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Community Center

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Community Center

"Community club" redirects here. For an organisation of homeowners or residents, see neighborhood association.


Community centres or community centers are public locations where members of a community tend to gather for group activities, social support, public information, and other purposes. They may sometimes be open for the whole community or for a specialised group within the greater community. Examples of community centres for specific groups include: Christian community centres, Islamic community centres, Jewish community centres, youth clubs etc.

Uses and activities

Community centres generally perform many (though rarely all) the following functions in its community (Note this list is intended to define which meaning of the phrase community centre is covered by this article rather than being facts about what some other sources associate with that phrases, though adding source confirming that other sources use the phrase in a similar way would be nice).

  • As the place for all-community celebrations at various occasions and traditions.
  • As the place for public meetings of the citizens on various issues.
  • As the place where politicians or other official leaders come to meet the citizens and ask for their opinions, support or votes ("election campaigning" in democracies, other kinds of requests in non-democracies).
  • As a place where community members meet each other socially.
  • As a place housing local clubs and volunteer activities.
  • As a place that community members (and sometimes others), can rent cheaply when a private family function or party is too big for their own home. For instance the non-church parts of weddings, funerals etc.
  • As a place that passes on and retells local history.
  • As a place where local non-government activities are organised.

Organization and ownership

Around the world (and sometimes within single countries) there appear to be 4 common ways in which the operation of the kind of community centre are owned and organised. In the following description "Government" may refer to the ordinary secular government or to a dominant religious organisation such as the Roman Catholic Church; and it may refer to the central national or international branch or to the local subdivision of it.

  • Community owned: The centre is directly owned and run by the local community through an organisation separate from the official (local) governmental institutions of the area, but with the full knowledge and sometimes even funding from (local) government institutions. Example: .
  • Government owned: The centre is a public (local) government facility, though it is mostly used for non-government community activities and may even have some kind of local leadership elected from its community. Example: .
  • Sponsored: A rich citizen or commercial corporation owns the place and donates its use to the community for reasons of charity or public relations. Example: .
  • Commercial: The community centre is a purely commercial entity which (tries to) profit from renting its facilities to various community groups on terms suitable for such use. This latter form can be hard to distinguish from some kinds of ordinary business, but on the other hand community centres of the above 3 forms often seek to fund their operation by renting out the facilities when not needed for community uses. Example: .

Origins of individual community centres

Each individual community centre typically has its own peculiar origin and history, though some variants seem to be common.

  • Built as such. Buildings have been erected specifically to function as community centres at least as far back as the 1880,[1] perhaps even earlier.
  • Disused public building. When an official government building (such as a school or city hall) is no longer needed for its original purpose, it is sometimes offered to the community as gift, loan or sale.
  • Disused commercial building. When a commercial building of some local importance is no longer used, it is sometimes sold or donated to the community.
  • Building that served many of the community centre purposes in addition to a different primary use (such as school, church, inn or town hall), which was later acquired so it could continue these functions after its primary use subsided.

Schools as community centres

Early forms of community centres in the United States were based in schools providing facilities to inner city communities out of school hours. An early celebrated example of this is to be found in Rochester, New York from 1907. Edward J. Ward, a Presbyterian minister, joined the Extension Department at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, organizing the Wisconsin Bureau of Civic and Social Development. By 1911 they organized a country-wide conference on schools as social centres. Despite concerns expressed by politicians and public officials that they might provide a focus for alternative political and social activity, the idea was successful. In 1916, with the foundation of the National Community Center Association, the term Community Center was generally used in the US. By 1918 there were community centres in 107 US cities, and in 240 cities by 1924. By 1930 there were nearly 500 centres with more than four million people regularly attending. The first of these was Public School 63, located in the Lower East Side. Clinton Child's, one of the organizers, described it as

"A Community organized about some centre for its own political and social welfare and expression; to peer into its own mind and life, to discover its own social needs and then to meet them, whether they concern the political field, the field of health, of recreation, of education, or of industry; such community organization is necessary if democratic society is to succeed and endure".

In the UK many villages and towns have their own Community Centre, although nearby schools may offer their assembly or dining hall after school for Community Centre activities. For example, local schools near Ouston may host dance, or sporting activities provided by a local community centre.[2]

Grassroots functions

Parks are also considered community centers. Another pioneer of community centres was Mary Parker Follett, who saw community centres as playing a major part in her concept of community development and democracy seen through individuals organizing themselves into neighborhood groups, and attending to people's needs, desires and aspirations. This can also include parks.

In the United Kingdom, the oldest community centre is possibly that which was established in 1901 in Thringstone, Leicestershire by the old age pensions pioneer, Charles Booth (1847-1916). Extended in 1911 and taken over by the Leicestershire County Council in 1950, this centre still thrives as an educational, social and recreational community resource and was the inspiration for numerous others of its kind.

There are also community centres for a specific purpose, but serving the whole community, such as an arts centre.

Community centres online are defined as a web based interactive, user-submitted network for groups, organisations, or businesses. Users create their own personal profiles, blogs, groups, photos, art, calendars, music and videos to display on their own pages. Administrators provide oversight to the content and approve membership of users.

Urban planning

In Singapore, community centres are distinct buildings that are officially designated by the government of Singapore. They are meant to play an urban planning role especially as part of Housing Development Board projects. Enrichment and grassroots organisation are their functions like most other community centres, but relieving traffic congestion concerns by placing community centres nearby is also another reason.

See also

References

External links

  • Selfmanaged Social Centers
  • Social Centers, Community Spaces, and Squats From "Italy's Cultural Underground" by Adam Bregman
  • Social Centre Network (UK)

Supplemental text that really belongs on the Social Center page

The following text was on this page prior to June 2013, but really belong on the Social Center page. It has been preserved down here temporarily until someone working on the Social Center page can move it.

Some community centres are squatted, sometimes rented buildings, mostly in Europe, which have been made into organizing centres for community activities, support networks, and institutional initiatives such as free kitchens, free shops, public computer labs, graffiti murals, free housing for activists and travelers, recreation, public meetings, legal collectives, and spaces for dances, performances and art exhibitions. Those in a more established setting may be directly connected with a library, swimming pool, gymnasium, or other public facility.

Community centers have various relationships toward the state and governmental institutions. Within the history of a given institution they may move from a quasi-legal or even illegal existence, to a more regularized situation.

In Italy, from the 1970s, large factories and even abandoned military barracks have been "appropriated" for use as community centres, known as Centri Sociali, often translated as social centres. There are today dozens of these across Italy. The historic relationship between the Italian social centres and the Autonomia movement (specifically Lotta Continua) has been described briefly in Storming Heaven, Class Composition and Struggle in Italian Autonomous Marxism, by Steve Wright.

Social centres in Italy continue to be centres of political and social dissent. Notably the Tute Bianche and Ya Basta Association developed directly out of the social centre movement, and many social forums take place in social centres.

In the United Kingdom there is an active Social Centre Network, which aims to link up "up the growing number of autonomous spaces to share resources, ideas and information". This network draws a very clear distinction between the many autonomous social centres around the country and the state or large NGO sponsored community centres.

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