move from one
society to another. As a result we see lots of communities that are a
part of the same social group.
If someone wants to build a nuclear reactor in a suburb, I would be
more inclined to protest if it was planned to be built in my suburb. If
the nuclear reactor became a social issue, there would be a great deal
of discussion about the project.
What is community?
Simply put, society could be best
described as the way we do things, and, community is
who we do those things with.
A community is not "My Community"
It is "Our Community"
Communities are as varied and individual as its members. Often people
belong to two or more communities. Family, education, business, work,
sport, religion, culture all involve communities that we take for
granted as a normal part of our lives. They seem to be a part of the
background. It’s only when things are not going the way that we want,
that we take any notice of them.
Most people think of communities as a place or setting, or a suburb or
city that they live in. Communities are much more that that. They are
the very essence of how we live and socialise with others. We have our
own personal communities, the communities that we are a part of and the
communities that we associate with. Communities are the building blocks
that allow us to make sense of the world in which we live, participate
and share experiences. They provide a sense of identity and purpose, a
sense of being a part of and belonging.
The origin of community is from the
sociology, the concept of community has led to significant debate, and
sociologists are yet to reach agreement on a definition of the term.
There were ninety-four discrete definitions of the term by the
mid-1950s. 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 is
attributed with social cohesion within a shared geographical location,
generally in social units larger than a household. The word can also
refer to the national community or global community.
The word "community" is derived from
the Old French communité which is derived from the Latin
communitas (cum, "with/together" + munus, "gift"), a broad term for
fellowship or organized society." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community
The origin of the word "community" comes from the Latin munus, which
means the gift, and cum, which means together, among each other. So
community literally means to give among each other." (http://www.seek2know.net/word.html
The idea of "community" probably came about where people gathered
around a common area for their mutual benefit. Sharing a language,
customs, ideas, skills, goods and services, or protection from enemies
would be some of the advantages in being a part of a group. Over the
years the idea of community has change to accomodate different things.
While different definitions mean different things, the idea is the
same; that a group comes together or lives together to share something
that is of value to the members of that community. Today the word
"community" has taken on whole new meanings, New technology in
communitation and transportation mean that a community is no longer
where we live. While we may live in a suburb, town, city or some
geographical location, they no longer define the communities that we
are a part of. Communities have also become so specalised these days
that we no longer look for one community to fulfill our needs.
Different communities fulfill
The spiritual community
Communities have various roles:
The family community
The living community
The recreational community
The learning community
The employment community
The health community
Each community has a
particular role that fulfills a particular need.
The role of the community provides the members with a sense of
belonging and purpose. Community roles can be active in providing a
service, supportive, where the members support the activities of
another community, or a mixture where the members share experiences,
resources, skills and knowledge with each other. Communities can be
recreational, and provide a social role in enabling its members to
participate in various activities, or provide an educational role in
providing its members with knowledge, skills and resources, or fulfill
any other role that is valued in society as well as other communities
that it is a part of.
Valued community roles provide a common cause or focus for the
members develop a sense of pride and purpose in being a part of the
community that bond and strengthen the community. The role is valued in
a sense that it brings something to the wider community that it is a
part of, as well as the members of the community. Valued roles are also
about community leadership that is intouch with the community and can
create a feeling of importance within the members.
Social role valorisation provides valued roles for ALL
members of the
Communities also need skills and resources to provide for the needs of
Communities that have valued roles in society …
... The spiritual community
... The family community
... The living community
... The recreational community
... The learning community
... The employment community
... The health community
... The internet community
... The blind community
... The disability community
Communities that have de-valued roles in society …
... The AIDS community
Communities have rights and
... The drugs / rave communities
... The criminal community
... The gay / lesbian communities
... The Muslim community
... The bikie community
... The street community
... The unemployment / homeless communities
... The aged community
... The single parent community
... the right to its own identity
... the right to set its own agenda, constitution and institutions
... the right to participate within the wider community
... the right to access skills and resources within the wider community
... the right to support its members within the wider community
... the right to protect its members from influences that disadvantage
... the right to refuse entry to members that do not fit into the
... the right to evict members that do not accept the agenda,
constitution and institutions of
... the right to refuse skills and resources to the wider community,
where its members are disadvantaged
... the right to determine its own destiny
... to ensure the agenda, constitution
and institutions of the
community, protect and support its members, as well as
other communities and their members
... to provide a safe, secure environment for its members, as well as
other communities and their members
... to facilitate the development of valued roles and relationships for
its members, as well as other communities and their members
... to ensure that the community communicates with its members as well
as other communities and their members
... to ensure the community does not disadvantage other communities or
... to responsibility use, and share, skills and resources to the
advantage of its members, as well as other communities and their members
... to respect, protect and promote the rights, cultures and
institutions of other communities and their members
... to engage with other communities in an interdependent relationship
human services are lurching from one crisis
to the next.
