Our community ! Understanding communities ! Dysfunctional communities
Characteristics of a community ! Characteristics of an institution
Building better communitiesAn alternative model ! Cartoons

Explanation of terms

LRP: The Least Restrictive Principle
N: Normalisation
PCP:  Person Centred Planning
SRV: Social Role Valorisation
TP: Transitional planning



Community care


Disability service organisations


Dysfunctional community


Institutional care




People with high support needs


Social care (see Institutional care)

Social construction

Social policy

Social Role Valorisation (SRV)


Stake holders


Boundaries can be physical, virtual or psychological. They define the identity of the community. All communities need a way to determine what the community does and how it does it. Without boundaries, the roles of the community become meaningless. Does a sporting community focus on transportation or scientific research? While transportation or scientific research may be a part of the community, they are not a part of the role on the community in society.

Without boundaries the community may ...
... become unfocused,
... become too diversified and uncoordinated,
... not adequately provide for its own needs, or the needs of its members,
... create tensions within communities that it is a part of, or a part of it,
... create layers of bureaucracy that become communities in their own right,

Boundaries are often defined by the ...
... the institutions of the community
... the members of the community
... the settings (physical, virtual or psychological)
... government (local state and federal) policy and practice
... other communities that it is are a part of, or are a part of it

The origin of "community" is from the latin word:
"In sociology, the concept of community has led to significant debate, and sociologists are yet to reach agreement on a definition of the term. There were ninety-four discrete definitions of the term by the mid-1950s. Traditionally a "community" has been defined as a group of interacting people living in a common location. The word is often used to refer to a group that is organized around common values and is attributed with social cohesion within a shared geographical location, generally in social units larger than a household. The word can also refer to the national community or global community.
The word "community" is derived from the Old French communité which is derived from the Latin communitas (cum, "with/together" + munus, "gift"), a broad term for fellowship or organized society." (Wikipedia)

"Community: The origin of the word "community" comes from the Latin munus, which means the gift, and cum, which means together, among each other. So community literally means to give among each other." (Seek To Know)

The idea of "community" probably came about where people gathered around a common area for their mutual benefit. Sharing a language, customs, ideas, skills, goods and services, or protection from enemies would be some of the advantages in being a part of a group. Over the years the idea of community has change to accomodate different things. While different definitions mean different things, the idea is the same; that a group comes together or lives together to share something that is of value to the members of that community. Today the word "community" has taken on whole new meanings, New technology in communitation and transportation mean that a community is no longer where we live. While we may live in a suburb, town, city or some geographical location, they no longer define the communities that we are a part of. Communities have also become so specalised these days that we no longer look for one community to fulfill our needs. (See Understanding communities)

Community care:
See also Institutional care.

Is about how the community looks after its members
What skills and resources does a community have?
How are those skills and resources used within the community?
How does the community ballence its own needs with the needs of it's members?

Community care is ...
Informal, where there are no rigid guidelines or principles that define the care. Is not bound by government policy or practice.
Spontaneous, where the service is temporary in fulfilling a specific need at a particular time and in a particular setting.
Relies on community members to provide the service.
About the members supporting each other.
A value in being a part of the community.
Having something to contribute to the community.

A social label that describes a characteristic of a person that prevents or disables the person's ability to meet his or her needs. The labels "people with disability", "disabled", "intellectual disability", "physical disability", "mental illness" etc are used as a means to identify a social group that has access to a service that specialises in supporting that group. These labels are generally assigned to a person by some bureaucratic process (Disability Services, Disability support etc) that allows access to the service (See People with disability (inclusive definition), labeling as a social phenomenon). The accepted social labels that were used 40 to 50 years ago, and are considered inappropriate and devaluing these days, reflect the changing social landscape that we live in today. The same thing happens in any social setting, where the use of terminology to describe a social group becomes outdated. Just as fashion reflects the era in which it was fashionable. Language also reflects the society in which it was used. Each new generation creates its own vocabulary. Think about the words that are used to describe "Disability". What meanings do we attach to these words today? What words were used 40 to 50 years ago to describe the same things? How will people in 40 to 50 years time describe the terminology we use today in describing people with high support needs? Will "disability" be a dirty word?

Disability service organisations:
"A disability service organisation refers to any service that is provided by a service group or organisation that specialises in looking after the needs of people with disability. The organisation may specialise in a particular area of care (accommodation, recreation, education or employment), or provide services that include all aspects of a person’s life. Organisations are generally funded by the Disability Services Commission (DSC) and contracted to provide the service within the policies of the DSC. Various government policies also legatimise the roles of these organisations within society. The disability service sector is also an industry in it's own right.

Disability services provide a valued role in society today. They provide the skills and resources that are not available within the wider community, that support a group of people with high support needs. The service is a community in its own right in providing the staff, volunteers, living, employment, educational or recreational activities within society. The networks, relationships and shared experiences of the members provide the community of the service with a sense of purpose and direction within society. The service also provides the knowledge base that supports a particular group in society."
Understanding disability service organisations

Any person becomes disadvantaged when he/she does not have the same opportunity, access or ability to participate in an activity that is available to others. Having a disability, as defined by some social policy, could be seen as an advantage where a person is allowed access to a disability program, or seen a disadvantage where the person can not provide for his/her basic needs. In this case the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. A person that has a great deal of wealth has a number of advantages over others, however there are also some disadvantages associated. In this case the advantages would probably outweigh the disadvantages. Are unemployed or pensioners disadvantaged where they cannot find productive employment and do not have enough money to live on? Or are they advantaged in that they receive a payment that they do not have to work for?

The idea of "disadvantaged" can then be seen as a personal thing as well as a social thing. Whether a person is advantaged or disadvantaged in a situation depends on the activity, their particular needs at the time, their values and expectations, as well as the needs, values and expectations of the community and the society that they are a part of.

Dysfunctional community:
Any community that can not meet the needs of its members. (See Dysfunctional communities)

Within the disability sector the term "institution" has been used to describe the building and the various activities that happened within the community of the building. Unless otherwise stated, "institution" is used to describe the formal and informal cultures, practices, behaviors and expectations of the members of an activity that involves two or more people. The institution is a part of the social construction of the community, of the building.

Institutional care:
Institutional care can also be described as "Social care". (see also "Community care")
Where there is a specific need that can not be managed by a community, a service is created that specalises in that need. Hospitals, for example, are designed to fulfill a specific need in the community. The hospital has a specific set of values, behaviours and cultures (institutions) that are unique to the hospital and not used in the wider community. There is generally a set of criteria, process or rite of passage that allows entry into the service. There is also an induction where a person goes through some formal procedure before entry.

A disibility service or organisation provides a service that is not available within the wider community. The service may provide accommodation, recreation, education or employment for a person or a group of people within the community of the service or organisation because the there are no services available within the wider community. The institutions of the service or organisation provide the way the members of the community of the service or organisation are supported within society.

Shows the relationship between the the skills and resources of the community,
 and the amount of support that can be provided within the community.

Interventions are often thought as social programs, usually built on evidence based practice, that are designed to improve the way members participate in society, We think of interventions as being medical, technological, behavioural, scientific, spiritual, and even political, environmental, geological or commercial. These happen on an unconscious as well as a conscious level. If fact any act, process, policy or strategy that is designed to influence, modify or change a person's (or group of people) thoughts, behaviors or actions can be thought of as an intervention. Interventions happen at all levels of society. In the family we learn various behaviors through the normal interaction between the family members. Other interventions come from various sources in the community and society. The various rules and regulations that we live by, social programs, TV, peer groups etc. are all designed to influence, modify or change the way we see ourselves and interact with others.

See labeling as a social phenomenon, Role, Social roles Vs Community roles Vs Identity.

Ownership is used in the sense of being a part of something. A family or community has ownership of its members in the sense that the members are a part of the family or community. There is a shared sense of responsible for the activities and the behaviors of the family or community.

