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Whether living in a Stone Age tribe, meeting up with a knitting circle, or connecting with a close group of friends or extended family, humans have always been drawn toward community.

Have you found your community yet? How well is your community meeting your needs? Not sure if it’s the right fit? How do you know where you belong?

Not sure where to start? On this page, we’ll explore a few types of communities and fundamental understandings of community.

Also explore:

Vivek Murthey, Surgeon General of the US and Author of Together writes: “Loneliness is a built-in reminder that we are stronger together, not just as clans and tribes or family and friends, but also as caring communities that form the foundation of a healthy culture.”1

Cultivating Community | CBC Short Film

Cultivating Community: Members of the Downtown Intercultural Garden Society (DIGS) in Vancouver, Canada create community by growing organic vegetables and cultivating bees on the rooftop of St. Paul’s Hospital. “You find community where you create it.”

Community is Difficult to Define

The foundation of community is

a sense of acceptance and belonging shared by members.

“To be human is to belong. We were literally born in community, attached to someone else.” 

– Radha Agrawal, Belong2


Like “friendship”, the term “community”  can be broad. Most people probably think of the city or neighborhood they live in when they hear community. Community College. Community Service. Retirement Community.

More and more recently, “community” has come to refer to a broader spectrum of groups; from gym memberships to online forums. The standard definition of community refers to living in geographical proximity to people who share a common value or attribute with you.

In the 20th Century, a proximal definition worked. People were born into communities and raised in a community with shared values and way of life. With the rise of immigration, people still wanted their community values and sense of belonging to carry over into their new home, so communities like Little Italy and Chinatown started popping up in cities across the world.

In the 21st century, with people more spread out yet more connected with technology than ever, there has been a shift to being born as individuals and finding community. Modern society develops community around interests and skills more than around locality.3 Humans have shifted from proximal communities to relational communities, and tend to focus more on the quality of relationships within a community rather than the geographical closeness of members.

You may think finding community contributes to people being more mobile than before. While it does seem it is easier for adults to pick up and move now, people are actually moving less than in the past 20 years. 

About 9.8% of Americans moved in 2019 vs. 13% in the early 2000s and 15% in the 90s.4

It would seem that people do not as much feel the need to move out of their proximal community if they do not fit in because they are finding community elsewhere, whereas in previous generations without as much technology and identity-based movements, there was a need to live near the people you identify with so moving was more common.

Whether part of a proximal community (neighborhoods) or a relational community (professional, spiritual, etc.) the intention of community is the same; to share ideas, be accepted, and belong. [Photos: YMCA, Brown Cow Yogurt]

Community Lost

What has contributed to the shift away from proximal communities being “enough”?

  • The Rise of Capitalism— As Western European-based culture and ideas spread through colonialism, the idea of capitalism caught on and communities were transformed drastically from how they looked through human history. The focus on the individual and the idea of success through capital replaced the mindset of identity coming from family/community. Now, one didn’t need to accept the conditions they were born into, they could go search for something different or ”better.”
    • The Industrial Revolution — Before industrialization, there was little need to move outside of where one was born and most work was found through artisan craft or farming3. In the 18th and 19th centuries, millions moved to larger towns or cities in search of work, largely mixing cultures for the first time and changing the idea of community forever.
    • The Decline of Religion — The rise of secularism, coupled with economic growth heavily impacted the role of religion in communities4. As historically religious countries shifted towards secularism, religious establishments were no longer the center of the community and people started finding community elsewhere.
    • Mass Migration/Immigration — Various events throughout history had people leaving their homes and making big moves to new places. Colonization, Westward expansion in the US, The Gold Rush, the Great Depression and Dust Bowl, Wars, famine, political unrest, etc…
  • Modern Shifts — An emphasis on personal growth and development through exploration of interests, skills, and identity combined with technological advancements sees communities changing even more in the 21st century.
    • Technology — The ever-growing prevalence of technology and social media connects more people than ever, making it easier to meet people outside of one’s proximity.
    • Work Looks Different — The rise in the idea of workplace culture shifted employees to seek out places they feel a sense of belonging with rather than taking any job they can get.
    • Rise of Interracial and Multicultural Households — in 1967 the US Supreme Court decriminalized interracial marriage. Now, 1 in 6 marriages in the US are interracial.6 In the late 70s, there were zero interracial marriages registered in China. In 2012, over 50,000 Chinese citizens got married to non-Chinese spouses. With the shift to a mix of cultures under the same roof, a couple is choosing the fusion of those cultures and to fit into an all-new community.
    • Identity— The concept of identity has shifted in modern times. While race/nationality and religion still make up some people’s sense of identity, there are more factors and opportunities to be open now to contribute to a sense of self (for example sexual identity/gender, occupation, and passion/interest/skill). See the Discovery section of the site for more on identity.
    • Movements — Historically marginalized populations are speaking out. When people band together against a common barrier, community and belonging are found.

