I 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.
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