This is a study of the social processes inherent in constructing a community, placed within a context of modernity and of Norwegian ethnography. It is based on a fieldwork at the "National Center for Nature-Culture-Health" (NaKuHel) in Asker, Norway during its initial year. I present the different phases and aspects of this construction seen as a symbolic and communicative process. The participants' discourse on the health concept is a central focal point of the study.
The initiator's formulation of the NaKuHel vision and its objectives was that it should be "an arena of cooperation" between organizations, public institutions business and local enthusiasts in order to "improve health, quality of life and environment" by means of "creativity and wholeness thinking". The vision's all-encompassing concepts acted as summarizing symbols with a strong motivational force in gathering a group of participants. During the initial phase, the challenging process was kept open-ended and enthusiastic through language-intensive reflection; especially using metaphors drawn from nature to legitimize and understand social processes. As the size and complexity of the community increased, however, a demand for order and predictability appeared. Gradually there emerged a set of shared meaningful symbols, an experience of a common "NaKuHel way of thinking" and of boundaries in relation to conceived others. The relationship to and influence from a complexity of outside fields and institutions was also an important part of the construction process.
The parallel theme of health was approached by looking at the discourse on health as a metaphorical way of relating to a desired state of self and society. The "health promotive activities" initiated in NaKuHel are similarly interpreted as expressions of important cultural values and social and existential longings. These modern longings come into conflict with an instrumental way of thinking inherent in organizational planning and systematization, in the need to document results and effects and in the emphasis on conceptualizing and consciously understanding causal connections. The inherent paradoxes are illustrated through the central debate on who was to be NaKuHel's target group, and is placed within a context of the Norwegian welfare state, the medical system and a Norwegian value system.
This is thus a study of how individual motivation and informal social processes are brought into an organized, public arena and of the challenges, paradoxes and potentials inherent in this encounter.