With community development, there can be multiple forces and sources of action to implement changes and improvements. A community seeking to improve itself is not limited to what is directly within its reach. It is possible for the average citizen to be the primary participant in the community development process, but they often have help from larger groups within and outside of the community. While this can include federal organizations and government assistance, it also includes community-based organizations.
This article will explore community-based organizations and what they can do for those going through the community development process. The basics about community-based organizations and what makes them different from any average non-profit organization. The different types of community-based organizations and the advantages and disadvantages of the concept in regards to community development will also be discussed. Additional information will include how a community can develop its own community-based organization, should they choose to do so.
Community-based organizations, or CBOs, are local non-profit groups that works to generate improvements within a community on the local level.1 They are basically the community development process in the form of a formal organization. They are usually locally formed, locally staffed, and their actions are specific to the location they operate in. Most CBOs are mainly volunteer organizations, with few paid positions as most of their funding is delegated towards completing the group's objectives. Their local status also means that they may be limited in what resources they have access to, depending on the geographical location of the CBO and the community it serves.
Since they are so localized, a CBO is only going to tackle issues within the community they operate in. This does not mean that CBOs only focus on minor things; large scale issues like crime and poverty are common areas of interest for CBOs. These groups are free to look at issues that exist outside of their community that are affecting the community itself, but they will just look at how those issues impact things within that particular space. In some instances, a CBO may collaborate on an issue outside of its community with another CBO. This usually happens when there is some overlap in regards to their areas of interest, such as shared geographic boundaries between the two communities. They may also look at how a larger issue is being handled in other communities and by other CBOs in order to find guidance or alternative solutions. Otherwise, it will remain within a specific community and not venture outside of it.
It should be noted that will most CBOs are considered to be a type of non-profit and may operate similarly, they are not the same thing. Non-profits are usually large operations that have a particular area of focus and methodology that they are addressing through multiple projects and actions. A CBO is far more limited, usually handling a single project pertaining to an area of focus purely within the community they are present in. Aside from the collaboration exception mentioned previously, a CBO will not exist outside of the community they act in. They can be a part of or connected to a larger organization like a regular non-profit, but they will not act as a branch of that organization outside of their geographic focus.2 This does not mean that communities going through the community development process are limited to working with either a CBO or a larger non-profit; they can work with both if they so choose.
Within community development, CBOs tend to serve primarily as the middleman for resources and actions. Many larger groups, like non-profits, and intersecting communities use CBOs as a way of interacting with those who are already at work on issues within the community.3 A CBO is often how volunteers find public service projects that they can participate in, as CBOs tend to be in the thick of things within the community. In a way, an established CBO can attract and filter resources necessary for the community development process.
CBOs also have a role in community development as the public voice of the community. One of the best features of a CBO, due to their localized focus, is that it is a wealth of information regarding the issues it is focused on within the community. They highlight issues that need to be addressed and then include every relevant piece of data regarding those issues for those that will be working on them. This includes details about what is wrong in the community, what should be done to remedy the situation, what needs to be done, the resources available, and the effects the issue is having on the community. For anyone who is attempting to instigate the community development process in their community, including a CBO in the process can help make things go smoothly.
Just as with any organization, not all CBOs are alike. The localized nature of a CBO means that each one is going to be unique to the community it serves and to the interests it has within that community. However, there are certain categorical types that these varied CBOs tend to fall under. Each type usually dictates the structural and legal features of the CBO and impacts its operations. The most common include4:
There are far more variations when it comes to CBOs than what is listed here. CBOs can be formal or informal, public or private.7 Their features can range along an entire spectrum and back, so a CBO can take on any form that it needs to in order to accomplish its goals for the community.
A CBO offers a lot of advantages in the community development process when one is included. Since a CBO is a type of non-profit organization, and the two will often be associated with one another, several of the following are advantages that are also applicable to the inclusion of a non-profit.
Just as there are advantages, there are also disadvantages for CBOs. Again, these are similar to what would be applicable for a standard non-profit due to the connection between the two formats. Some of these disadvantages may be more applicable for certain CBOs due to their type and other details.
How to Create a Community-Based Organization?
Depending on what it is you want to accomplish with a CBO in the community development process, setting one up is actually a rather straight-forward process. The simple way to create a CBO includes the following13: