What Is Community Development

The following is a definition of Community Development agreed by the Scottish Community Development Association and used by a number of organisations in Scotland and England and which EBCDA adopted on 12 August 2008.

1.0 What is Community Development?

1.1 Community development is action that helps people to recognise and develop their ability and potential and organise themselves to respond to problems and needs which they share. It supports the establishment of strong communities that control and use assets to promote social justice and help improve the quality of community life. It also enables community and public agencies to work together to improve the quality of government.

1.2 Community development is an occupation (both paid and unpaid) which aims to build active and influential communities based on justice, equality and mutual respect. Community development work is done in ways which challenge oppression and tackle inequalities. It involves changing the relationships between ordinary people and people in positions of power, so that everyone can take part in the issues that affect their lives.

1.3 Community development work involves working with communities to:

  • Identify their strengths, needs, rights and responsibilities
  • Plan, organise and take action
  • Assess the effect of any actions taken

1.4 It also involves working with agencies to increase their capacity to understand and work with communities. Communities can be based on where people live (geographic communities), or on a shared concern, issue or identity (communities of interest).

2.0 What Community Development is Not!

2.1 Quick. Community development is a long term process, focusing on people and their needs and aims. This long term approach is essential to ensure that changes are sustainable and long-lasting.

2.2 A numbers game. If only five people turn up to the public meeting, these are the five people you start working with.

2.3 Partnership working. Community development is the activity which enables many people to get to the partnership table in the first place.

2.4 Consultation. Community development is much more than consulting on decisions already made.

2.5 A cheap way of delivering services, demonstrating management efficiency or validating funding bids.

2.6 Talking with three ‘community representatives’ and saying that their responses are the demands of the community. Community development enables many more voices to be heard.

2.7 Volunteering. For most people involved in community activity, it is because if they want a service such as a playgroup, they have to provide it themselves. It is not necessarily because they want to be volunteers.

2.8 The answer to everything.