The implications of this are ...
the members share in the good times and bad times
the members have access to the skills and resources of the family or community
the members support, and are supported by, each other
the family or community has authority over its members
the needs of the family or community take precedence over the needs of the members

People with high support needs:
Just because a person has as disability, does not automatically mean that the person has high support needs.
A person that has high support needs can not function properly without support that takes up a major part of the persons life.

A person may have
A substance addiction
A medical condition
A behavioural condition
That requires special interventions that are provided by a service provider.

Any person that is supported by a service provider where ...
the person does not have the skills or resources to provide for his/her needs
the community does not have the skills and resources to provide for his/her needs
has a disability, medical or social condition and needs constant supervision
may be seen as a danger to themselves
may be seen as a danger to others

A service provider can be any service that specialises in support within a particular model of care.
... medical: hospitals, nursing homes etc.
... social: disability services, community services, HACC, HOSPICE, prisons etc.

Role: (see also labeling as a social phenomenon, Social roles Vs Community roles Vs Identity)
Is not exclusive to how we see ourselves or each other, a role can describe anybody or anything that we associate with or have any interaction with.

Roles are neither positive or negative. The value that placed on the role is determined by the expectations and behaviours associated with the role within the activity. At a shop, for example, there are a number of roles of the people in the shop. Two of those roles are 1) sales person and (2) customer. If a customer can not behave accordingly, or has some characteristic that does not fit into to the expectations of the sales person the customer may not be treated with dignity or respect.

1) We learn strategies (a set of behaviors) that we find useful in coping with our personal feelings and day to day situations. These strategies can be described as the person's role (or function) within the activity that the person is participating in. We learn these strategies through our relationships with others in society. In the family, at school, recreation or work all involve strategies. A lawyer, for example, learns a set of strategies in defending someone in court. A person learns set of strategies in teaching a class or being a father. A general learns strategies in defeating the enemy. A person with an intellectual disability learns social skills, life skills, employment/recreational skills and other positive behaviors that provide a valued role for the person (friend, painter, gardener, musician etc.). These strategies are often used in various similar situations, or mixed and matched in new situations, where the person has no existing sets of strategies. We generally have 2 or more sets of strategies that are used in different activities and situations, however, a person may apply one strategy to all activities and situations that may arise. Labels are also a way to describe these roles, where a person is characterised by a set of strategies or behaviors.

2) The term "Role" (also known as a social role or social function) is also used to describe the activity, the setting and the various interactions of the members within the activity and the setting, where these interactions are consistent and can be defined and measured (in the sense of comparison with other consistent interactions), and have a particular function within the activity and the setting.
These roles are determined by the society, community, club, team or group that we are participating in, in that there are a set of expectations and behaviours associated with the role within the activity.
(Note: I have avoided the term "behaviors", as a behavior describes a person's actions and reactions, rather than the various intercourses that happen between members, and their relationships with each other, within the activity and the setting.)

Our role in a particular activity is often predetermined by the type of activity, the setting and the other members of the activity. In a classroom, for example, (1): the type of activity is structured towards learning and the gaining of skills and knowledge in applying the learning, (2): the setting is separated (restricted to members that fulfil a set of criteria etc) and (3): the roles of the members are Teacher (imparts the knowledge) - Students (learns the knowledge). In order for a person to have a valued role within the activity and setting, the person must be able to satisfy the criteria associated with the activity and setting. Introducing other roles into the classroom (social system) may create some problems.

A particular role (or Label) is also placed on a person or group of people by a society, community, club, team or group as a way to justify or legitimise a policy or treatment of the person or group. This happens all the time where a particular behaviour or characteristic of the person or group does not fit into the normal behaviours or characteristics of the society, community, club, team or group. These policies or treatments often become institutionalised into the society, community, club, team or group.