Community is Subjective

“I define [COM•MU•NI•TY] as: a group of three or more people with whom you share similar values and interests and where you experience a sense of belonging.” —Radha Agrawal, Belong2

What Does Community Mean to You?

An Apartment company’s camera crew hit the streets of Seattle and asked: “What does community mean to you?”

Community can show up differently for different people.

Talking about finding/seeking out community is often in reference to relational community rather than proximal community (where one lives). Relational communities are more sought out, made up of people who do not live together and take patience to build up relationships to gain a sense of belonging.

You may be wondering, “but I live in an excellent neighborhood with a community garden and I know all my neighbors and we have block parties all the time. Even though I live there, can it be my relational community?” YES! Sometimes, proximal communities can double as relational communities if one finds the values of the people surrounding us match up with their own. Media often portrays a need to “escape” from where one is born to make a different life (see any “coming of age” type films). Some need to search and others will find the community they live in to fill their need for belonging without the sense of needing to seek others out.

In Non-Westernized and rural settings, the standard definition of community often still applies, with people being born into a certain area and growing up in a community, and sharing values with those around them. In these cases, there is no need to discern between proximal vs relational because it represents both. Here, community can often be used interchangeably with village and hold the same meaning,  i.e. “a small farming community” vs. “a small farming village.”

It is also possible to seek out a proximal community and have it double as your relational community. See below about intentional communities.

For These Women, Bridge Club is More Than Just a Game

A news clip interviewing women at a bridge club who explain the benefits and advantages of the social setting and gathering to play.

Ukulele Club of Santa Cruz!

A fun clip of a meetup for a ukulele club on the beach — all ages making music together!

Self Made Man

A Transgender Man finds community in Austin, TX on a women’s football team.

Scientifically Speaking, Four Elements Make Up Community

In a 1986 study, scientists McMillan & Chavis proposed the Sense of Community is composed of four elements: membership, influence, integration and fulfillment of needs, and a shared emotional connection.2

Let’s break these down to better understand how each element contributes to having a sense of community. Click each element below as your interest directs you or scroll along.

Click the accordion below to expand and read about each element.

Membership contributes to having a sense of community because it allows some people to be let in and others not.  Exclusivity and investment in becoming a member leads to the “right” to belong.

McMillan and Chavis go on to break membership itself down even more:

“Membership has five attributes: boundaries, emotional safety, a sense of belonging and identification, personal investment, and a common symbol system. These attributes work together and contribute to a sense of who is part of the community and who is not.”7

Attributes of Membership


Boundaries outline the membership parameters, letting some people in and others not.

  • Geographical communities (neighborhoods) have boundaries set by home prices, or HOA fees allow some people to live in the community and others to not.
  • Gender is often a boundary of traditional clubs/groups like fraternities or The Shriners.

[Photo Source: Medinah Shriners]

  • Experience can be a boundary for membership both in the sense of a shared life experience (grief groups, AA, religious groups) and in the sense of experience level (workplace, advanced skills classes).
  • Mary, Toby, and Kelly all see a poster for a weekly yoga class at 6pm on Tuesdays that costs $15 and is “open for all.”Mary is a single mom and lives about an hour from the yoga studio. Toby has a knee injury and is saving his money to move into his own apartment. Kelly works until 7pm on Tuesdays. The boundaries keeping these potential members from joining:
    • Ability to pay $15 per class.
    • Ability to find childcare during the classes.
    • Geographical location or ability to travel.
    • Interest/ability to do yoga.
    • Time commitments and work schedule flexibility.

