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Community development (CD) is a broad term given to the practices of civic activists, involved citizens and professionals to build stronger and more resilient local communities.
Community development seeks to empower individuals and groups of people by providing them with the skills they need to effect change in their own communities. These skills are often created through the formation of large social groups working for a common agenda. Community developers must understand both how to work with individuals and how to affect communities' positions within the context of larger social institutions.
There are a myriad of job titles for CD workers and their employers include public authorities and voluntary or non-governmental organisations, funded by the state and by independent grant making bodies. Since the nineteen seventies the prefix word ‘community’ has also been adopted by several other occupations from the police and health workers to planners and architects, who work with more disadvantaged groups and communities and have been influenced by CD approaches.
CD practitioners have over many years developed a range of skills and approaches for working within local communities and in particular with disadvantaged people. These include less formal educational methods, community organising and group work skills. Since the nineteen sixties and seventies through the various anti poverty programmes in both developed and developing countries, CD practitioners have been influenced by structural analyses as to the causes of disadvantage and poverty i.e. inequalities in the distribution of wealth, income, land etc. and especially political power and the need to mobilise people power to affect social change. Thus the influence of such educators as Paulo Friere and his focus upon this work also being about politicising the poor. Other key people who have influenced this field are Saul Alinsky (Rules for Radicals) and EF Schumacher (Small is Beautiful).
The UK currently hosts the main international body representing community development, the International Association for Community Development. IACD was started in the USA in 1953, moved to Belgium in the seventies and to the UK (Scotland) in 1998. Community development as a term has taken off widely in anglophone countries i.e. the USA, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand and other countries in the Commonwealth. It is also used in some countries in eastern Europe with active CD associations in Hungary and Romania. The International Community Development Journal, published by Oxford University Press, and set up in 1967 has been the major forum for research and dissemination of international CD theory and practice.
Community development approaches are recognised internationally. These methods and approaches have been acknowledged as significant for local social, economic, cultural, environmental and political development by such organisations as the UN, WHO, OECD, World Bank, Council of Europe and EU.
There are complementary definitions of community development. Community Development Challenge report, which was produced by a working party comprising leading UK organizations in the field (including (Foundation Builders) Community Development Foundation, Community Development Exchange and the Federation for Community Development Learning) defines community development as:
- "A set of values and practices which plays a special role in overcoming poverty and disadvantage, knitting society together at the grass roots and deepening democracy. There is a CD profession, defined by national occupational standards and a body of theory and experience going back the best part of a century. There are active citizens who use CD techniques on a voluntary basis, and there are also other professions and agencies which use a CD approach or some aspects of it."
Community Development Exchange defines community development as:
- “both an occupation (such as a community development worker in a local authority) and a way of working with communities. Its key purpose is to build communities based on justice, equality and mutual respect.
- Community development involves changing the relationships between ordinary people and people in positions of power, so that everyone can take part in the issues that affect their lives. It starts from the principle that within any community there is a wealth of knowledge and experience which, if used in creative ways, can be channeled into collective action to achieve the communities' desired goals.
- Community development practitioners work alongside people in communities to help build relationships with key people and organizations and to identify common concerns. They create opportunities for the community to learn new skills and, by enabling people to act together, community development practitioners help to foster social inclusion and equality.
A number of different approaches to community development can be recognized, including: community economic development (CED); community capacity building; Social capital formation; political participatory development; nonviolent direct action; ecologically sustainable development; asset-based community development; faith-based community development; community practice social work; community-based participatory research (CBPR); Community Mobilization; community empowerment; community participation; participatory planning including community-based planning (CBP); community-driven development (CDD); and approaches to funding communities directly.
Education and the community-wide empowerment that increased educational opportunity creates, form a crucial component of community development and certainly for under-served communities that have limited general educational and professional training resources. Workforce development and the issues and challenges of crossing the Digital divide, and increasing community-wide levels of Digital inclusion have become crucially important in this and both for affordable access to computers and the Internet, and for training in how to use and maintain these resources.
Local communities that cannot connect and participate in the larger and increasingly global Online community are becoming increasingly marginalized because of that. So where Urban development with its focus on buildings and physical infrastructure was once viewed as a primary path forward to community development, development of computer and online infrastructure and access, and the community enablement they support have to become central areas of focus moving forward. This has become an area of active involvement for both public and private sector organizations including foundations and nonprofit organizations. In the United States, nonprofit organizations such as Per Scholas seek to “break the cycle of poverty by providing education, technology and economic opportunities to individuals, families and communities” as a path to development for the communities they serve.
