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I am looking for a summary term for a collective of groups. Specifically, I would like to make a general statement that people are nested in groups, which in turn are nested in (?).

Some examples to illustrate:

  • Students are nested within classes (groups), which in turn are nested within a school (?).
  • Students are nested in sorority chapters (groups), which in turn are nested within a sorority (?).
  • Employees are nested in departments (groups), which in turn are nested within an organization (?).

I can summarize classes, departments, and sorority chapters with the summary term "group".

I have tried summarizing schools, sororities, and organizations with the summary terms "collective" and "society", yet I am not satisfied with either.

  • "Collective" appears to imply a common goal. While departments in an organization likely pursue a common goal (e.g., improve company performance), I feel the term "collective" draws away attention from the fact that departments may also have competing interests. I am thus looking for a more neutral term than "collective".

  • "Society" seems unsuitable because its meaning is already defined: "A society is a group of people involved in persistent social interaction, or a large social grouping sharing the same geographical or social territory, typically subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations." All people I talked to therefore found it confusing to refer to an organization as society.

Edit 1. I am hoping to find a term that is intuitive and descriptive. For example, I find that collective has an intuitive meaning (collection of items/people). While I like super-group, I feel the term does not convey the same intuitively graspable description for people who never encountered this term in mathematics.

Edit 2. Subgroup appears more intuitively graspable. However, I would like to start at the group level and find an overarching term from there (rather than going from group to subgroup).

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Perhaps: People are nested in Groups, which in turn are nested in Communities.

Such that:

Students are nested within classes (groups), which in turn are nested within a school community.

Students are nested in sorority chapters (groups), which in turn are nested within a sorority community.

Employees are nested in departments (groups), which in turn are nested within an organizational community.

  • +1, this seems to me an elegant solution for many settings! I feel it does not quite apply to departments in an organization, though. – Flo Feb 27 '17 at 7:35
  • Perhaps departments in an organizational community. – Rockhorse Park Feb 27 '17 at 7:38
  • I expanded a little for clarity & to reflect your examples more directly. – Rockhorse Park Feb 27 '17 at 7:44
  • thanks, I appreciate your effort, but I was looking for a single word. – Flo Feb 27 '17 at 11:08
  • Hmm. Community is the one word. Perhaps I did not clearly understand your examples, after all. – Rockhorse Park Feb 27 '17 at 16:34
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You can refer to "classes" and the like as subgroups of "schools" and the like (groups).

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