Emotional Safety:

People who are seeking out more empathy, patience, and understanding would go to groups supportive of those needs.

  • Emotional needs vary from person to person, so some communities (military, strict martial arts, fraternities, etc.) may have less of a degree of empathy and catering to emotional safety, but these groups do cater to physical safety. Which can benefit group members with the ability to FEEL safe.
  • When former cult members are asked why they joined in the first place, the most common answer is the sense of emotional safety and acceptance provided at the beginning.8 As human beings, we inherently want to feel loved, safe, supported, and accepted.

A Sense of Belonging and Identification:

When other members are identifiable, there is a larger sense of belonging.

  • Membership can often be identified by apparel, colors, or uniforms.
  • Experience, skill, and background also play into the attribute of a sense of belonging and identification.
    • Members of Native American and Latinx groups are identified by a shared ancestral history.
    • Doctors can be identified by their experience or the letters after their name (based on education/skill).
    • Members of an elite sports team may have different uniforms (for example) to identify their higher skill level.
  • In high school, Glen saw a boy across the cafeteria wearing a t-shirt for a band Glen really liked. Glen was more willing to go talk to the boy because he knew they shared an interest in the band. Glen and Rob are still best friends 10 years later.
  • Project Semicolon was started as a way to raise awareness of mental illness, specifically depression, suicide, and self-harm. It invited people to draw a semi-colon on their hands and share their stories via social media. It has evolved to people getting a tattoo of a semi-colon, which is now a recognizable identifier of those in solidarity with the movement.

Personal Investment:

Membership fees or a certain time investment lead to more buy-in from the members.

  • As mentioned above, membership fees can be a boundary. For those who can afford a membership fee, there is often more buy-in than free groups because of the desire to get a return on an investment.
  • Emotional Investment can also draw members to a group. Particularly true for causes close to one’s heart due to life experiences. (For example, groups that help cancer patients, animal volunteer groups, social justice groups, etc…)

Common Symbol System:

Membership can be based on recognizing symbols others may not know about.

  • A symbol system is closely similar to having a sense of identification. A common symbol system can refer to a specific language used and shared by members, a secret emblem, or even sayings or quotes that only other members would recognize.
  • During Prohibition, speakeasies were disguised and to gain entrance usually a password, handshake, or specific knock was required. If you didn’t know where the speakeasy was or what the password was, you were not partaking.
  • IYKYK = If you know, you know.On social media, in particular, users are able to share experiences and connect with others in their situation without always revealing the whole story to those who do not know.
  • Gang graffiti in certain neighborhoods marks certain streets or areas as turf. Symbols would be recognized by both the members and members of other gangs for a mutual understanding.9

There is a balance between two types of influence in community:

  1. The group (leadership) has some influence over its members.
  2. Members have influence within the group, with other members, with people outside the group, or a voice in what the group does.

A series of checks and balances within each group evens out these two contradicting norms of influence by undermining the integrity of the community when they go off balance:

  • If there is not enough input from leadership, there is too much autonomy for members and the community loses cohesion.
  • If there is too much leadership dominance, the cohesion becomes conformity (or members lose interest due to a lack of liberty and ability to enact change).

Balance of influence allows members to have a voice while having norms and rules which influence the amount of liberties they can take.

Whew, sounds complicated, right? The following examples should help:

A group has a rule stating a member must attend at least 12 out of 20 meetings a year to maintain membership. At the beginning of each year, the group votes on how many meetings should meet the minimum requirement.

  • Member’s Influence: Members have the option to enact change with the vote at the beginning of each year and to influence other members to vote for an outcome or attend certain meetings.
  • Leader’s Influence: Group is able to monitor attendance without being too strict.
  • Cohesion Impact: Group remains cohesive due to autonomy given to members and minimum requirements.
  • Member Engagement Impact: Members are engaged in getting to choose meetings based on their own schedule or interests.

A support group meeting allows for open discussion and sharing between members with a moderator keeping the conversation going.

