Community 101

The beginner’s guide to community building

Consider your usual routine. (Or at least, the way it used to be before Covid-19.)

Maybe you have breakfast at home or grab a quick bite at a kopitiam. You commute to work or school. At night, you go to a recreation centre to exercise or to a library to work on projects. You catch up on conversations in several online groups and chat rooms. During weekends, you take your family to the park, play sports with your friends, join meetups, or attend an event or a church service.

In each activity, you are participating in and shaping a community, whether or not you see it that way. You might even play a major role in building or guiding the community.

The reality is that all of us belong to at least one community. In a seemingly individualistic society like Singapore, you might not feel this – but it’s true. And the things you do every day can influence these different communities.

On the other hand, you may be conscious of the fact that communities exist wherever you go. But ever wondered what exactly a community is – and how you can contribute?

You’ve come to the right place.

Whether you’re a community member or consider yourself a community developer, it’s important to build a consciousness of the different types of communities around you, what these communities comprise, and the various possible ways you can contribute to them.

We’ll be discussing these in a series of articles, which are based on conversations we’ve had with the developers of various types of communities around Singapore.

But first, a note—this series aims to help you think about communities. It will give you ideas and perspectives on building, assessing, or improving a community. It won’t give you a prescriptive answer on how to develop and solve your specific community’s problems, because every group of people—along with the interests, causes, and problems that bind them together—is unique.

With that said, let’s begin.

city of good website graphic showing people talking with singapore skyline in background

Defining community

Community can seem like an abstract concept, when actually, it is manifested in tangible, physical ways. It fulfils the basic human desire to be part of something beyond ourselves, as well as to feel a sense of ownership by contributing to the creation and growth of communities. Communities can be characterised via different scales, and may be intentional or organic.

The Community Canvas framework

The Community Canvas framework is a popular model that was created to help people think about community building. It divides the experience of community life into 17 themes, and emphasises two main purposes of communities – internal & external.
community canvas framework cover graphic
8 key components graphic

8 key components of community

Read on to learn about the 8 key components of communities that NVPC has identified through in-depth discussions with community developers across Singapore.

7 perspectives of community development

We observed 7 different perspectives that Singaporean community leaders take for community building. While these aren’t the only perspectives out there, they’re diverse enough to provide you with a starting point for your own approach to community building.
perspectives of community development cover graphic

Where do you go from here?

Take the first steps to build a community or become a more active member.

As a community member or developer who wants to take on a more active role, the first step is to challenge your preconceived notions of community.

You can do that by identifying and analysing each component of your community. And then considering the different perspectives to community building and gauging how each could be applied to your community.

Engaging with and building a community is a journey that lasts a lifetime. Even if you exit one community now, you’ll end up entering another—unless you live all alone in an undiscovered cave or have been stranded alone on an island for 48 years (in which case you wouldn’t be reading this!).

Here are some next steps we suggest:

  • Talk to other community members and developers to understand different experiences and perspectives on community engagement and development. 
  • Study resources on core community components, including Developers, Members, Culture, and Success.
  • Answer the reflection questions on each of the resource pages to identify areas to change for the better.
  • Read up on how other Singaporeans are developing and improving communities.
  • Find a support group of people who share the same interests and vision.

Reach out to NVPC Community Matters team to join in our monthly topical events on community life at [email protected]. Happy building!