Community matters

G6M4TB Community garden project at Tempelhof Park former airport in Berlin Germany
Urbanmyth / Alamy Stock Photo

On a recent trip to Lebanon, I sought out a tucked-away little café in east Beirut that has become renowned for its unique approach to showcasing the country’s diverse cuisine. The place invites the outside in with wildflower displays and local art throughout. Pride of place however goes to an extensive buffet table, with the chef – a no-nonsense grandmother from rural southern Lebanon – on hand to talk through the story of each dish. Every week a new chef from a different county – and this being Lebanon, religion and tribe – takes over the kitchen to serve up the traditional flavours from their hometown. A huge dining table invites the guests to sit down and enjoy the gastronomic experience together.

While stuffing myself on home cooked Lebanese salads and mezze, topped up with sweet desserts, I came to think about how community has changed over the last few years. Community used to be a term limited to your local neighbourhood – the social fabric of a town that offers shared identity and an essential support network to each individual. Communities are something we all benefit from at some point during our life and coming together as a community can empower us to do things greater than when working alone.

But community has long been linked with place, and so often an element of localism, with the risk of being inward looking. This has changed though, and although there might be less of a community within the local neighbourhoods (especially in the cities) now compared to before, the concept of community in unifying people around single ideas on a global level has never been stronger.

The internet and social media allow us to come together in a different way, but with a similar effect – dealing with the consequences of a rapidly changing climate. It is one of the most debated topics of the moment, and our awareness towards nature has never been more alert. It is fascinating to see how Greta Thunberg, as a young climate activist, has within such a short time managed to shape a worldwide community. A community working together for the same cause – to save our planet.

There are plenty of global and national movements that you can join as part of your local community, or if your local community is more or less non-existing, there are larger organisations that can help you creating a stronger community at home. In 2009, the Eden Project launched something call “The Big Lunch”, the UK’s annual get together for neighbours around the country. Their aim was to improve happiness and wellbeing around the UK and to create a more resilient network of communities.

As well as lifting people’s spirits and confidence, these kind of get-togethers also aim to get people to park up their cars for a few hours, discuss social issues and work together towards more sustainable solutions within their area. “The Big Lunch” has grown bigger and bigger over the years and in 2017 as many as 9.3 million Brits came together to enjoy a few hours of community. The website hosts many more ideas on how you can get your community involved, I especially like the idea of “A disco soup event”, a colourful approach to address the issue around food waste.

Communities are not only beneficial for social change, they also have a proven effect on our mental health and wellbeing. An Australian study shows that by increasing community activity by 10%, violent crime rates were reduced by 1.9%. Another UK-based study found that people without social support are five times more likely to experience mental health problems. Social participation has even been linked to longer living and better handling of stressful situations.

The community concept has had huge impact on brands and businesses too. The older group of Gen Z are those responsible for this. The generation born between 1995 and 2015 has put pressure on companies to seek a meaningful connection to the real world in addition to just offering a product, otherwise they simply won’t consume it.


In a time where communities need a global reach, photography is an essential tool to build and connect. But in order to do so it is important that the photographs show diversity and are representative of all the different cultures you want to connect with. You see, the essential idea of what creates a community has not changed, it is still very much something that should feel close to home.

If you want to take a closer look at imagery promoting the idea of community, check out our curated lightbox here.

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