By Paul Henderson
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Additional info for Community Development and Civil Society: Making connections in the European context
Finally, critics argue that too many definitions of community ignore or underestimate the impact of the internet and other technological changes. ‘Virtual’ communities are now part of contemporary language and behaviour and the use of social networking groups, email groups, ‘blogging’ and chat rooms has expanded significantly in recent years. Perhaps the concept of civil society can lead us to a more modern interpretation of community because it synthesises two seemingly contradictory yet very basic human needs: belonging and freedom.
It is also true that response times are unpredictable; there are examples of sudden, immediate actions and examples of step-by-step development or processes that slow down, almost to stagnation, then unexpectedly regain momentum. Some elements of working with a process can be criticised for being inefficient or parochial. We should remember, however, that we are talking about building civil society as a counter to the state and the concentration of excessive power. People become involved both to reduce or eliminate deficiencies and to propose alternatives.
Therefore the question of organisation and non-organisation is again put in the limelight, particularly in the new European democracies where civil society faces difficulties in organising itself. Community intervention can speed up the processes that are potentially present in communities 22 Civil society but that require a great deal of encouragement and different forms of empowerment to become manifest in organised ways. The need to be listened to can develop into civil action if citizens discuss and adjust their points of view, establishing a collective position that can be represented effectively in decision-making arenas.
Community Development and Civil Society: Making connections in the European context by Paul Henderson