  • Member’s Influence: Members dictate how the discussion will go. One member’s attitude may influence others to share or keep quiet.
  • Leader’s Influence: The moderator is able to steer the conversation but is not forcing anyone to share.
  • Cohesion Impact: The members share an experience while the moderator keeps things moving and on topic.
  • Member Engagement Impact: Members are able to influence the conversation and choose their own level of engagement.

Jesus and his disciples.

  • Member’s Influence: Advising Jesus while having influence over others to join them and become followers.
  • Leader’s Influence: He is Jesus Christ.
  • Cohesion Impact: The influence Jesus had over the disciples made them incredibly loyal (except Judas, who likely didn’t buy into the influence).
  • Member Engagement Impact: With their own influence and mission to gain followers, the disciples were engaged in the group.

An 18-year-old from Missouri named James chooses to join the U.S. Army.

  • Member’s Influence: Influence is earned. At the beginning, members are responsible for their own actions and those actions may influence those around them.
  • Leader’s Influence: Strict rules provide routine, discipline, and conformity for members.
  • Cohesion Impact: The conformity is attractive to some. Those who are non-conforming may choose to leave.
  • Member Engagement Impact: James is excited about the prospect of moving up the ranks and holding more influence and so he stays engaged.

Flat hierarchies and groups practicing consensus balance influence well, allowing members to choose to have a voice in everything, and maintaining consensus among all members when decisions need to be made.

For any group to maintain positivity, it must be rewarding for its members. Members need to have a feeling of being integrated into the group and have their needs met by resources the group offers, otherwise there may be no incentive for joining. Often, other members contribute strongly to the group’s overall sense of integration and need fulfillment.  A strong community is able to fit people together so people meet others’ needs while they meet their own.

There are many needs that can be filled by community; a few being member status, success, competence, recognition, and skill trading.

“When people who share values come together, they find that they have similar needs, priorities, and goals, thus fostering the belief that in joining together they might be better able to satisfy these needs and obtain the reinforcement they seek.”6


Groups centered around volunteer work help fill the need for purpose, contribution, appreciation, and giving/sharing.


Groups centered around hobbies/interests/skills may help fill the need for creativity, challenge, and fun/play. Depending on the hobby, they can also help fill the need for relaxation or physical exercise.


Spiritual groups may help fill the need for spirituality, inspiration, acceptance, or emotional safety.

Emotional connection is built through quality interactions over time. Positive experiences among members, shared events, common places or meeting spaces, time together, and a shared history or mission all contribute to these quality interactions and the shared sense of an emotional connection. As members create bonds with each other, share important events, complete tasks, and take more emotional risks within the group, a sense of connection naturally begins to develop. Emotional connections are the hardest to study or define, yet seem to be the definitive element for true community.

“Strong communities are those that offer members positive ways to interact, important events to share and ways to resolve them positively, opportunities to honor members, opportunities to invest in the community, and opportunities to experience a spiritual bond among members.” 6

Emotional connection is built through quality interactions over time. Positive experiences among members, shared events, common places or meeting spaces, time together, and a shared history or mission all contribute to these quality interactions and the shared sense of an emotional connection. As members create bonds with each other, share important events, complete tasks, and take more emotional risks within the group, a sense of connection naturally begins to develop. Emotional connections are the hardest to study or define, yet seem to be the definitive element for true community.

“Strong communities are those that offer members positive ways to interact, important events to share and ways to resolve them positively, opportunities to honor members, opportunities to invest in the community, and opportunities to experience a spiritual bond among members.” 6

Black Man Afraid to Walk in His Neighborhood Starts Movement

In the wake of George Floyd’s death, Shawn shares on social media that he is afraid to walk around his neighborhood because of the color of his skin. His neighbors band together to walk with him.

Wet Neck Yak Club Raises Money for Member with Cancer Diagnosis

A kayak club in Georgia bands together to raise funds for their member and lifelong friend Kenny who was recently diagnosed with cancer.


How well does your community follow the scientific definition? Think of a community you belong to. Anything from hiking clubs to work teams to a close group of friends.

Read the prompts for each element below and write down a few thoughts on what you think for each one. Then, on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the group perfectly represents the element, score your community’s characteristics.


