Academic journal article Making Connections

The Relationship among Higher Education, Community Service Work Activities and "Connectedness": Simply a Matter of Doing More and Expecting Less

Academic journal article Making Connections

The Relationship among Higher Education, Community Service Work Activities and "Connectedness": Simply a Matter of Doing More and Expecting Less

Article excerpt


Community service activities and volunteer services that help bring isolated community members together are rapidly becoming popular areas of research in community psychology and social sciences in general (Dale 791-796). Despite the increasing popularity of community service work activities, opportunities for interpersonal community service activities are more frequently being replaced with more technologically- based activities (Seifer and Vye Mihalynuk; Anderson 195-199). Many of these changes are primarily reflected through increased interpersonal technological and social media innovations (i.e., "social networking") that influence and increasingly define our relationships today. The purpose of the current study was to explore the relationship of participation in a variety of community service work activities with individual perceptions of connectedness and belonging to the community in which one resides.

As a result of these rapid social technological changes within communities, many individuals have reported feeling overwhelmed (i.e., burnout), alienated and disconnected within the communities in which they reside (Koepsell 14- 16). More recent research, however, has described modern technology as phenomena that may actually improve social bonds but unfortunately seems to perpetuate social and economic inequalities (Spears, Postmes, Lea and Wolbert 91-107). Since before the Industrial Revolution (early 18th century to the late 19th century), individuals within various agricultural industries and skilled labor have worked collaboratively within communities and townships to improve the quality of living conditions (Dunn, 2010). The nature and context in which industry developed was defined by the direct connection and relationship between consumer and manufacturer (Maw, Wyke and Kidd 20-33). Different types of innovations were beginning to develop with unprecedented speed: textile manufacturing, advances in agricultural development, advances in technology, iron making and newer energy sources allowed people to combine their skills and labor to produce goods that were distributed in greater quantities.

People worked collectively by sharing individual skills that typically served a common good and purpose. A collective work environment allowed community members to work cooperatively and develop a variety of goods that also served to improve relationships among each other. Furthermore, the development of tools and commerce during the Industrial Revolution allowed members of communities to share their skills with each other in ways that gradually developed and produced a strong sense of community trust, integrity and identity (Green 75-83). The idea that a strong sense of community is contingent on community activism and involvement is certainly not a new topic in psychological literature. Karl Marx describes the deleterious psychological consequences of a society that prevents individuals from meaningful economic contribution (i.e., unemployment) as well as the psychosocial consequences of a labor force that experiences alienation from one another within the work force (Seeman 135- 143).

Cooperative work environments offer more than increased product and technology development. Collaborative work environments also allow the participants to discover each other's strengths and skills by working within a shared environment. A key element among cooperative work environments is interdependency, that is, the combined efforts of groups of individuals as a way to achieve one goal that has benefits for all group members. Within more traditional work environments, members know that if they do not participate in their shared responsibilities, the quality of the product is compromised, thus negatively impacting the entire group.

Robert Putnam (Putnam 137-174) noted that communities should still provide opportunities for individuals to work cooperatively because of the numerous psychological and social long-term benefits to society: improved inter-ethnic relationships, greater creativity relative to the development of entertainment industry (Putnam also noted that immigrants to the United States account for three to four times as many Nobel Laureates) and broader economic development within underdeveloped regions. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.