Brief Sense of Community Scale

The Brief Sense of Community Scale is one of several assessments related to the McMillion and Chavis model, the most predominant sense of community framework. According to McMillian and Chavis, a sense of community (SoC) is “a feeling that members belong, a feeling that members matter to one another and to the group, and a shared faith that members’ needs will be met; by their commitment to being together.”  This framework identifies four fundamental components for a sense of community

  1. Membership
  2. Needs fulfillment
  3. Influence
  4. Shared emotional connection

 

Membership 

The feeling of belonging and of sharing a sense of personal relatedness. — Members feel acceptance and are willing to sacrifice for the group. Membership is known as the “spirit” of a community and has five attributes: 

  • Boundaries determine who belongs and who does not. While some may view this a discriminatory, there are legitimate boundary needs regarding group integrity and safety. Boundary settings should be done to understand that diversity strengthens the stability and cost-effectiveness of social model programs. 
  • Emotional safety supports members’ willingness to reveal their true feelings and thoughts and be seen and accepted as their true selves.
  • Belonging is both self-identifying as part of the group and the belief that the group accepts the members. Humans are “wired” to seek a sense of belonging.
  • Personal investment reflects the belief that the more and longer one contributes, the more benefits one will receive. 
  • Common symbols such as rituals, ceremonies, rites of passage, forms of speech, and dress reinforce a sense of community.

 

Needs fulfillment 

The feeling that members’ needs will be met by the resources received through their group membership. — Members feel rewarded for their participation in the community, and they acknowledge and value their interdependence with others, the group as a whole, as well as the outer community and society. This creates a “giving unto others what one expects from the” belief. This concept is easily cross-referenced to recovery principles, including mutual aid and reciprocal responsibility.


 

Influence 

The sense of making a difference to a group and of the group mattering to its members. — This community-first or others-first approach is driven by the human need to know that others see, feel and understand things the same way and not due to overtly imposed or unwanted pressure. The group’s cohesiveness and congruence depend upon the group having some influence over its members. However, it must be bidirectional, meaning members must feel empowered to influence what a group does. Otherwise, they would not be motivated to participate. 

Through this lens, people who acknowledge that others’ needs, values, and opinions matter to them are often the most influential group members instead of those who push, dominate and ignore.

 


 

Shared Emotional Connection

The commitment and belief that members have shared and will share history, common places, time together, and similar experiences. —  Some describe the sense of being deeply connected to others or something greater than self as a spiritual experience. The spiritual bond to others and a group can be increased by:

  • Increasing the quality of connections
  • Making and clarifying the meaning 
  • Honoring and acknowledging rather than humiliating