Understanding Community

  • Virginia Cobigo School of Psychology, University of Ottawa
  • Lynn Martin Department of Health Sciences, Lakehead University
  • Rawad Mcheimech School of Psychology, University of Ottawa
Keywords: community, definition of community, inclusive communities, intellectual and developmental disabilities, supports and services planning


The term community is used extensively in the peer reviewed literature, though it is used differently by researchers across various disciplines. A better understanding of community, as an object of study, is needed to help guide policy, supports and services planning, and to build inclusive communities. This paper presents the results of a review of existing definitions published in peer-reviewed papers from various disciplines studying human behaviours and interactions. It also presents the results of focus groups with four persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities and members of their communities exploring their own definitions of community. Definitions of community extracted from the peer-reviewed literature were compared to identify common themes. Qualitative analysis revealed 13 themes, some more common than others. Focus groups transcripts were also analyzed. Themes identified in the literature review were also found in the focus groups discussion. However, a novel concept related to the notion of community as being composed of people who are unpaid to be part of this network was identified. Based on these results, a definition of community is derived to help further not only academic research in the area, but also to inform policy and practice aiming to build inclusive communities.

Author Biographies

Virginia Cobigo, School of Psychology, University of Ottawa
School of Psychology, University of Ottawa
Lynn Martin, Department of Health Sciences, Lakehead University
Department of Health Sciences, Lakehead University
Rawad Mcheimech, School of Psychology, University of Ottawa
School of Psychology, University of Ottawa


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