Community Actions

If you stop the ball or try to control it by touching it twice subsequently, the referee blows the whistle for the foul and the opponents take the point. Diabolic and anti-historical: the pass as a mandatory gesture by regulation in a world that teaches you to hold on your own things, your privileges, your dreams, your goals. There is no one who can squeeze if there's no one else to lift, no one who can raise if there is no one else who has received the opponent's bat.


Mauro Berruto, ex- coach of the Volleyball Italian Male Team




To think and then generate community actions that have as a reference point the very delicate issues of exclusion and racism, means to position oneself on two levels that are both theoretical and practical:

  • a first level concerns what we mean by community and how much this "entity" so multiform and interpretable can be potential for actions against racism and exclusion of all kinds.

  • a second level is how challenging it is to involve the community not so much and not only on actions strongly focused on anti-racist issues but on actions that can touch and cross the areas "around" such a topic. Areas that are real systems that can then block the perspective of reception, integration, social cohesion in the contexts of life.


This brief contribution then is built precisely respecting the two levels.

A first part that positions the community and a second part that deals with actions and methods.



A- Community


A.1 What’s a community?


The community can generally be defined as the place where individual and collective identities are formed and strengthened, the place where they are recognized, confirmed, nurtured and transformed. Thus defined, the community is the place, the framework in which the process of identification takes place. The concept of community recalls other concepts and terms that help to understand, although not fully, its meaning: the physical boundaries of a territory, its political and economic organization, its population, its expansion on the territory, its history and origins, the system of shared values, the problems, the various services activated to solve them, the needs of the population, etc...


Each of us lives in a community but not everyone knows how it articulates and expresses itself, and we are even less aware of our role and power within its framework. Without knowledge and awareness, however, it is not possible to develop a sense of belonging and participation that is expressed in an active citizenship.


The demand for "community" is one of the most topical and urgent in a world characterized by increasing opportunities for change and transformation but, at the same time, increasingly lack of shared and binding points of reference. Living within a community does not automatically mean knowing what it is, what its origins and its boundaries are, what the political, administrative and economic organization is, what the system of common values and emerging issues are, what is the organization of services that meet the needs of the population.


In the society of multiple opportunities, where dimensions change with respect to possible technological interactions, on the one hand the possibility of communication increases, but on the other hand there is the risk of weakening the bond of proximity and the value of the physical context of life. There is no doubt that modern time brings important possibilities, but it cannot be denied that, especially for a young person, such possibilities can be disorienting. The search for and redefinition of a "physical" space where one can "feel part" - and then, with a clear objective, to initiate and consolidate sharing processes - becomes an urgency for cohesion and responsible living together.

The fundamental elements to define a physical space are undoubtedly the "territory". (natural and man-made physical environment), which guarantees the resources necessary for the development of the community and provides the possibilities and constraints that condition communications, "social relations" and "social bonds" (bonds of solidarity, identification, competition and conflict that result in a form of social organization), which characterize the population included in that territory.


A.2 What does it mean to act consciously in a community?


A territory that is also a community can support people to develop the ability to share needs, equal rights and symmetrical duties, linked and coordinated in a bond of solidarity ordered to promote the construction of the common good. Everything lies in recognizing that territory, that context, that community as one's own, not in the sense of "property" but as a space where each one can express freely, feeling part of it, critically share.


The community drawn in this way is certainly a complex system. Reading and interpreting it, it is not simple, as a system is not the sum of the parts, but the result of their interrelation and the will of the actors to get involved. Every decision is in fact defined thanks to all transversal elements. It is difficult to recognize the forces that operate beyond the structural elements, because their action is in constant evolution and it is not easy to describe it within one's own reference maps. If, on the one hand, the community as "value" is a basic element to set any reasoning on that subject, on the other hand, it is equally fundamental the aspect of the community as "practice", which must be the heritage of each person but also, and above all, the heritage of the community as a compact structure. A community practice, when competently promoted, is therefore fundamental to keep the collective motivation to make people participate in positive and correct lifestyles. The sharing, the interaction between people are supported and grow, in fact, through rules and conventions and, in an immediately preceding phase, on the positive reception of the same rules and similar conventions.


A.3 What are the tools to act in the community?


A first act, which is addressed to all the actors in the field, concerns the capacity of perception and awareness of the place so that it can express all the potential generativity. Feeling the place means building a common relational sense, it means knowing the context in which one person is situated and recognizing it as a personal and collective conscious object.


A second act that has to do with the dimension of separations and incrustations that an ecosystem, to become favourable, must lower if not eliminate. And it requires a systemic action that involves as main actor social figures capable of interpreting models of intervention in terms of enabling communities and organizations that are able to reread and reinterpret themselves in an innovative way.


Finally, a third act that, thanks to a context trained to trespass, can accept hybridizations, diversities and conflicts in an inclusive way, living the place with relational density.

A relational density that makes it possible to bring together in symbolic and practical areas all social acts aimed at developing the autonomy of people and the entire community of reference.

Symbolic and practical areas capable of living and changing thanks to the presence of this intense relationship.