How do you know who is in and who is out?
What are the boundaries?
Do you have a personal investment?
Do you have a way of identifying members?

On a scale from 1 – 10, my community scores____ for the membership element.


Do you have any influence or a voice in the group?
Is your need for autonomy being met?
Does the group have influence over how you behave?

On a scale from 1 – 10, my community scores _____ for the influence element.


List 2-3 needs that are met through being a part of this community.
Some examples may be: connection, contribution, service, spirituality, ease, play, inspiration, exercise, appreciation, etc… (see more needs on the NVC needs list)
Are there any needs that you expected would be met that are not?
Are you recognized, affirmed, and heard by your community?

On a scale from 1 – 10, my community scores ____ for the fulfillment of needs.


Do you share a close emotional bond with your community?
When something happens, how does the community respond?
Do members of your community “have your back”?

On a scale from 1 – 10, my community scores ____ in shared emotional needs

Going Deeper

Which element scored the lowest for your community?  How can you strengthen the lower elements? Take the list below and DO SOMETHING — what are you doing to build the community you want?

  • Membership — Depending on the group, you may or may not have a ton of pull with making big changes in terms of membership requirements. Here are a few ideas to help you feel more connected:
    • Help a new person become a member. Introduce them to the group, invite them to a class, refer them, or even help them with the entry requirements. Not only will you understand membership better in helping someone out, but you will make a close connection with a new member and feel pride in contributing to the success and longevity of the community.
    • Volunteer to design a t-shirt, logo, merchandise, etc… Make something you would be proud to wear around identifying you as a member.
    • Up your personal investment. Contribute more time, take on a bigger role, or make a donation. Contribute to the group’s mission and make an impact.
  • Influence — You may not be able to instantly change the structure of the group. A good way to have more autonomy or more influence over what the group does is to take on a leadership role. It could be small like offering to be the one to pick the next book for your book club or a bigger role. It is important to have your voice heard in the group.
  • Fulfillment of needs — if you find needs going unfulfilled, you may want to look around for other clubs or groups to add to your life. Different groups can fill different needs, so it may be necessary to have a few in your life to balance everything you need.
  • Shared emotional connection — If you do not feel a strong emotional connection from a group, chances are, you are not very close with any individual members. Try hanging out with one or two people outside of the meeting times, and build more of a connection with them. Having an emotional connection can be important in a work setting. If you are not close with any of your co-workers, you probably aren’t going to have a strong emotional connection to your job.

Community is Healthy

Smarter To Travel In Groups

These ads by De Lijn, a Belgian public transport company, are not only funny but highlight why community is important. Watch for a smile and a reminder of why it’s “Smarter To Travel In Groups”

In ancient history, tribes were the only way to survive. People relied on living in close proximity, sharing common values, trading skills, and contributing to the greater good. As mentioned above while explaining integration and fulfillment of needs above, communities are rewarding to members, including filling valuable needs.

According to biologist E. O. Wilson, “[Tribes] gave people a name in addition to their own and social meaning in a chaotic world. It made the environment less disorienting and dangerous.” 10 It was safer to be in a group and provided a sense of purpose to members of the tribe. We can observe tribal dynamics in the animal kingdom and in existing tribes like those in Papua New Guinea, Kenya, and Brazil. Wilson goes on to say: “Human nature has not changed. Modern groups are psychologically equivalent to the tribes of ancient history.”

Similar to the science backing why we need friendship, finding a community can help us live a happier, healthier, longer, and more purposeful life.

According to research into Blue Zones, the longest-lived people in the world spent their time surrounded by people. Blue Zones are specific areas of the world where people tend to live longer than the average life expectancy and report a higher quality of life. Blue Zones exist in several places around the world and one of their common themes is having built-in practices which involve being social. Finding the “Right Tribe” and “joining or being born into social circles that support healthy behavior” can create a healthier, longer life.11

For more on Blue Zones, go to

How to live to be 100+ | Dan Buettner | TED-Ed

How to Live to be 100+: To find the path to long life and health, Dan Buettner and team study the world’s “Blue Zones,” communities whose elders live with vim and vigor to record-setting age. In his talk, he shares the 9 common diets and lifestyle habits keeping them spry past age 100.

