Community Development

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"Community development is a structured intervention that gives communities greater control over the conditions that affect their lives.  This does not solve all the problems faced by a local community, but it does build up confidence to tackle such problems as effectively as any local action can.  Community development works at the level of local groups and organisations rather than with individuals or families.  The range of local groups and organisations representing communities at local level constitutes the community sector. "Community development is a skilled process and part of its approach is the belief that communities cannot be helped unless they themselves agree to this process.  Community development has to look both ways: not only at how the community is working at the grass roots, but also at how responsive key institutions are to the needs of local communities". Community development (CD) is a broad term applied to the practices and academic disciplines of civic leaders, activists, involved citizens and professionals to improve various aspects of local communities. Community development seeks to empower individuals and groups of people by providing these groups with the skills they need to affect change in their own communities. These skills are often concentrated around building political power 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 complementary definitions of community development. The Community Development Challenge report, which was produced by a working party comprising leading UK organisations in the field (including Community Development Foundation, Community Development Exchange and the Federation of 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." STEPS FOR DEVELOPMENT PROCESS

1. Realize that the goal is to learn to depend on one another within the community. Outside consultants can be extremely valuable, but the community’s goal should be to learn to help itself.

2. Form a working group. Recruit members representing a cross section of the community, the more diverse the better. This will help to establish two-way communications across multiple lines that will be the basis of your network.

3. Identify community stakeholders. These are people, institutions or organizations whose own well-being will rise and fall with that of the community. They’ll be concerned and enthusiastic allies.

4. Do an honest assessment of your community. What needs improvement and where does your potential lie? Objective consultants are particularly good at helping with this task.

5. State your purpose. Set goals. What do you intend to accomplish?

6. Develop a detailed plan of action, but be prepared to modify it as necessary as you go along.

7. Implement the plan. Don’t let it sit on the shelf. Plans are easier to write than to execute. Once you’ve planned your work, work your plan.

8. Review and evaluate periodically throughout the process.

9. Celebrate success! Let those who are doing the work know that they are appreciated for their efforts. Praise their success among your group, their peers, and in the media.

10. Number 10, do it again. Start another project. Community development is never finished. There’s always another worthwhile project waiting for someone to recognize it and make it happen....
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