An intense relationship that lies within that framework of meanings expressed with strength and great vision by Ostrom, which has shown that communities, understood as the set of appropriators and users of collective resources are able, under certain conditions, to manage natural resources in a way that is satisfactory for themselves and allow resources a long lasting period.

And for certain conditions, Ostrom refers to knowledge, trust and communication between the members of a community; the existence of systems of rules or institutions already established on the territory; and the non-interference of an external authority such as the State.

It is, therefore, a chain of skills to be conquered that starts from awareness, passes from the acquisition of competence and arrives at the dense construction of permanent relationships.




B- Community actions to counteract prejudices, racism and other forms of intolerance


B.1 To run community actions


Promoting community involvement means opening spaces for citizens' participation, where forms of active citizenship can be experienced, going beyond the classic logic of claim and complaint, are able to develop a sense of responsibility and create understanding and trust relationships between the social actors at stake.

Community Development means orienting action to improve relations between the local components of a "socio-territorial subsystem with defined boundaries", to face conflicts and remove blocks that hinder the expression of latent resources and potential, to promote the construction of a "plural us" and the positive redefinition of a shared collective identity that allows the development of new ways of individual and collective living.



B.2 Actions should be based on proximity, reciprocity and “capacitation”


Community action must take care of the experiential value and therefore some key words as proximity and reciprocity and capacitation are fundamental.

Proximity, as a noun that indicates a double movement, to go beyond with the glance and share, and a double perspective, inclusive, empowering and enabling.

To go further, it means to raise one's eyes and give one's existence a horizon, to raise one's eyes means to be able to see others that we can cross in the wonderful paradox of being close but feeling close to what we see far away.

Thus it is necessary to refer to the concept of belonging, that is contrary to feeling alone and isolated from a context that conditions and limits us, we belong to the same horizon that allows us to begin to identify ourselves as “us” and not as “me and them”. That is, to feel that belonging can be at the same time the element of union of the positive and critical aspects of the context in which we live. My life will grow in relation to others’ life, sharing the same context and place (rich in potential but also in fragile elements that need to be rethought).

This is how one can understand the word proximity, not only in the sense of closeness, but also in an inclusive perspective. Our horizon depends on sharing a collective horizon among those subjects belonging to the same context.

In this panorama, therefore, the theme of reciprocity practices is also central. Reciprocity is not an individual issue but, primarily, a relationship.

The ethics of reciprocity between individuals is the foundation of dignity, peaceful coexistence, legitimacy, justice, recognition and respect between individuals who are also very different from each other. Reciprocity is the essential basis for interpreting the modern concept of collectivity.

Proximity and reciprocity, together, can succeed in reconstructing voluntary interweaving between people who have in place a piece of destiny, a dream, a perspective that if shared become more imaginable, more feasible, more sustainable.

The possibility of giving life to something attainable and achievable therefore unwinds on a ground of collective elaboration, in which the desires of the social group can take shape, so as to "re-learn how to think about the future".


B.3 Community actions to counteract racism and other forms of intolerance should be based on some prejudicial dimensions


The rapid modification of social phenomenology in the Western world makes it necessary to have a great capacity of adaptation of the social offer, which could lower situations of conflict more and more in progress (for instance in the field of migratory flows, of urban security, of social micro-criminality, and in relation to the increasing invisible racism actions in our communities,...), and give a great support to the creation of quality processes of social life certainly more “liveable”.


This can and must be done with institutional devices, with norms, with procedures, with educational processes, but also and above all with community practices.


In this framework it is important to understand first of all that it becomes challenging to involve the community not so much and not only on actions strongly focused on the topics (in our case on anti-racism) but on actions that can touch and cross the areas "around" the problems. Areas that are real systems that can then block the perspective of reception, integration, social cohesion in the contexts of life.


And so, 3 prejudicial dimensions that block (or if "enabled" open) the development of communities should be taken into consideration:

  • the border

  • the hierarchy

  • the "private" places

And it is on these that it is worth trying to do an intense and strategic work with communities.

For this reason, as the boundary divides, we have to go beyond or involve different, unusual groups with whom to design and plan how to overcome challenges and not just run simulation activities.

The hierarchy makes everything classified by roles and places identifying the ones below and the ones above. Horizontal formulas must then be used: everyone decides.

The privatization of places, of contexts that are born as public marginalizes and increases the distances with marginalised groups. The concept of the common good must be recovered. The "common" being of a good depends on the choice of a community, which takes care of it with the same attention with which the members of that community normally take care of their own goods and above all share them

B.4 Community actions to counteract racism and other forms of intolerance can follow a method


The model of intervention can be traced back to that of Participatory Action-Research, which facilitates participatory processes in the community and strengthens the "fabric" of the community through the awareness and legitimation of the problems felt and the collective definition of how to choose and solve problems.

Assuming Research-Action as a modality of intervention means entering into the processes, social and cultural dynamics acting in a specific community and developing the operational path and  appropriate techniques to that particular micro context of action; it is used to promote actions and processes of social animation aimed at supporting the emergence of unexpressed needs and the activation of new groups and positive leaders.