In the global North
In the 19th century, the work of the Welsh early socialist thinker Robert Owen (1771–1851), sought to create a more perfect community. At New Lanark and at later communities such as Oneida in the USA and the New Australia Movement in Australia, groups of people came together to create utopian or intentional utopian communities, with mixed success.
In the United States in the 1960s, the term "community development" began to complement and generally replace the idea of urban renewal, which typically focused on physical development projects often at the expense of working-class communities. In the late 1960s, philanthropies such as the Ford Foundation and government officials such as Senator Robert F. Kennedy took an interest in local nonprofit organizations—a pioneer was the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation in Brooklyn—that attempted to apply business and management skills to the social mission of uplifting low-income residents and their neighborhoods. Eventually such groups became known as "Community Development Corporations" or CDCs. Federal laws beginning with the 1974 Housing and Community Development Act provided a way for state and municipal governments to channel funds to CDCs and other nonprofit organizations.
National organizations such as the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation (founded in 1978 and now known as NeighborWorks America), the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (founded in 1980 and known as LISC), and the Enterprise Foundation (founded in 1981) have built extensive networks of affiliated local nonprofit organizations to which they help provide financing for countless physical and social development programs in urban and rural communities. The CDCs and similar organizations have been credited with starting the process that stabilized and revived seemingly hopeless inner city areas such as the South Bronx in New York City.
In the UK Community development has had two main traditions. The first was as an approach for preparing for the independence of countries from the former British Empire in the 50's and 60's. Domestically it first came into public prominence with the Labour Government's anti deprivation programmes of the latter sixties and seventies. The main example of this being the CDP (Community Development Programme), which piloted local area based community development. This influenced a number of largely urban local authorities, in particular in Scotland with Strathclyde Region's major community development programme (the largest at the time in Europe).
The Gulbenkian Foundation was a key funder of commissions and reports which influenced the development of CD in the UK from the latter sixties to the 80's. This included recommending that there be a national institute or centre for community development, able to support practice and to advise government and local authorities on policy. This was formally set up in 1991 as the Community Development Foundation. In 2004 the Carnegie UK Trust established a Commission of Inquiry into the future of rural community development examining such issues as land reform and climate change. Carnegie funded over sixty rural community development action research projects across the UK and Ireland and national and international communities of practice to exchange experiences. This included the International Association for Community Development.
In 1999 a UK wide organisation responsible for setting professional training standards for all education and development practitioners working within local communities was established and recognised by the Labour Government. This organisation was called PAULO - the National Training Organisation for Community Learning and Development. (It was named after Paulo Freire). It was formally recognised by David Blunket, the Secretary of State for Education and Employment. Its first chair was Charlie McConnell, the Chief Executive of the Scottish Community Education Council, who had played a lead role in bringing together a range of occupational interests under a single national training standards body, including community education, community development and development education. The inclusion of community development was significant as it was initially uncertain as to whether it would join the NTO for Social Care. The Community Learning and Development NTO represented all the main employers, trades unions, professional associations and national development agencies working in this area across the four nations of the UK.
The term ‘community learning and development’ was adopted to acknowledge that all of these occupations worked primarily within local communities, and that this work encompassed not just providing less formal learning support but also a concern for the wider holistic development of those communities – socio economically, environmentally, culturally and politically. By bringing together these occupational groups this created for the first time a single recognised employment sector of nearly 300,000 full and part-time paid staff within the UK, approximately 10% of these staff being full-time. The NTO continued to recognise the range of different occupations within it, for example specialists who work primarily with young people, but all agreed that they shared a core set of professional approaches to their work. In 2002 the NTO became part of a wider Sector Skills Council for lifelong learning.
Community development in Canada has roots in the development of co-operatives, credit unions and caisses populaires. The Antigonish Movement which started in the 1920s in Nova Scotia, through the work of Doctor Moses Coady and Father James Tompkins, has been particularly influential in the subsequent expansion of community economic development work across Canada...
In the global South
Community planning techniques drawing on the history of utopian movements became important in the 1920s and 1930s in East Africa, where Community Development proposals were seen as a way of helping local people improve their own lives with indirect assistance from colonial authorities.
Mohondas K. Gandhi adopted African community development ideals as a basis of his South African Ashram, and then introduced it as a part of the Indian Swaraj movement, aiming at establishing economic interdependence at village level throughout India. With Indian independence, despite the continuing work of Vinoba Bhave in encouraging grassroots land reform, India under its first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru adopted a mixed-economy approach, mixing elements of socialism and capitalism.During the fifties and sixties, India ran a massive community development programme with focus on rural development activities through government support. This was later expanded in scope and was called integrated rural development scheme [IRDP]. A large number of initiatives that can come under the community development umbrella have come up in recent years.