Buildings also have different roles or functions within society. The role of the building describes the various ways buildings are used, and the various interactions that happen within the building. The function of the building is determined by these interactions and how they relate to the members. The most obvious of this is a "Function center" that is designed to be used for different functions. A concert hall has a particular role and function within society. Communities, hospitals, classrooms, groups/teams and even a knife can have a different role and function according to the user and others within the activity and the setting.

Social care:
See "Institutional care"

Social construction:
Is used to describe the characteristics of a community. While the characteristics of different communities are different (are constructed differently), they all refer to the same things. In the hope of getting things in the right perspective, the term "social construction" has been used to separate the institution (the building) and the institutions of the building. The institutions of the building are a part of the social construction of the community of the building.

Social policy:
Most literature describes social policy as a form of social welfare. This definition is a bit misleading in that there is the assumption that there is a benefit for all members of society. We know that from our own experiences that this is certainly not the case. Rather than a form of social welfare, social policy is just a reflection of the values an attitudes of the most influential people or groups within that society. Social policy can also have both positive and negative outcomes for different groups or communities within that society. Social policy that is designed to protect one group can have disastrous consequences for another group. A social policy designed to support a minority group may disadvantage other groups in the reallocation of wealth, skills and resources within society.

Social policy is not exclusive to a democratic society. All societies, whether a dictatorial, socialist, communist or republic, have a social policy that defines the society. Even an anarchy could be described as a social policy of no social policy.

Social Role Valorisation (SRV):
SRV provides the foundation for current social policy in providing for the needs of people with disability.
The idea of SRV evolved from Normalisation. Normalisation argues that people with high support needs deserve the same opportunities as others in the normal activities of the society. Wolfensberger developed a set of values, attitudes, and behaviours that people with high support needs were subjected to by society. These values, attitudes, and behaviours determined their treatment and status within society (institutionalised/devalued). Wolfensberger argues that change can only come about by changing the values, attitudes, and behaviours of society, as well as providing people with high support needs the skills and resources, where they are able to participate in, and valued as members of society (deinstitutionalised/valued) (see : labeling as a social phenomenon).

"A society or a human society is (1) a group of people related to each other through persistent relations such as social status, roles and social networks. (2) A large social grouping that shares the same geographical territory and is subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations. Human societies are characterized by patterns of relationships between individuals sharing a distinctive culture and institutions. Without an article, the term refers either to the entirety of humanity or a contextually specific subset of people." (Wikipedia)

Society is an expression, idea or description that describes various groups or communities relationships with each other. Society is not a thing that we can see or touch. When we refer to society we are actually referring to a group and it's relationship to the other groups. "High Society" for example describes a group that is different to other groups. "Social work", "social security" and  "social welfare" all refer to a group of people who need specialised support that is not available in the wider community. When we refer to "the socially accepted way", or a "socially accepted theory" we are saying that a behaviour or idea is mostly accepted by most groups or communities within a defined location, setting or space.

An "Eastern society", "rural society" or "industrial society" all describe some characteristicts or behaviours that a group or community has that is different to other groups or communities. A society is generally the largest group that contains other groups or communities that may or may not share these same characteristicts. These groups could probally thought of as minority groups. Within societies we see all sorts of minority groups that are not about size, but because they have a particular characteristic that does not fit into that society.

While a "society" is often referred to as a "community" and a "community" is often referred to as a "society" they are really different things. A community is a defined physical, virtural or defined by the shared characteristics of its members, space. Communities are the way we socialise and share experiences, and societies are the shared characteristicts of a set of communities (see Understanding communities). This confusion between a community and the society it is a part of has led to other anomalies or paradoxes, the most misused expression is "Social living", "Community living" or "Living in the community". We don't live in society or a community. We live in a city, town or a suburb. These days, the community of the place where we live is no longer an important part of our lives.

Stake holders:
Any person or group of people that have an interest in, involved with or have some connection with an activity, policy or process. Stake holders generally have some personal interest in the outcome and how that outcome advantages or disadvantages the stake holder.

A stake holder can be a person or people, family or relatives, a service, an organisation or business, a government department or community.


Peter Anderson