services (homeless, poor, destitute, refugees etc)
from the same problem …
resources are being stretched to the max.
a smaller work
force to draw on.
for goods and services.
population pressures on existing services.
human services cannot change the above, I believe
that we (collectively) can adapt to the new situation.
I believe that
it is now time to take the next step and
evolve (so to speak) to meet the changing needs of the community within
current social framework. While there are things we cannot change,
things that can, and I believe that we (collectively) need a new
our role in supporting disadvantaged people.
By providing valued roles for each community that we participate in,as
well as valued social roles for its members, each community has the
opportunity to actively support its members, and the various services
provide a supportive role in supporting the community in meeting its
people ---> community
support ---> community
people ---> community <--- community support
Community support is dependent on a community having the skills and
resources in supporting a person or group. Just because a person may
wish to be a part of a community does not mean that the person can be
supported within that community. Community support is not about
supporting disadvantaged people in society, but about supporting
communities in providing for the needs of their members. Where a person
can not be supported
within a community, new communities are created that have the
specialised skills and resources to meet the needs of the members.
Goffman, Narje, Wolfsnsberger and others have written about the plight
with intellectual disabilities. SRV was intended as a vehicle for
social change, not the social change itself
Osburn: An Overview of Social Role Valorization Theory
). We are shown that
people have the same feelings
and needs as ourselves, and therefore have the same rights in
participating in valued relationships and activities i.e.: that they
just like you and me. While theory has been
effective in providing a better quality of life for disadvantaged
people, institutions and
institutionalisation is still here today in all parts of society (and
will always be).
Whether these are used for good or bad depends on the values of the
culture of the society in which they are being used.
People with high support needs are also a minority group, and as a
consequence, will have the same problems as other minority groups in
respect to being assigned a devalued status. We actually see exactly
the same thing has happened today where a group
of people (Muslims) are devalued as a group because of the behaviours
of some extremists within the group. The same thing happened with the
Germans, the Chinese, the Japanese, people that smoke, are over
weight etc. etc. etc. The same thing can happen to any group at any
While the intentions are good in as much as disadvantaged people have
the opportunity for a better life, there has also been some damage
along the way. in as much as it has created a split within the human
service profession as to the best approach to service delivery. While theory was
appropriate for the 60's - 90's, I feel that there needs to be some
reassessment in the policy making process towards service delivery and
outcomes (especially in the current economic climate).
The traditional methods of service delivery of social work and
disability services seem to be opposed to each other:
… Social work looks at the community
and the social barriers that people have in participating in a
… On the other hand, disability services looks at the personal barriers
(their social roles)
that people have in
participating in a community.
is a great deal written
about normalisation, social integration, empowerment, SRV etc. from the
perspective of people that have a physical or intellectual disability
(how the community should do this and that) and very little (if any)
about providing a valued role for
communities towards becoming
empowered in providing for the needs of people that have a physical or
intellectual disability. There is a huge resource out there about
empowering communities, but for some reason best known to themselves,
this resource has generally been ignored.
My feeling is that the current theory can not cope within the current
social climate, A new approach is needed to meet the changing needs
of communities within
current social framework. New technology means that the members are
healthier and live longer today. The members are also getting older
which means that pressures on existing services are increasing from
year to year. Communities are also being redefined as each new
technological innovation redefines our relationships with each other. I
think we need a new
our role in
supporting disadvantaged people in today's society.
I also believe that the future of the human services lies in a
approach, where both paradigms complement and support each other in
We should use the past as a
reminder and a guide in
the future towards building better communities. By redefining its role
as a service to humanity, the service provider has a
different perspective on its own role in
promoting and supporting
people that have a physical or intellectual disability and the role of
communities in being a part of the process.
