Community Based Organisations or CBOs, are not-for-profit groups that serve the needs of a community within a specific location. Examples of CBOs are citizens’ associations and a variety of community youth groups.

One person can start a CBO. Anyone who has an idea or sees a problem and believes strongly that together, this is something that can be achieved or addressed by their community, may want to start a CBO.

These organisations are very important because they are better informed about the difficulties within their community and are usually more motivated than anyone else to ensure that something is done about it.

Whether its a football field, skills-training, small business support, a park, security or utilities, many times CBOs provide a better option than any single individual to attract solutions to these issues.


So whether its a citizens’ association or youth dance group, not everybody will be interested, nor feel as passionately as you do about forming a community group. And even when it is formed, not everybody will participate fully even if they do benefit from its existence. If you are easily discouraged, this may severely test your limits. If you understand that this is a part of organising, then you will do just fine.

Formal or Informal

Sometimes a community only needs to get a few people together for a one day event or one-time project. This is usually the case for fixing potholes or things like building a fence where the community comes together and play some music, “run a boat” (cook some food) and together they get the job done. This would be the informal way of a community organising.

Photo Credit: Jamaica Gleaner

For community groups with a longer term view, a more formal structure is needed. This is because you will be working consistently with people, money and other organisations and will need to share the work load, demonstrate credibility and also be accountable. Clear rules are necessary for a common understanding of how the CBO will operate and also for proper organisation of team members.

The Office of the Registrar of Companies is where you can register your organisation.

Rules  (See Sample Constitution)

The Constitution or By-Laws as it is sometimes called contain a set of rules that apply to the members of the organisation and your leadership team. It explains the purpose of your CBO, the different positions and responsibilities of your team, membership requirements and also when and how to apply sanctions. It is to be made available to anyone who is a part of the organisation.

Team (See Sample Community Leadership Team)

More often than not, CBO members are not paid and volunteer because they see some value in what they do. It is important that the work of the organisation is shared and that no one person is excessively burdened by the day-to-day tasks that they are assigned.  To make it easier, jobs are divided into several categories depending on how many persons are available. Positions such as the treasurer are specialised and may take some basic knowledge but most others are fairly straightforward and only require the natural skills that most community members already have.


A very important feature of the organisation is committees. Committees are selected groups that carry out a specific tasks. So for example you may have a fundraising committee; that group would focus solely on raising funds for your CBO. And if this committee finds it necessary, they can select a group of people that make up a smaller committee called a sub-committee to carry out a specific task and then report back to them. Committees take the burden off any one person being required to do everything.

 Photo credit: biewoef, Jamaica Gleaner