Community Development became a part of the Ujamaa Villages established in Tanzania by Julius Nyerere, where it had some success in assisting with the delivery of education services throughout rural areas, but has elsewhere met with mixed success. In the 1970s and 1980s, Community Development became a part of "Integrated Rural Development", a strategy promoted by United Nations Agencies and the World Bank. Central to these policies of community development were
- Adult Literacy Programs, drawing on the work of Brazilian educator Paulo Freire and the "Each One Teach One" adult literacy teaching method conceived by Frank Laubach.
- Youth and Women's Groups, following the work of the Serowe Brigades of Botswana, of Patrick van Rensburg.
- Development of Community Business Ventures and particularly cooperatives, in part drawn on the examples of José María Arizmendiarrieta and the Mondragon Cooperatives of the Basque Region of Spain
- Compensatory Education for those missing out in the formal education system, drawing on the work of Open Education as pioneered by Michael Young.
- Dissemination of Alternative Technologies, based upon the work of E. F. Schumacher as advocated in his book Small is Beautiful: Economics as if people really mattered
- Village Nutrition Programs and Permaculture Projects, based upon the work of Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren.
- Village Water Supply Programs
In the 1990s, following critiques of the mixed success of "top down" government programs, and drawing on the work of Robert Putnam, in the rediscovery of Social Capital, community development internationally became concerned with social capital formation. In particular the outstanding success of the work of Muhammad Yunus in Bangladesh with the Grameen Bank, has led to the attempts to spread microenterprise credit schemes around the world. This work was honoured by the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.
The "Human Scale Development" work of Right Livelihood Award winning Chilean economist Manfred Max Neef promotes the idea of development based upon fundamental human needs, which are considered to be limited, universal and invariant to all human beings (being a part of our human condition). He considers that poverty results from the failure to satisfy a particular human need, it is not just an absence of money. Whilst human needs are limited, Max Neef shows that the ways of satisfying human needs is potentially unlimited. Satisfiers also have different characteristics: they can be violators or destroyers, pseudosatisfiers, inhibiting satisfiers, singular satisfiers, or synergic satisfiers. Max-Neef shows that certain satisfiers, promoted as satisfying a particular need, in fact inhibit or destroy the possibility of satisfying other needs: e.g., the arms race, while ostensibly satisfying the need for protection, in fact then destroys subsistence, participation, affection and freedom; formal democracy, which is supposed to meet the need for participation often disempowers and alienates; commercial television, while used to satisfy the need for recreation, interferes with understanding, creativity and identity. Synergic satisfiers, on the other hand, not only satisfy one particular need, but also lead to satisfaction in other areas: some examples are breast-feeding; self-managed production; popular education; democratic community organizations; preventative medicine; meditation; educational games. '
- Community education
- Community learning and development
- Community building
- Community art
- Community media
- Community film
- Community organizing
- Community practice
- Rural community development
- Urban regeneration
- Community engagement
- Urban Planning
- Participatory planning
- "Community Development Challenge Report". Produced by Community Development Foundation for Communities and Local Government. Retrieved 2009-02-13.
- "Definition of CD". Community Development Exchange. Retrieved 2010-06-08.
- Briggs, Xavier de Souza, and Elizabeth Mueller and Mercer Sullivan, From Neighborhood to Community: Evidence on the Social Effects of Community Development Corporation. Community Development Research Center, 1997.
- Ferguson, Ronald F. and William T. Dickens, eds., Urban Problems and Community Development. Brookings Institution Press, 1999. ISBN 0-8157-1875-6, ISBN 978-0-8157-1875-8
- Grogan, Paul and Tony Proscio, Comeback Cities: A Blueprint for Urban Neighborhood Revival. Westview Press, 2002. ISBN 0-8133-3952-9, ISBN 978-0-8133-3952-8
- von Hoffman, Alexander, House by House, Block by Block: The Rebirth of America's Urban Neighborhoods. Oxford University Press, 2003, Ppbck. ed., 2004. ISBN 0-19-517614-6, ISBN 978-0-19-517614-8
- Sloman, Annie ijkey=fYtK0bzzkyivzEg&keytype=ref/ Using Participatory Theatre in International Community Development, Community Development Journal, January 2012; Vol. 47, No.1.
- McConnell, Charlie, Community Learning and Development: The Making of an Empowering Profession. Community Learning Scotland/PAULO, 2002, ISBN 0 947919 75 9
- The Citizen's Handbook
- CDX: the Community Development Exchange, a UK-wide independent membership organisation for community development.
- International Association for Community Development
- Shelterforce: the magazine for community development, affordable housing, and community building.
- Knowledgeplex: a news and information resource for the affordable housing and community development field.
- Sustainable Urban Development Resource Guide