Community initiatives are defined as an action or series of actions that are self-initiated by individuals or groups, are wholly voluntary and non-profit in nature, independent of institutional ownership, and with the intent to benefit a wider community beyond the group’s own members and immediate contacts.
Community initiatives are a unique form of organisation. They are not profit-driven like companies; nor are they formal entities like NGOs or VWOs. They typically start out at small scales, experimenting with different types of work and operational methods. They often have limited, if any, financial and physical resources. They are driven by the commitment and passion of their volunteers, often resulting in high levels of ownership and a flattened hierarchical structure. Many have no legal status, or formal rules or regulations that guide their actions. And crucially, they may not have a desire to sustain or scale over time.
More often than not, such initiatives arise from a lack or a need in the community, filling gaps or missed opportunities in the built and social environment. Some examples include groups that help older adults who collect cardboard for a living in Singapore (Wong, 2017), and individuals that organise forum theatre events to help residents living in rental flats process trauma and problems at home (Lazaroo, 2017). Because they are not borne out of an institutional mandate, and oftentimes are initiated by people who are not professionals in the field, they can take unconventional and highly grounded approaches towards addressing the need. In this sense, community initiatives are often unique with regards to the work that they do, serving communities in ways that differ from the status quo.