What do People Gain by Participating in the Community?

The blog this week was written by George T. Martin, President of The Arcadia Institute. One of our cardinal disciplines at The Arcadia Institute is to constantly reflect on what we say and do. For us strategic thinking calls for examining ideas and practices that may be self evident. Perhaps the most fundamental concept for us is ‘community participation’. It is central to our mission. It is both the end and means of all of our work.

So, let us ask ourselves the question, ‘what do people gain by participating in community’?

First, let’s go back to basics. According to Wikipedia, ‘community’ comes from two Latin words ‘com’ (with/together) and ‘munus’ (gift). The term ‘participation’ comes from the Latin ‘pars’ (part) and ‘capere’ (to take). Thus, community participation is the act of coming together to take part in, or share, our gifts, or common resources and values.

We can easily agree that all of us gain from taking part in this thing we all hold dear, this common entity that binds us together. For people with disabilities who are often separated and thereby devalued, taking part in community provides an identity that they do not have alone. It is usually more important to share the common resources with people with disabilities than it is for people without disabilities because they need for them more. Limited capacities for participating often requires assistance and accommodations. Moreover, it is not sufficient just to have access to community. The assurance of participation is necessary.

The starting point for our reflection at the Institute is what did we do in relation to what we aimed to do, asking ourselves how did we do it, how well, how much, what does it matter? We know that by ourselves we cannot make community participation a reality for people with disabilities. So, we continue to invite all of you to join us in this mission.