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Six Paramount Pillars for Communities to Thrive

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Carvis R. Durr
August 13, 2023

The success of a community is not solely decided by its people, culture and traditions but also by its institutions. At-risk communities heavily rely on the socio-ecological model and public services to progress. Therefore, it is crucial to set up six pillars of support to ensure their prosperity. The socio-ecological framework is a vital health concept considering individual, interpersonal, organizational, community and public policy factors. This approach highlights the various levels of influence that affect behaviors and how contextual factors can change them. Public servants must use this framework to create an effective model for promoting the well-being of at-risk communities and addressing poverty.

We define poverty by income compared to a predetermined threshold. Policymakers set the point to evaluate anti-poverty measures and decide eligibility for services. The lack of essential institutions like schools, hospitals and convenience stores can contribute to poverty in communities.


Schools are a crucial part of the Social Ecological Model, providing learning opportunities and aiding the disadvantaged. In at-risk communities, several factors influence schools, including an individual’s social mobility. Social mobility refers to moving up or down the social ladder over time. Despite the common belief in the United States that anyone can succeed through hard work, studies have shown otherwise. Americans tend to overestimate income mobility and educational opportunities, particularly those in higher social classes. Enhancing social mobility is vital, particularly in schools found in at-risk communities. Better resources, impactful teachers and efficient administrators are essential for improving the quality of schools and supplying more choices to individuals.


It’s essential to recognize that hospitals play a crucial role in the organizational level of the Social Ecological Model. From a functional perspective, inequality is seen as necessary and inevitable for society to function correctly. While specific positions may require higher compensation due to the difficulty of acquiring the essential skills, highly sought-after doctors are free to choose where they want to practice. However, hospitals cannot use this as an excuse for being inaccessible to communities. It is crucial to acknowledge that healthcare is an essential component of any community, and occupational diseases and injuries rank among the top 10 causes of death in the United States. Unfortunately, low-wage and minority workers are often employed in more hazardous industries, making them more vulnerable to harm.


Banks are a crucial community cornerstone, playing a vital role in promoting growth and stability. By offering credit and financial services, they enable small businesses to thrive and homeowners to secure their dream homes and public infrastructure. Despite the numerous complex decisions and obstacles that banks face, their continued commitment to serving their communities is still essential. In the face of ongoing changes in the banking landscape, the presence of community banks can help them thrive due to their unique personal connections with their customers, which are critical to any successful business. Nevertheless, it is unfortunate that some communities have a history of not receiving the financial support they need from certain banks.


Supermarkets are a crucial part of our daily lives and an integral part of our communities. Marxist theories suggest that society’s division into the capitalist class and the working class and conflict over means of production and profits can apply to the necessity of supermarkets. Supermarkets are a means to provide communities with fresh and nutritious food, which is essential for our survival. As big chains replace small businesses, cities’ physical and cultural landscapes undergo significant changes. New companies in overlooked areas are drawing attention from locals and visitors. However, not everyone can afford to live in these areas, mainly when gentrification occurs, with stores like Whole Foods replacing small supermarkets that offer a more community-oriented experience.


The social-ecological model of all levels recognizes the importance of parks. These green spaces are essential hubs for building traditions and culture among young people. Engaging in physical activities, which are easily accessible in parks, has been proven to have significant positive effects on physical and mental health. Furthermore, having parks nearby can save healthcare costs by promoting a healthy weight. Residents should be involved in park design and maintenance to meet community needs. Parks reduce crime and contribute to resilient, equitable cities. Thus, park leaders, public officials and private and philanthropic sectors must collaborate, invest and implement a fair and inclusive approach to park funding while encouraging community engagement.

Convenience Stores:

Convenience stores are a ubiquitous element in most levels of the social-ecological model. These stores are trendy for in-person retail shopping, with over a million daily transactions. Most people in the United States often visit convenience stores for necessities such as snacks, drinks, freshly made meals and fuel for their vehicles. Strategically located in convenient areas, almost half of all Americans live within one mile of a convenience store. Even in rural areas, nearly all residents can reach a store within a 10-minute drive, typically the sole option for groceries, fuel and other essential products and services. Moreover, convenience stores play an indispensable role in communities, supplying critical services such as food, fuel, energy, financial help and even mail.

Author: Meet Carvis C. Durr, a Ph.D. student, and Instructor at the University of Central Florida’s School of Sociology and Statistics. Carvis holds a Bachelor’s degree in Public Administration and two Master’s degrees in Business Administration and Leadership/Human Resource Development. Carvis is a member of the Scholar Strategy Network. Follow Carvis on Twitter @Iamcarvis or check out his professional profile on LinkedIn.

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