Research-Action requires the ability to actively listen and a participatory observation of reality, preparatory to the identification and preparation of paths that allow the production of meanings by all actors, to rebuild together sense and responsibility and reconfigure the "social field" in which to act interactions and links.

This can also mean promoting "actions of rupture", understood as disturbance of existing balances but also as reopening channels of communication, which can facilitate necessary mutual recognition and develop new thoughts and relationships.

B.5 Community actions to counteract racism and other forms of intolerance can follow be part of an educational process

Community actions are structured and diversified moments in relation to the context aimed at creating connections between the content dealt in the training/educational activity and the community.

It is a learning exercise for young people, but also for the systems that welcome them (school, university, work, aggregation centres, etc.), because it creates training conditions that work on interaction with the other, on the ability to tell and develop a framework of ordered meanings, on the dimension of integration between systems that live in the same context.

Community actions can be based on the following pillars:

  • agility' - a community intervention is in itself 'disordered' in the sense that it cannot be defined in its totality because some elements of development will be decreed by the context and the moment.

  • continuity' - they are linked to acts and processes already existing in the context in which the community action takes place.

  • horizontality' - use horizontal formulas: everyone decides.

  • involvement' - they cross over: they involve different, unusual groups and categories.

  • spatial openness' - use unusual spaces and places, public or becoming common.


And they can also be based on a simple methodological framework so defined:

  1. definition of the main objective and of possible indirect or secondary objectives – Identification of the objectives in the preparation phase is fundamental in order not to lose the priorities but also to enrich them with possible other secondary but “present” objectives.

  2. definition of the main action and any indirect or secondary actions – Identification of the actions that are essential in order not to lose priorities but also to enrich them with any other secondary but present "events".

  3. area of action - The territory (which can also be a place, a neighbourhood, etc.) must be precisely defined

  4. reading the codes of the chosen space and choice of strategic knots

  • reading the context. Each defined space has codes and recurrences (only as an example...there are many elderly people, there are/there are no aggregation spaces, there are/there are no active associations, ...etc.) to be considered in the design and evaluation phase (whether confirmed or not).

  • Definition, once you have read the codes and recurrences, of which of these are the strategic knots to count on (i.e. the places, the people, the situations to count on for the success of the action).


B.6 Community actions in STAR educational activities: sharing experiences

Carrying out educational activities in schools, community actions have been an integral part of the educational process itself. The participants in the workshops, mostly students between the ages of 14 and 18, conducted community actions after the workshop activities on the theme of racism and invisible racism.

Community action was incorporated into the educational process, considering that in the experiential learning cycle, as defined by Kolb, there is no learning without experimentation and action.


With the participants, after dealing with the theme of racism and invisible racism, identifying causes and consequences of these phenomena, working on internal and external challenges, we moved on to the development of community actions that had the following requirements:

- Related to the context of the participants' lives

- Linked to the communities of reference, with which to develop subsequent links

- Related to the topics covered in the workshop part

- Allowing participants to act in peace, doing actions in which they felt comfortable

- Create preconditions for future reflection and awareness of both the participants and the community of reference


The actions were carried out in territories, known by the participants and identified as reference territories for STAR project. The participants followed the principles mentioned in the previous paragraphs and used their creativity to intercept people who are usually not involved in actions against racism, in unusual places.


Hereinafter, you can find some of the actions carried out to stimulate communities to counteract racism and invisible racism:

- A balloon, a flower for you! The participants chose quotes on the racism and invisible racism to give to people together with paper balloons or flowers or bookmarks made by them. The aim of this activity was to catch people attention with a simple gesture such as giving a balloon or a flower and then let them stop and reflect on the Star project's themes.

- Fishing at the bar! The participants proposed to put baskets in the bars of their communities, containing phrases/quotes related to racism and invisible racism. The aim of this activity was to make the people at the bar curious and then make them aware of the project's themes. Also, in this activity participants chose the quotes and in the weeks before the realization of the community action they went to some bars in the city centre to tell about the Star project and thus involve the chosen bars in the realization of the activity itself.

- There is mail for you! The participants had the idea of delivering envelopes in some houses in the city centre containing quotes on racism and invisible racism with an explanation of the Star project. The aim of this activity was to try to "enter people's homes", in their daily life to make them reflect on the project's themes.

- Social experiment: Have you ever hug a foreigner? In this activity the participants got involved directly by stopping people on the street who were looking at the sign made by them calling people to stop.

Those who stopped were asked for a hug and then if they had ever hugged a foreign person. In this way a relationship was established in which an open confrontation on the subject of racism and invisible racism was possible.


"Even if we knew everything there is to know

know about the mental structure of each

musician, we'd still struggle to


group improvisation.

Keith Sawyer - psychologist and jazz musician".


The geography of genius.



article by Silvia Volpi

A search for the World's Most Creative Places from Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley- Eric Weiner

Proximity: From Latin Proximus = Nearest. In the sentence we mean closeness, vicinity.

Messia F., Venturelli C. (a cura di) (2015) Il welfare di prossimità Partecipazione attiva, inclusione sociale e comunità ed Erickson            

Appadurai A. (2011), Le aspirazioni nutrono la democrazia, Etal edizioni srl, Milano.