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How Do We Know We are Making a Difference in Our Neighbourhood Work?

Posted on April 5, 2018
By Heather Keam

people-2567915_1920I was speaking with Howard Lawrence from Abundant Community Edmonton about their work around neighbourhood development and we got talking about making a difference in our community and how do we know if anyone is better off because of the changes/activities that have been implemented.  How do we measure change in our neighbourhood work?  Howard told me about a tool called the Sense of Community Index that is used in the social science area to determine sense of community. 

The Sense of Community Index is based on a theory by McMillan and Chavis (1986) that a sense of community is a perception with an affective component. The theory identifies four elements of a sense of community:

  • Membership-Literature on membership concluded that there are five attributes that make up one’s membership to a community: boundaries; emotional safety; a sense of belonging and Identification; personal investment and a common symbol system.
  • Influence-Members of a community must feel empowered to have influence over the activities in the community and feel a sense of cohesiveness with a group.
  • Meeting needs-Members of the community are rewarded in various ways for their participation and that there are shared values within the group.
  • Shared emotional connection-The community becomes more important to someone who has given more time and energy to it, someone who interacts with the community and who is acknowledged for their time and effort.

This tool is a short 24 question survey that could be used as both a pre survey to help understand the sense of community prior to implementing your work and then used as a post survey to see if your initiative/activities have made an impact in the community. 

Learn more

Community Science- a website that brings together professionals who have an interest in sense of community

Psychological Sense of Community: Theory of McMillan & Chavis (1986)- Learn more about the theory behind the Sense of Community Index.

Sense of Community Index- Request a copy of the index


Evaluation, ABCD, Heather Keam, Cities Deepening Community

Heather Keam

By Heather Keam

Heather is happy to be part of the Vibrant Communities team as the Manager of Cities, Cities Deepening Community. Before this position she was the Manager of Learning Services where she organized Community of Practices, learning opportunities, tools and resources for community change. Heather brings over 12 years of public health knowledge to this position.

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