When People Get Together, Ideas and Resources are Shared.

“I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.” — George Bernard Shaw

Research shows humans benefit from living together and sharing resources. This mindset has led to housing solutions known as “intentional communities” or “co-housing communities” popping up all over the world, with an estimated 100,000 Americans living in intentional communities nationwide.12 These communities allow a closeness between neighbors that regular apartment complexes or neighborhoods do not foster.

When some hear intentional community or co-housing, they may think of the stereotypical 1960’s era communes. In a Time Magazine article on intentional communities, Jeffrey Kluger says “the idea of living in close — but not too close — cooperation with other people has a lot of appeal.”12 Weekly communal meals, shared open spaces for work and play, and the psychological and physical benefits of being around other people.

The average number of residents in a cohousing community is 2413.  In larger neighborhoods or buildings, it can be hard to get to know 100 neighbors. Smaller communities provide an opportunity to get to know all the residents, and enough people to come together when a resident is sick or just had a baby or needs some extra help or a lift to the airport.

The most beneficial aspect of these communities is the
ability and encouragement to share meals.

Architect and co-housing expert Grace Kim says in a Ted Talk:  “I can tell you, those that eat together more frequently, exhibit higher levels of communitas. It turns out, when you eat together, you start planning more activities together. When you eat together, you share more things. You start to watch each other’s kids. You lend out your power tools. You borrow each other’s cars.” 13

Due to the loneliness epidemic and multiple studies (1, 2, 3) that say living in isolation or loneliness can lead to shorter life expectancy, Kim says even if you don’t live in an intentional community, taking a walk with your neighbor could do more for your overall health than you may think.14

While there hasn’t been extensive research on how intentional communities specifically solve the loneliness issue, when someone is scared or sick in the middle of the night, cohousing communities solve the problem of not having anyone to call. In a time when people are more spread out (geographically) from loved ones, having people close you can rely on in a time of need is important, and provides residents the opportunity to return the favor. We need people. Kluger writes, “Intentional communities, in their quiet way, are helping to make sure that powerful human need gets met.” 13

Want to find an intentional community near you? There are thousands!

Check out or to get started

TIME | ‘Everyone Needs Someone Else’

Why Americans of All Ages Are Embracing Communal Living
A video and accompanying article by TIME shows just how these communities work and what is so beneficial about them. Pulling from research and examples from around the USA and the world, Kluger shows how intentional communities help with social isolation and wellbeing for all their residents.

Cohousing Communities Help Prevent Social Isolation

PBS looks into a cohousing community in Denmark and how it affects the health of the people who live there.

Planet Community – Episode 4 – Cohousing Communities of Ann Arbor

The Foundation for Intentional Communities has a series called “Planet Community” and in Episode 4, it looks into a cohousing community in Ann Arbor where residents share food, hold consensus meetings, and live. Despite working through issues of privilege and diversity within the community, the shared emotional connection is strong.

Intentional Communities — 50% Less Hippie Than You’d Expect | Bianca Heyming | TEDxCardiffbytheSea

Founder and resident of an Intentional Community, Bianca Heyming shares how living with many people is not simply “Bliss, Love, and Light,” but in addition a commitment to personal development, vulnerability, and hard work.

ECOVILLAGE IN PROGRESS: Intentional Community in New Hampshire

Founder and resident of an Intentional Community, Bianca Heyming, shares how living with many people is not simply “Bliss, Love, and Light,” but in addition a commitment to personal development, vulnerability, and hard work.


The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Participation in Community Can Lead to Belonging

“When one feels belonging, one feels accepted and seen, and when one is deprived of belonging, one feels rejected and invisible.” -Kaufman15

Specific groups and communities can help fill specific needs like spirituality, relaxation, physical exercise, contribution, etc…. One common need humans seek to fill with community is belonging.

“I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.” – Maya Angelou

To feel a sense of belonging, one has to participate in the community in some way. Belonging won’t magically happen if you say “I belong to a book club” and you never show up to meetings or contribute to conversations. Adding your own amount of effort will have a direct impact on how much your belonging bucket gets filled.

