Meitheal is the Irish word for a team, or a gang of workers, and inherently refers to a group of people working together to provide support and assistance where and when needed. The International was built on this foundation – and will continue to support our community. So let's explore the fundamentals of what it means to belong to a community!
Text: Lyndsay Jensen
The fluid and often unclear concept of community can speak to a fundamental sense of shared experience, history, and interest at individual and collective levels. A community can be an acknowledgement of interdependence. Building a community describes a set of relationships created by shared meaning, need, and belonging – and are sustained by exchanging ideas, information, and experiences in their context. I had this in mind when I started the International many years ago.
Community engagement and community building can each align with a mutual set of goals built around a fundamental sense of connectedness that is, quite literally, enacted by their processes. To be effective, these processes should be able to address the ideas that sit at the heart of what it means to be a community. For example, if a community is more than the sum of its parts, what enhances and nourishes it? To do this, you would have to look beyond what makes a community to instead what makes a community tick.
For instance, trust is a crucial community component and an important marker. Trust has long been recognised as an outcome and a vital ingredient of community building and engagement. Trust can speak to a sense of mutual understanding, engaging in an exchange, and dialogue in good faith. Dialogue, in this way, provides the opportunity for the community to be able to look beyond a limited field of sight and, together, weave a more holistic understanding of the issues that affect their realm of togetherness.
Deliberative dialogue, in particular, is the careful and deep social process facilitated in an environment of mutual respect that can forge better collaborative relationships. Deliberative dialogue is not a debate - it's a model of communication and engagement for community building, can carry crucial democratic values and is increasingly recognised as a best practice approach to public participation.
The importance of building an online community
Online has enabled communities to connect in digital spaces and has brought different ways to how we engage.
It can cast a wider net than traditional offline methods and draw a more extensive, diverse range of participants. Dedicated online engagement spaces can provide an array of tools and methods by which the community can provide meaningful and considered contributions. In addition, these spaces can help us equip the community with the information they need to unpack issues and offer support as a newly arrived international.
Digital engagement for community building can borrow core values and principles from traditional offline engagement to create effective online dialogue in a safe, accessible, and welcoming environment.
For instance, access is critical in ensuring that online deliberative processes can open the doors to various perspectives and concerns.
The International has prided itself on our print and digital publication since we began in 2018 – something that I, for one, "coming from old school print," have been very proud of. As some of you might be sitting and scrolling through your mobile or iPad, reading our latest issue – what I'm about to share might not surprise you. Before the summer holidays, you could go out around Denmark and pick up a freshly printed free issue at your local hotspot - for others, reading it online was your norm.
We have deliberated, looked at our online vs print statistics, and decided that we won't be printing or distributing The International monthly. Due to rising costs in the print industry, the effect of Covid over the last three years, and the war, it won't be financially sustainable to continue in this medium. My team and I are purely volunteers, and we are proud to pool our efforts behind this inspiring publication – and we have loads of fun producing it. Our goal has always been to support our community and provide accessible and free inspiration to help you settle into and understand Denmark.
When we first came onto the scene in 2018 – we took off quickly. But, unfortunately, the circulation has gone from increasing to a decrease in recent years – which sadly is a trend in the publishing industry. Digital, on the other hand, has gone the other way for all of us in the industry, and The International has a solid social media influence that we will focus on from now on. This shift marks that we as a team will be even more relevant to all who follow us online – and increase our digital presence in new and incoming markets.
"We are here to help you find your soft landing in Denmark and its community."
It is a sad decision to end our print, which I've spent many nights tossing and turning over, but we are doing it to focus all our efforts on what we are here for, which is to help you find your soft landing in Denmark and its community. So one final shout-out to the team – thank you for always supporting the direction that we take our publication in – and looking forward to continuing our shared ideas and passions in what we do.