There have been several factors that can influence community development. These factors can have as much of an impact on the community development process as they do on the community itself. They may even be contributing to the issues being addressed, or be a central part of the problem. In many cases, the influence these factors have can greatly shift a community's ability to succeed or fail in the community development process.
This article will further explore the strategic factors of community development and what they can do. They are broken into four categories: human elements, social factors, environment and geography, and resources. Each factor discussed in the article is only a factor that may possibly be present in a community that can contribute towards community development. Depending on the circumstances present in a community, some may have more of an influence than others and some may not even be present.
The human elements of a community are by far one of the more important aspects of community development. Communities are based upon the people that make up their memberships; without them, communities wouldn't exist. It's no wonder then that factors related to the people can be so influential on community development. The diversity in human populations largely contributes to this, and many of these factors are rooted in the human nature of community members. Some human factors include:
- Participation-Participation is something that is repeatedly brought up in regards to community development because it really does play a significant role in the process. The human element of community means that participation is practically mandatory on some level in community development. However, this does not mean that participation should be forced upon the community and its members; such paternalistic actions can backfire and are damaging to the process's results.1 Quite possibly, forced participation can lead to resentment and sabotage regarding the efforts being made.
- Interest-To put it plainly, the success of a community development plan is going to hinge on how much people care about their community. When there is considerable interest, community members are going to willing put the work in for improvements. Little to no interest means it's unlikely that anything will get accomplished any time soon.
- Leadership-It's the leadership that guides the community through things. The actions of a community's leader and their abilities are going to determine the outcome of the community development process. Poor or ineffective leadership, especially when there's a lack of communication, can be especially devastating and can destroy trust and credibility with community members.2 Strong, positive leadership, on the other hand, can bring the community together and set them on the path towards success in their efforts to improve themselves.
- Attitude-Just because community members willing participate and have a genuine interest in community development doesn't mean that their attitude will match. People do things that they don't necessarily like all the time, usually out of necessity, duty, morality, or other influence. Attitudes can impact the effectiveness of the efforts made in community development, and can be especially influential when there are conflicting attitudes involved.
- Errors-People are, well, human. They're not perfect beings and they're going to make mistakes at some point. Even the most cautious person is eventually going to make an error. It shouldn't be something that is viewed as surprising in any situation, even community development. To some degree, human error should be expected and treated with the same regard as any other factor that may influence a situation. If it happens, it happens-and there's no reason that it should be treated as an absolute guarantee of failure either.
Social FactorsInterested in learning more? Why not take an online Community Development course?
Social factors present in the community are often going to act as a negative influence rather than a positive one. This is because the sociocultural elements tend to be deeply ingrained in society, and it can be difficult to take action that may deviate from those values. It's not just an issue for community development either; economically, social factors can affect what business actions and decisions are acceptable in the public eye.3 Social factors can have one of the strongest impacts on community development because it can impact other factors on multiple levels.
- Discrimination and Prejudice-Beliefs, misconceptions, and stereotypes are ingrained into society and they can dictate people's actions without much effort. This leads to prejudice towards others and instances of discrimination, which can both generate problems and block solutions.4 In a community setting, discrimination can be widespread if the rationale behind it is shared amongst the majority of the members. Because discriminating practices tend to be habitual in these communities, it can be quite a powerful obstacle to community development efforts.
- Expectations-Every society has a set of expectations placed upon those who are active in it. They can dictate what is acceptable regarding actions, appearance, beliefs, and behavior in the public sphere. This extends into communities, which are essentially samples of society and may have additional expectations of their own. Actions taken in the community development process often need to meet the social and community expectations in order to have any support or success.
- Culture-Many social elements are a part of the culture(s) present in the community. They bring their own belief systems, moral codes, expectations, and attitudes into the mix with varying degrees of effect. Elements of culture in a community can dictate how efforts of the community development process progresses, simply through the ways in which those efforts translate via the cultural norms.
- Religious Beliefs-Religion is one of the tenants of society and community, with shared religious beliefs being one of the interests that communities have developed around for centuries. It can be a powerful catalyst for change and an equally powerful opponent, depending on the interaction between religious beliefs and the proposed changes.5 For community development, religion in the community should not be taken lightly.