Showing up

“SHOWING UP is key to making real friends and building lasting communities. We’ve made phrases like ‘I’m overwhelmed,’ ‘It’s so intense,’ and ‘ It’s so hard and scary’ a part of our day-to-day language. That way of being gives us support and excuses that keep us from putting our shoes on and showing up. You end up cheating yourself–and others. SHOWING UP is more than physical. You’re not showing up if you’re distracted, on your phone, inauthentic, or in the clouds. Showing up means helping out. Showing up means adding value. Showing up means wagging your tail. It’s also about being CONSISTENT and patient. Belonging develops over time, and it rewards you forever.” 2

Physically being there is different to participating. You may be a casual rock climber and enjoy bouldering by yourself in your free time or going to a climbing gym once in a while. You are there, but you are in no way participating in your local rock climbing community. To find a sense of belonging within the group, you would need to instill some of the ingredients of community and be intentional about it. Maybe invite a few friends from the climbing gym to grab a drink after climbing, create a recurring climbing night for you and those friends, and go on an outing together. Do the work to lay the foundation for community support and trust.

Showing up also has to do with including others. The actions we make to include others in the community can make a world of difference to everyone in the community, and boost feelings of belonging overall.

An inspiring look into friendship and how actions can make a huge difference.

Belonging may never happen, depending on how well the community fits. Laying out what you are looking for in a community may be beneficial in finding a community and eventually belonging.

“That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Belonging ≠ Intimacy

Important note: belonging is not the same intimacy.

You may think once you find belonging in a community, your need for intimacy will also be filled. Instant intimacy isn’t always the case. It may be discouraging if you try to satisfy your need for intimacy by seeking out belonging, because even if you find your group, you may not have intimacy yet.

Thinking about levels of friendships, the full community may be mostly acquaintances or new friends. It will take effort to bring one or two community members into your inner circle and it will take time for them to become close friends. Research shows it takes around 90 hours spent together to become friends and more than double that to become close friends. Say your group meets for an hour twice a month. If you only interact with members during meetings, it will take about FOUR YEARS to get to that 90-hour mark.

There is no substitute for intimacy. Only after there is positivity, vulnerability, and consistency (1-on-1) can one experience intimacy within a friendship. Don’t give up! Remember belonging to the same group means you have things in common with someone, and commonality is the seed of friendship.

Finding Belonging and Community

Sam’s Story | A Sense of Belonging

At age 9, Sam Put came to New Zealand as a refugee from Cambodia. Sam explains how playing soccer and sticking with it helped him find purpose and belonging in a new place.

Where is Home? Where do You Belong? | Vamba Sherif | TEDxGroningen

Author Vamba Sherif shares his story of moving around and striving to feel at home in each place he goes. He asks the questions “Where is home? Where do you belong?”

BELONGING | Award-Winning Short Film

Follow the story of George, who had to leave his community of scouts behind in Syria. Now a refugee in Paris, he searches for a place to belong.

After Years of Searching, Queer Man Finds Community In Philly. “This Is What A Family Feels Like.”

Living in several different cities in the US, Gabriel struggled to find a community he felt truly accepted him. Until one winter, he moved to Philadelphia and through a friend discovered a new group of people he now calls family.

Urban Female Nomad Finds Community with Homeless

Get to know urban nomad, Kat, as she is interviewed about her life in an RV and how she and her community support each other.

Leaving Town With “Just Straight White People”, Gay Man Finds Community In City.

Levi Wade recounts how the online LGBT community helped him with being alone in his small, extremely conservative hometown as a gay child and teen. And, later on in his life, helped him find a more accepting community elsewhere.

The Science of Group Formation: The Robber’s Cave Experiment

[Photo Source: Hulton Archive/Getty Images]

The Robber’s Cave Experiment was conducted in 1954 by researcher Muzafer Sherif.16 Twenty-two 11-year-old boys all from the same background were sent to a summer camp in Oklahoma. The boys were strangers to each other. For the first week, the boys were kept in two separate groups of 11 boys each and participated in team-building and bonding activities. In the second week, the two groups were made to compete against each other and apparent prejudices arose between them. The boys became attached to their group, talking about themselves favorably and the other group less favorably. When the boys were asked to then all work together, there was tension. As the Robber’s Cave Experiment showed, it doesn’t take very much for us to form groups. In fact, the type or purpose of the group seems to not matter very much, simply being in a group is what matters. Dropped in the woods without knowing anyone, the boys experienced a deep need to belong to something and connect through their shared experiences.


  • Community is subjective and can look different to everyone.
  • Community is made up of membership, influence, integration and fulfillment of needs, and a shared emotional connection.
  • Community benefits us with need fulfillment, connection, and support.
  • Belonging is a need all humans look to fill. Some communities may never get to the belonging stage for everyone–it depends on the fit.

People are everything. Our relationships with others—communities, coworkers, friendships, lovers—are like the canvases on which we draw meaning in life. Check out this page on People.

Friendship Friendship: The Gist The Benefits of Friendship Friendship Myths Types of Friends Connection Reflection Looking Inward Nurture Exiting Friendships New Friendships Social Skills Understanding Community Building Community Friendship Practice and Exercises Friendship Resources

Further Reading

Find even more resources on the Friendship Resources Page.


Belong: Find Your People, Create Community, and Live a More Connected Life

Radha Agrawal

A book that’s equal parts inspiring and interactive, and packed with prompts, charts, quizzes, and full-color illustrations, Belong takes readers on a two-part journey. Part one is Going IN—a gentle but intentional process of self-discovery and finding out your true energy levels and VIA (values, interests, and abilities). Part two is Going OUT—building on all that you’ve learned about yourself to find those few special people who feed your soul, and discovering, or creating, the ever-widening groups that align with your aims and desires.

The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters

Priya Parker

A transformative exploration of the power, purpose, and benefits of gatherings in our lives: at work, at school, at home, and beyond. Priya understands the magic that happens when people get together for a purpose, and she also understands how miserable it can be without proper planning. Her examples are vast and eye-opening, and she presents her theories with humor and grace.

The Art of Community: Seven Principles for Belonging

Charles Vogl

Vogl defines community as a “group of individuals who share a mutual concern for one another’s welfare.” This is a guidebook for making the jump between in or starting an organization and finding belonging in a community. Emerging or veteran leaders who integrate these principles will build communities that are more resilient, passionate, and harmonious in the face of adversity and uncertainty. Flip to any page to find insight and inspiration.

Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home

Toko-pa Turner

Turner maps out a path to belonging using stories, dreams, origins, and history to understand our path. Beautiful metaphors and real-life stories shape Turner’s examples of how humans connect with each other.


Title / Link Description Key Takeaways
10 Traits That Make a Good Community 10 characteristics that all positive communities share. Stephanie Caldow, B.A., is a certified positive psychology practitioner with a specialization in HRM. “Positive communities are groups that inspire their members in ways that promote a sense of self-discovery and group connection, encouraging members to express their beliefs and values, as well as build relationships with others.”
What is Community? Examines case studies of ten community ‘hubs’, with backgrounds in a variety of faiths and no faith, and analyses them to identify the core themes that make up a community. The Core Themes of Community:
Shared food (hospitality)
Longevity (trust)
The extra mile
Empowerment (giving back)
Biologist EO Wilson on Why Humans, Like Ants, Need a Tribe A biologist explains why everyone, with no exceptions, must have a tribe. “The drive to join is deeply ingrained, a result of a complicated evolution that has led our species to a condition that biologists call eusociality.”
Everyone Needs Someone Else Why Americans of all ages are coming together in ‘Intentional Communities’ “Intentional communities are about creating attachment, the feeling that someone has your back”
How to Find Genuine Community in Our Lives Outlines benefits of community and provides some tips on finding yours. “Pick one or two potential communities and do some research. Talk with others who participate in those communities to get an insider’s view. If you wish to invest further, take it slow and steady. Balance the ambivalence of feeling awkward as a newbie with the gut instincts that a group may not be for you. Be patient and keep trying until you find your tribe.”
How cohousing can make us happier (and live longer) Architect Grace Kim shares an age-old antidote to isolation: cohousing, a way of living where people choose to share space with their neighbors, get to know them, and look after them. Living in community, or simply taking a walk and sharing a meal with a neighbor can be an antidote for isolation.


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