Guides What is a Community of Circumstance?

What is a Community of Circumstance?

Last updatedJune 12, 2024
AuthorKai Forsyth

Think about a group of strangers who find themselves navigating a shared challenge, like a natural disaster or a medical diagnosis. Or picture a group of people who are brought together by a common life stage, like first-time parenthood or retirement. These are communities of circumstance – groups of people who are united not by choice, but by the shared circumstances they find themselves in.

A community of circumstance is a group of individuals who are brought together by external factors or life events, often unexpectedly or involuntarily. Unlike communities of interest, which form around shared passions, or communities of place, which are defined by geographic location, communities of circumstance are shaped by the common situations or challenges that members face.

Purpose of a Community of Circumstance

The primary purpose of a community of circumstance is to provide support, resources, and understanding for individuals navigating a shared situation. When people find themselves in unfamiliar, challenging, or life-altering circumstances, connecting with others who are going through the same thing can be incredibly valuable.

Participating in a community of circumstance allows individuals to access practical advice, emotional support, and a sense of belonging during times of transition or difficulty. By sharing their experiences, challenges, and coping strategies, members can learn from and lean on each other. These communities offer a space where people feel understood, validated, and less alone in their struggles.

Examples of Communities of Circumstance

Communities of circumstance can form around any shared life situation or event, whether positive or negative, planned or unexpected. Here are a few examples:

  • A support group for cancer patients and survivors, where members share treatment experiences, coping mechanisms, and hopes for the future
  • An online forum for new parents, where members ask questions, share advice, and commiserate over the challenges of infant care
  • A community of refugees who have been resettled in a new country, who help each other navigate unfamiliar systems, learn language skills, and maintain cultural traditions
  • A group of workers who have been laid off from a company, who share job search tips, networking leads, and emotional support during the transition

Characteristics of a Community of Circumstance

While each community of circumstance is unique, they often share some defining characteristics:

Shared situation: Members are united by a common life circumstance, event, or challenge. This shared situation is the primary defining factor of the community.

Unplanned formation: Communities of circumstance often form spontaneously or unexpectedly, in response to external events or changes. Membership is not necessarily voluntary.

Support and understanding: A key function of communities of circumstance is providing mutual support, empathy, and understanding among members facing similar challenges.

Temporal nature: Communities of circumstance are often tied to specific life stages or events, and may naturally dissolve or evolve as members' circumstances change over time.

Diverse backgrounds: Because membership is defined by circumstance rather than choice, communities of circumstance often bring together people from diverse backgrounds who might not otherwise interact.


A community of circumstance is a group of people who are brought together by shared life situations, events, or challenges. By providing mutual support, resources, and understanding, these communities help members navigate difficult or unfamiliar circumstances.

Communities of circumstanc create connection and resilience in the face of life's unpredictable challenges. When individuals find themselves in uncharted territory, whether due to a personal crisis, a societal shift, or a developmental milestone, knowing they are not alone can make all the difference.

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