IN my previous piece I referred to the volunteers who make it happen in our community.
However, you may wonder what is meant by community as it's a term which is applied in various contexts. Personally, I view our town as a community, comprising disparate parts, I believe we are a collective able to unite in a common purpose.
A community isn't a term to be used and taken out of context whenever required, e.g. "we will consult with the community"; which usually means we'll tick a box marked "consultation", or provide a list of limited choices, because in reality they don't want to know or, god forbid, take on board the community's views.
I have always thought that consultation should occur before a decision is made, not after, which is often the case. Of course there are exceptions to this, as there are a number of well intentioned organisations who engage with the community, but sadly they are few and far between.
If the public is to be engaged in a constructive manner, on whatever issue, it should be done without any predetermination.
There are a number of local voluntary groups in our town that are quite capable of engaging in productive open discussion on matters which affect their area e.g. community councils.
These statutory bodies were established 40 years ago to reflect the views of the community, they do a tremendous job of monitoring and tackling issues which crop up on a regular basis. They are not self-serving, are non-political and have within their ranks a cross section of individuals who work in the best interests of their locality. I know of numerous examples of successful campaigns led by a community council who engaged and galvanised the community in conjoined efforts. These organisations from across our town should be commended for their collective efforts, without which our communities would be diminished.
However, I think the issue of what defines a community is still unclear to many. In particular those who refer to the "community" as if it's an alien concept. You've probably heard them on television, usually some self-important individual pontificating along the lines of "we are working with the community" or some other meaningless guff. These statements area usually vacuous, especially coming from some politicians who, in order to be seen to be doing something, offer platitudes or give trite pre-prepared responses, rather than trying to understand what local people want. They are not really engaging with communities as they are usually distanced from them and out of touch. I believe our citizens have valuable contributions to make regarding the community they live in and they are the people I listen to because their views matter and we should never forget that.