Leaders in towns, cities, and villages all over the world
know that their communities do not simply spring up overnight. The particular
elements that make up a community need to be placed in the appropriate
environment, under the appropriate circumstances, and they need to be
cultivated into something that is both successful and cohesive as a whole. It
takes time, effort, and a lot of patience to get results. Certainly, it isn't
going to be an easy task for anyone to do.
Community development is a crucial aspect for any
municipal area. Civic leaders dedicate resources and sections of their budgets
toward community development because of the value it holds for their residents.
It's a major part of urban planning, and the two frequently are tied together
even when they are separated. As a result, it is incredibly important to have
an understanding of what community development entails and what can be done to
ensure its success.
This article will explore the basics of community
defining community development and what its primary elements include allows for
a better understanding of the more complex aspects discussed later on. Additional
topics of this article include the value of community development, both
domestically and internationally, and who in the community is involved in the
Community Development Defined
Many people mistake community development as another name
for urban planning. It's often what people think of first when the concept is
brought up. While the two are similar and can have a symbiotic relationship in
a community, they are not the same. Community development is defined by the
United Nations as a process where the conditions of social and economic
progress are created through participation within the community and reliance on
community initiatives.1 Different communities tend to use different
means to achieve this, but it is generally a universal concept regardless.
Until recently, community development was imagined as a
type of gentrification and renovation for poor, decrepit neighborhoods in
desperate need of improvement.2 This has been the typical view of
community development for many years and is still treated as such to some
degree today. However, many communities use community development as a means of
general improvement for the benefit of all. The goal(s) a community has will
often focus on providing resources to residents of all socioeconomic levels in
the neighborhood, and giving them the opportunities to use services they need
when they need them.
It should be noted that when discussing community
development, "community" isn't necessarily specific to a particular geographic
area-although that will often be the case. The concept can be applied to
communities of identity, interests, or culture and heritage.3 There's
a central theme to each community, something that ties its members together in
the first place. The actions taken for community development will often need to
focus on that theme and the individual elements associated with it in order for
a plan to be formulated and for things to be successful. In many instances, the
involvement and participation of community members is necessary as they are
each individual components that make up the whole. This also makes each
community unique, so paying attention to the individual elements is very important.
So how is community development done? In many cases, it's
through the implementation of different policies and practices by leaders and
residents within the community. This may be done with the assistance or
involvement of local, state, and/or federal government, but it is not always a
necessity. There are resources available throughout multiple levels of
government for communities to obtain a healthy, safe, and equal environment for
their residents, but they are not the only options community leaders have. Whatever
methods and means a community uses for community development will be dependent
on aspects such as the community's goals, location, size, internal resources
(e.g. budget and funding), and existing condition.
International And Domestic Value
Much of the value community development has is contingent
on what it can do for a community when properly implemented and maintained. The
process is applied because a community and its members have a particular set of
goals that they want to achieve, thus the value lies in the process' success
under those particular circumstances. There are going to be some communities
who see a different kind of value from community development due to the variety
of factors involved, aside from what it is that they sought to achieve.
Community development does over some value on a more
general level, applicable regardless of the circumstances. This includes:
Quality of Life-One of the primary purposes of community
development is to improve things for those in the community.4 The
resources that are made available through the process are intended to improve
the overall quality of life for the residents that use them. This can include
anything from safety to health and well-being and then some. Again, this will
be subject to the existing circumstances before
the process is implemented and what is done during the process. This is
certainly the largest measure of community development's value, and it is often
equal to or greater than the cost of achieving it in most cases.
development prompts the residents and leadership of a community to come
together to reach a collective goal. That collaboration generates a sense of
unity throughout the community and brings home the idea that everyone has
earned a place in it. Most people interpret that as meaning that they have
value within their community, that they belong as an integral part of the
whole. It can be both valuable and beneficial for the community to be united as
it can help ensure the continued success of the process of community
development, and everything that has been brought into the community through
and Communication-When people are able to successfully work
together as a united group, they tend to have strong communication abilities. Nothing
can really get done without effective communication, so it's both an important
part and byproduct of community development. Studies that have looked into
community development have found that communication are essential for
communities to achieve their goals.5 It was also found that openness
is an equally essential value, as it affords communities with some degree of
flexibility and the ability to grow in different ways. Communities that have
gone through the process of community development will often find that the
communication and openness amongst residents and leaders has improved over all
and aids in their continued progress.