Just as communities of 2nd and 3rd generation unemployed in England and
Europe have lost the skills to actively engage in a productive work
culture (Their parents and others have not provided the necessary roles
- getting up to go to work etc.), and therefore depend (are dependent)
on social welfare, so too, communities have lost the skills (or never
had them) in providing for the needs of people that have a physical or
Originally families of people that have a physical or intellectual
disability got together to support each other and develop social
networks. Even though this was a small start, the parents still had
ownership. Over a period of time the group evolved into a service
provider. The parents lost ownership in providing for
their needs. The current generation is growing up in a society where
direct intervention in the care of disadvantaged people
and the community supports these activities.
They see the ads, read the literature. Their families and
peers strengthen this culture and so it becomes the social
Today we see all sorts of charities, benevolent societies, fundraising
organisations, associations etc that support disadvantaged people in
society. These support groups have a valued role in providing services
to the wider community, or supporting people that do not have any
personal support structures. These support groups also need wider
community support in order to provide the services to their members. I
know this because I get numerous phone calls and letters asking for
support and donations. TV and the radio also remind me of the valuable
services these groups provide in society. Unfortunately, I have limited
resources, and there is no way that I can support all these groups. I
have to make some decisions in who I can support. These decisions are
generally based on the profile of the service. The higher the profile,
the more likely I am inclined to support the service. There is always
the problem that if there is to much exposure to the promotions of a
service I may become desensitised to the service, or that there are
others that support the service and I don't need to contribute. Another
problem is that a person or group of people that most need support are
the least likely to receive the support if the service does not have a
high profile. While I may choose to support a service with a low
profile, the chances of others supporting the service are less than if
the service had a high profile.
As new technology and
scientific understanding of various human conditions and ailements
increases, new support groups are created to provide for the specalised
needs of these groups.
Today these services are specialised in and designed around a specific
characteristic or need. These services generally have a scientific
knowledge base as well as a set of interventions that are designed to
provide the best outcomes for their members. These programs are built
on the idea of evidence based practice. The more specialised the
is, the less involvement the wider community has in the activities of
We as a human service need to build
, within the
wider community, that actively support people that have a physical or
disability, within the current social structure and government
hierarchy (Law, policies etc.).
… Communities that have clearly defined
… Communities that have shared beliefs,
values, cultures (institutions).
… Communities that have clearly defined
… Communities that have ownership of their members
… Communities that provide valued roles
for their members
… Communities that communicate effectively with their members
… Communities that can depend on their own skills/resources
… Communities that balance their own needs
… Communities that can share and draw on skills/resources where needed
A community that supports itself is an empowered community.
An empowered community has the ability to effectively respond to the
needs of its members.
This is NOT ...
... a sense of independence or
dependence on other communities that it is a part of, or are a part of
it - communities complement each other and need to work together in
fulfilling the needs of their members.
... dictating to community members what they should or should not be
doing - there needs to be a sense of shared ownership and
responsibility within the community.
... dictating to other communities what they should or should not be
doing - there needs to be a sense of shared ownership and
responsibility within society.
... using skills and resources to the detriment of other communities -
skills and resources don't get used responsibly or effectively.
... growing or expanding - is not an end, but a means to an end.
There are issues such as who is going to pay for wages and services,
the resources going to be distributed, medical issues, legal issues etc.
This will not happen next year, or the year after, but it is something
we need to work towards.
When providing the most appropriate
care for people with high support
1) The community is not where the
person is living, but where the
person participates, shares experiences and has valued relationships
2) People with high support needs (severe disability, aged etc.)
will always need support structures as a part of their lives.
3) The amount of participation in a community (living, education,
employment or recreation) is directly related to the skills and
resources of the person, and, the skills and resources of the
community that the person wishes to participate in.
4) Institutions are going to be around in one form or another
whether we like it or not, It is the way that they are used that is the
5) The institutions of a society towards a particular group
determine the way the group participates in society.
6) The institutions of a particular government department,
profession or service define the way the person is supported within
7) Facilities that support people with high support needs do not
need to be the nursing homes or prisons in the
that they are today, but can become warm inviting community places that
offer a range of services to the community, as well as be a part of the
wider community within that society.
8) People with high support needs are a minority group in our
society, and will have the same problems as other minority groups in
being a part of society.