Everyone wants to find their own place in the world. But where is it and what is it? How do we recognise place as being significant and not just merely space? These are questions that have taxed philosophers as far back as ancient Greece. But they are also much more than philosophical investigations. In a world where neighbours fight over a stretch of land, or where some groups can feel safe only in certain locations, place is a living reality that can be either the cause for violent conflict or the glue that binds communities together.
Dean, T. & Millar, J. (2005) 'Place', Thames & Hudson

Social Glue

"Uppermost on my mind today is the challenge of finding ways to reduce the prevalence and severity of mutually projective disconnects between Community groups. Put more positively, I am committed to identifying promising ways of creating fundamental linkages and integrative connections between groups who otherwise would remain indifferent to, ignorant about, or alienated from one another. Such integrative efforts will, I believe, develop the amount of social gluethat must be in place before we can create the social capitol needed for effective problem-solving and community building.

I use the term social glueas a metaphor for the presence within a locality of a mutual bond of recognition, connectedness, feeling of responsibility for, and concern for others because they occupy the same territorial Community. This definition of social glue does not necessarily include trust, liking, or mutual respect. Those may come later once the feeling of connection and the sense of being in the same boat has been established. Social glue can and does exist between individuals and groups who are at odds with or even dislike one another. A sufficient amount of social glue maintains the bedrock of community even in the face of mistrust, differences, disagreements, and even bitterly contested conflicts. With enough effort and ingenuity it is possible to use that bedrock of connection to create the trust, fellow-feeling, and willingness to work collaboratively on issues of common concern that have been labeled social capital. Integrative infrastructures that foster social glue are, therefore, essential to any wellfunctioning Community".


Collective Organisation


This refers to a sense of common identity and interest which serves to bring people together for collaborative action, and leads them to collectively differentiate themselves from others. At its core this characteristic arises from subjective perceptions, although it is fed by instrumental considerations. Its sources commonly arises from a shared history and culture, although it may be a product of political and economic factors which force people to share a finite resource base. Whatever its history, cohesion becomes the social glue which persuades people to act collectively to achieve mutual interest and represent it to others.


Cohesion sets social boundaries and determines membership. A parallel requirement is demarcation, which sets the boundaries of jurisdiction for the collective regime. This demarcation is commonly based on spatial criteria, a delineation of a fixed land area and the resources on it. It may, however be drawn on the basis of socially sanctioned access to given resource categories, as in the case of pastoralism or some fisheries. Whatever the criteria used, the definition of jurisdiction limits authority and responsibility for the collective grouping and is necessary for efficient organisational activity.


Just as collective organisation requires demarcation, it also requires legitimacy for its processes and leadership which needs to relate to both power and authority. Legitimacy can be conferred by external authority but this on its own is not sufficient. More important is internal legitimacy arising from socio-cultural and socio-economic criteria. An internal legitimacy endogenously derived but also sanctioned by the state is likely to produce a robust base for organisation.

Resilience and Risk:

In the rapidly changing world the components of organisations are dynamic. The roots of social cohesion may change in their substance and combinations. Boundaries of jurisdiction and affiliation may shift. The sources of legitimacy may permute. Effective organisation must accommodate this change evolving over time. Resilience, that is the right and capacity to adapt in content and structure, permits it to do so and is a key tool to the management of risk in uncertain environments and livelihood systems. Not only does this characteristic provide durability to organisations, it also provides the scope for them to improve through processes of adaptive management.

The organisation characteristic described above, located in small scale, personalised arenas of social interaction, provide the profile for what we take to be “community” in the study. Our preference is in fact for the term “community conservation” since our emphasis is an interaction and process rather than form.

Imagination in Place

A secular breviary for meditations on ecological meanings and values