Sustainability- it does
warrant some attention as part of the value of community development. The
process of community development allows communities to be more autonomous and
self-sustaining than they were before. The improvements made bring forth new
resources and changes that empower the community to take action on its own.6
The promotion of self-sustainability is another key aspect of community
development, and it certainly contributes to its value for those that apply it
to their own communities. For many communities, sustainability is something
that repeatedly pays off and has a higher value in the long run when compared
to the cost of its original implementation.
development itself can be a stabilizing force for communities to build upon and
grow from. As mentioned before, many of the communities that have long used
community development use it as a means of improving themselves on a large
scale. Since it is often a long process, the stability it provides is crucial
to its success. It very much lays the foundation that the community builds its
improvements upon. Many of those communities lack that stability in the first
place, so it is an incredibly valuable commodity that cannot necessarily be
generated on its own.
Most of the above is applicable for both domestic and
international communities. There is value that is applicable to international
communities, whether that means communities throughout the world or domestic
communities that are culturally diverse.
there is any kind of diversity present in a community-domestic or international-there
is usually interaction between the different cultures and interests. When that
happens, there is the opportunity for residents to learn about those that are
different than them in their community. Education is something that is
available through community development and can be used to implement some of
the improvements the process brings about. It also provides the chance for new
ideas and concepts found in different cultures to be introduced into the
community and to cultures where they are not currently present. Depending on
the circumstances, this can help boost the other values of community
development already discussed.
Cohesion-Communities are not merely small, individual groups that
are isolated and independent from each other. In many cases, they intersect
with other communities and are a part of larger ones. For example, a
neighborhood is its own community, but it's also part of the community of a city
or town, which is part of the community of the state, and so on. This is a
byproduct of globalization, where the interactions and integration of different
people, cultures, and nations intersect on multiple levels.7 In
terms of community development's value, this can build upon the unity that a
community has by generating a global cohesion within a particular community and
those it intersects with. This can help with the community's internal
collaboration amongst residents and with the communities that it works with.
Growth-While economic growth is often a goal of a community
going through the process of community development, it does give the process a
lot of value on an international level. This is another byproduct of
globalization, which often plays a role in economic growth in general. Internationally
speaking, it fuels the community's global cohesion and developmental progress.
Steady economic growth brings in new resources and maintains the connections
with existing ones, fostering progress.
Who Is Involved In Community
While it may be obvious that the community is involved in
community development, the particular roles that different members play may not
be. Involvement and participation are required to some degree, so it's
important to identify the roles in play. Those who are involved are not
necessarily going to be those directly impacted by community development, and
may simply benefit when applied on a larger scale.
Residents-The residents of a community are the ones who are going
to be intimately involved and impacted by community development. They are the
ones who actually take action and put the effort into making improvements to
their community using their particular knowledge and skillset. Residents often
do this through their employment in the community or through volunteer efforts,
although it can also be done through their normal activities.
Local Government-Most of the leadership in community
development will be found through the local government. They are the ones who
organize and plan things, identify goals, and possibly provide funding during
the process. Members of the local government are going to be the ones that
guide the rest of the community in their efforts and make sure things stay on
track. They may also be the ones who first initiate the process of community
development and recognize that it needs to occur in the first place. In a
sense, it's a supervisor or coordinator-like role that's paired with the worker
role of the residents and other community members.
State and Federal Government-As mentioned before, the
government on the state and federal levels may play a role in community
development through things like assistance programs and other similar
resources. This isn't going to be universal for every community that goes
through community development, but its common enough for the potential to be
there. The involvement of state and/or federal governments are often going to
need to be invited into the process by the community itself, usually through
application for the programs they offer. No invitation, no involvement.
However, upper levels of government may get involved without an invitation if
the improvements made through community development intersect with other communities,
such as roadwork and new construction.