Community Development

Community development is defined as a process whereby a community strengthens itself so that it can creatively meet its needs (spiritual, mental, physical, and social) through expansion of awareness, increased interaction within and outside the community, and by the effective use of available resources.

Need for Community Development.

Community development is needed for the following reasons:

  • It gives communities greater control over the conditions that affect their lives.
  • It works to solve the various problems faced by a local community be it health, sanitation, poor living conditions and the like. At the same time it builds up confidence to tackle such problems as effectively as any local action can.
  • Community development works at the level of local groups and organizations rather than with individuals or families. These local groups and organizations representing communities at local level constitutes the community sector.
  • Communities become self-sufficient and geared-up to meet all inside & outside challenges and work for their own development as a whole.

Process of Community development

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The Community Development Process begins with community organizing and moves on to visioning, planning, and finally evaluation.

1. Community Organizing

Community organizing means building a widely accessible power structure, often with the end goal of distributing power equally throughout the community. Community organizers generally seek to build groups that are open and democratic in governance. Such groups facilitate and encourage consensus decision-making with a focus on the general health of the community rather than a specific interest group.

Community organizing focuses on mobilizing people in a specific area, stimulating actions by a community itself, or by others, planned, carried out, and evaluated by a community’s individuals, groups, and organizations on a participatory and sustained basis.

There have been successful efforts in blending the various forms of organizing, such as union and community organizing. These efforts attempt to organize workers where they live rather than in the workplace. This strategy has the advantage of obtaining support from local organizations and institutions that would not normally be involved in union organizing efforts. Unions also become more involved in community issues, such as schools, in an effort to garner support from residents.

Approaches to problem solving in communities:

  • Service,
  • Advocacy
  • Mobilizing.

The first two approaches do not involve community residents in problem solving. In fact, residents may never be consulted.

Service focuses on the individual, trying to address an individual’s problems, such as unemployment, poverty, lack of health insurance, or mobility limitations. Service programs address problems one at a time

Advocacy is a process where one person or a group of individuals speaks for another person or group of individuals. Advocates can effect change in organizations and institutions on behalf of others.

Mobilizing involves community residents taking direct action to protest or support local projects, policies, or programs. Mobilizing is important because it gets people involved in direct action on a problem

Social action campaigns are used to mobilize communities. Social action campaigns can be small and immediate, such as getting a pothole filled, or large and long-term, such as promoting civil rights or fair trade practices. Tactics used in social action campaigns include appeals, petitions, picketing, boycotts, strikes, and sit-ins.

2. Community visioning

Community visioning is a planning technique. It is a process by which a community envisions the future it wants, and plans how to achieve it. Through public involvement, communities identify their purpose, core values, and vision of the future, which are then transformed into a manageable and feasible set of community goals and an action plan.

In simple words community visioning represents an overall image of what a community wants to be and how it wants to look at some point in the future.

Advantages of Community visioning

  • It allows for an innovative and proactive future orientation.
  • Visioning focuses on the strengths that must be developed to reach a desired end state.
  • It suggests that the community can design and create its own future.

Techniques of Community Visioning

Comprehensive-rational planning: Comprehensive-rational planning has been the most common form of planning used in cities, villages, and towns to address their future. It focuses on the formation of a plan that guides development and growth.

Advocacy Planning: Advocacy planning is concerned with the planning of a particular geographic area or region. It is different from the comprehensive planning model as it focuses on one issue or region. It promotes a level of public participation unheard of under the comprehensive-rational planning model. There are several strengths to this model: It focuses on one issue or geographic area, plans are not comprehensive (which makes it less daunting for residents), and the model attempts to bring equality into the planning process by giving poor and disadvantaged groups a voice. The advocacy approach has several weaknesses, however, including the risk of conflicting plans. Community developers closely follow in the footsteps of advocacy planners, precisely because they bring to the conversation alternative ways of looking at projects and proposals.

Strategic planning: Strategic planning aims to build agreement within an organization or a community. It forces the community to ask and answer the questions “What are our goals and aims?” and “What do we want to accomplish?” These questions encourage communities to think and act strategically—maximizing effectiveness, identifying their comparative advantage, focusing on critical issues, and turning liabilities into assets.

Strategic planning also has several weaknesses. The process is not always well suited to the public sector or communities that have multiple objectives. The process may have difficulty satisfying competing and often conflicting demands. In addition, it is internal to the organization, so involving the public

may be difficult. The process relies heavily on analysis of the status quo and

makes demands for information and data that many communities find overwhelming. It also embraces competitive rather than cooperative behavior.

3. Action Plan Development

An action plan is a description of the activities needed to be done to move the community toward its vision. For each project that is identified, there should be a detailed plan of what needs to be done, who can do it, when it will be done, what information is needed, and what resources are necessary to implement the strategy. Action plans should be prepared based on agreed on strategies and goals.

4. Monitoring and Evaluation

Communities engaged in development are seldom interested in monitoring their progress and evaluating their efforts. They are primarily concerned with getting things done. There are several reasons, however, why it is useful for a community to measure its progress and evaluate its efforts:

  • To keep people involved in the community development process by showing them tangible results of their efforts.
  • To show foundations, local governments, and other financial supporters that their resources are well spent
  • To improve the community’s efforts by establishing a reliable system of monitoring progress
  • To gain support of the community-at-large for development efforts by having an effective evaluation system in place

Monitoring is an assessment of the planning process. The purpose of monitoring is to provide indications of whether corrections need to take place in the action plan. For each element of the action plan, communities should ask questions such as the following: Are the deadlines being met? Is the budget appropriate? Is the staffing appropriate? Is the amount of work realistic? Are priorities receiving the appropriate amount of attention? How are we working as a group? Are we learning something important to share? What else do we need?

Evaluation focuses on the specific accomplishments of the process. A distinction should be made between measuring outputs and outcomes. Outputs are usually things that can be counted that result from the action plan. They are an intermediary measure. Examples of outputs include the number of jobs created, number of houses built, or number of programs

developed. Outcomes, however, are usually much more long term and are more difficult to link to the specific elements of the action plan. They are more closely linked to the ultimate objectives identified in the visioning process. Examples of outcomes are decreased levels of poverty or increased levels of personal income, more people accepted into leadership roles, and improved social networks among residents. It is difficult, however, to make a causal link between outcomes and an action plan. Participants in the visioning process should ask how a community is better off as a result and then try to measure success in terms of goals stated in the action plan. To monitor or evaluate a community’s actions it is useful to assess the change in the outputs and outcomes over time.

SOURCE: Green, Haines, and Hale sky (2000, p. 1.2).

References and additional resources:

http://www.sil.org

www.maori.com

www.sagepub.com/upm

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