Guides 5 Types of Communities

5 Types of Communities

Last updatedJune 12, 2024
AuthorKai Forsyth

Trying to categorize different types of communities is a bit like trying to sort a bag of multi-colored marbles – it’s messy, imperfect, and some will inevitably defy easy classification. After all, communities are complex tapestries woven from shared interests, experiences, locations, and goals.

While acknowledging the inherent limitations of any categorization effort, one of the more commonly accepted frameworks for understanding different types of communities is to group them around their purpose. In this guide, we’ll explore the different types of communities through this lens, focusing on the core purposes that bring people together.

1. Community of Interest

A community of interest is a group of individuals who connect over a shared interest, passion, or experience. Members come together to explore, celebrate, and deepen their common interest through knowledge-sharing, social connection, and a sense of belonging.

For example, a community of interest might be a global network of birdwatchers who share sighting stories, species lists, and photography tips through online forums and local meetups. They are brought together by their shared passion for birds and nature, regardless of their location or background. See more examples and characteristics of communities of interest.

2. Community of Practice

A community of practice is a group of people who share a common profession, craft, or skill. The main goal is typically collective learning and knowledge sharing, where members learn from each other's experiences, collaborate, and evolve their shared domain of expertise.

An example of a community of practice could be a group of data scientists within a company who meet regularly to share machine learning techniques, discuss industry trends, and collaborate on projects. Through their interactions, they deepen their skills, stay up-to-date with best practices, and drive innovation in their field. See more examples and characteristics of communities of practice.

3. Community of Place

A community of place is defined by geographic location, such as a neighborhood, town, or city. It's the social fabric that binds the residents of a particular area together, fostering a sense of belonging, interdependence, and collective responsibility.

Picture a tight-knit neighborhood where residents gather for annual block parties, collaborate on community garden projects, and support each other through challenges. The shared experience of living in the same place creates a strong sense of community identity and mutual support. See more examples and characteristics of communities of place.

4. Community of Action

A community of action is a group of individuals who come together to take collective action towards a common goal or purpose. The primary focus is on creating tangible change and making a difference in a specific area or issue.

For instance, a community of action could be a grassroots environmental organization that mobilizes volunteers for beach cleanups, advocates for sustainable policies, and raises awareness about ocean conservation. Members are united by their shared commitment to protecting marine ecosystems and driving positive change. See more examples and characteristics of communities of action.

5. Community of Circumstance

A community of circumstance brings together individuals who are navigating a shared life situation, challenge, or experience, often unexpectedly or involuntarily. The primary purpose is to provide support, resources, and understanding for individuals going through similar circumstances.

An example of a community of circumstance is a support group for new parents, where members share the joys, challenges, and questions that come with parenthood. Though they may come from diverse backgrounds, the shared experience of navigating this life transition creates a strong bond and a sense of mutual understanding. See more examples and characteristics of communities of circumstance.


While these categories provide a useful starting point, it’s important to recognize that many communities don’t fit neatly into a single box. A community may have multiple purposes or evolve over time. For example, a community of place might also engage in collective action, blurring the lines between a community of place and a community of action.

The goal of categorizing communities by purpose is not to create rigid, mutually exclusive buckets, but rather to provide a framework for understanding the core drivers that bring people together. By recognizing the diverse purposes that motivate individuals to participate in communities, we can more effectively support and cultivate these vital social structures.

Communities are as diverse and complex as the people who comprise them. By appreciating the various purposes communities serve through classification into these differing types, we can better understand, engage with, and strengthen the social fabric that binds us together.

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