- Political Views-Everything as of late seems to be political, even things that have nothing to do with politics. This is because politics set policy, and the political beliefs of those in charge of a situation-such as community development-can dictate everything from management to decision making.6 Political problems, like corruption, are often behind many of the issues that are being addressed through community development. Political power in the community can also impede any actions that go against the political views of the leadership, which can stagnate the entire process.
Environment And Geography
The geographic location and the environment that a community is physically a part of are always going to impact whatever actions the community takes as a whole. There are going to be advantages and disadvantages to the community's physical location, and not all of them are going to be controllable. On a global scale, location is a pretty significant factor for pretty much anything.7 Throughout history, environmental and geographic factors related to a particular location have often been the key contributors for the level of development that occurs there. Those factors present in a community, whether they are controllable or not, are often going to impact the progression of community development efforts.
- Legal Restrictions-Laws are in place for a reason, but that doesn't mean that they are not problematic for development. In most cases, legal restrictions on community development are there to prevent an overstepping of boundaries and to ensure that social rules are followed. Any legal restrictions that are in place in a community will often help development leaders determine what changes and efforts are going to be feasible and beneficial to the community.
- Government Involvement-Community development does include some government involvement. This can vary based on existing laws and what it is that you are trying to accomplish with the process. Large-scale actions may require more government involvement than smaller actions. Event or building permits, for example, usually need approval from local government agencies in order to obtain them. Government involvement may pose some restrictions on the community development process, but it can also act as a guiding force.
- Economics-The local economic factors are going to impact quite a bit when it comes to community development. Anything from community members' socioeconomic status to available resources, to their willingness to participate in the process can be tied to the economy.8 Poverty is one of the most common issues that community development is used to improve. Economies that are heavily impacted by poverty are often the ones that need community development the most, but their instability make it that much harder for the process to work.
- Natural Disasters-Certain community development efforts are going to be centered on what goes on in the community's environment. This includes things like climate and weather. Geography plays a heavy role in how natural disasters like tornadoes and earthquakes impact communities, but not all community development efforts take such things into consideration. Depending on a community's location, many of the issues the process is setting out to address may be a byproduct of the damage caused by natural disasters common to those areas.
- Impediments-Location-based obstacles, like geographic structures, can influence what community development efforts are needed and what will work. An island-based community is going to have different geographic impediments than a community that is inland. Such features can impact the availability of resources, and what elements of culture, social expectations, and belief systems are present in the community. These can be harder obstacles to face due to the fact that you cannot always remove or replace them through conventional means, if at all.
Probably more so than any other factor listed in this article, the impact that resources have on community development is going to be substantial. They are one of the key ingredients for the process to work and a lack of quality necessary resources is almost always going to cause problems for a community. Obstacles regarding resources can be especially troublesome as a result, and may cause significant delays in a community's efforts to improve itself. Even the most imaginative and creative person can only do so much with nothing, so resources really are a valuable factor in community development.
- Costs and Budgeting-Money is already going to be an issue for some communities, but it is definitely going to be a factor in what can be done in the community development process. For many communities, access to the necessary financial resources are essential for them to reach their goals for improvement.9 Even when there is money to use for community development, if it isn't used wisely and budgeted, then it's not going to be around for very long. Factors surrounding costs and budgets are largely going to impact the planning stages of the community development process, so some care is needed.
- Availability-It's really difficult to accomplish anything in community development when the availability of your necessary resources is limited. This is applicable for financial, material, human, or social resources, as areas that are lacking tend to put added strain elsewhere.10 Many community leaders will shape their community development efforts around the resources they already have access to, which can cut down on any availability issues that can arise later on in the process. However, a lack of resources isn't the only way that the process can be impacted; an abundance of resources can be an issue because it can lead to waste.
- Sustainability-The sustainability of the resources used by the community during the community development process can carry a lot of influence over other factors. Unsustainable resources can have damaging effects on the community's environment and can drain other necessary resources in their handling and acquirement. They also tend to have limited usage-mostly once and then that's it. Sustainable resources, on the other hand, can often be used repeatedly before being discarded and they have a lower environmental impact. In some cases, such resources can be introduced to the community and flourish on their own for later usage. Depending on what it is that the community wants to accomplish, addressing the sustainability of their resources may be necessary.