Community Development (CD) is a broad approach to working with communities in the pursuit of social justice (a fair and inclusive society with an equitable distribution of resources, opportunities and power across the population ). It is a process to actualise positive change at a local or community level, alongside or led by, the people who live there.

The International Association for Community Development (IACD) defines community development as: "a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes participative democracy, sustainable development, rights, economic opportunity, equality (particularly structural inequalities related to gender, race, disability, class, age and sexual orientation); and social justice, through the organisation, education and empowerment of people within their communities, whether these be of locality, identity or interest, in urban and rural settings".

Their is no unified approach to CD, rather an embodiment of many approaches under a broad umbrella termed community development; however it is unified through a strong value base, and is driven by active principles that guide the work. In Queensland, CD has a strong tradition and history beginning in the 1970’s; and connected through a strong network of practitioners that gather every two years to share stories of practice and learn together (Community Development Queensland (CDQ)). Community Development practice as defined by CDQ, has at its core a relational methodology that is underpinned by strong values and principles that guide the work for both individual and community change; moving private concerns to public action. These are interlinked with the social justice principles of equity, equality, participation and access. 

Community Development Values and Principles

The Scottish Community Development Centre  provides a comprehensive overview of CD values and principles that are categorised under three broad headings: the things it challenges; the ideas it promotes; and the thinking it influences.

Community Development challenges exclusion;

through an active process of social inclusion, and a recognition that some people are excluded from social, economic and political opportunities due to a range of factors outside of their control; building individual and community capacity to generate social, economic and democratic activity and opportunity.

Community development promotes strong communities, including;

  • Full (active) citizenship; based on the idea that a healthy community is one in which people are motivated and able to participate and contribute towards meeting their own needs; it includes mutuality and reciprocity, or ‘the glue’’ that binds people together.
  • Community led collective action; change that builds solidarity and support through emphasising the common aspects of individual problems, and the capacity of people to work together in their common interest; nourishing community leadership.
  • Participative democracy; to encourage and provide opportunity for active participation in public affairs and policy by those affected by decisions; leads to better understanding of issues, effectiveness (outcomes), and innovation.
  • Empowerment;  Community empowerment is a process of re-negotiating power in order to gain more control; it recognises that in order for a person/group/community to be empowered, then others will be sharing their existing power and giving some of it up.  CD works with communities to better understand power and their collective ability to deal with problems.
  • Problem focused learning; learning by doing and recognising that developing skill and understanding is a lifelong process; technological, social, economic, environmental and other forms of change require new skills and understanding.
  • Preventative action; early intervention is key; identify the underlying causes of problems and deal with these, rather than with their manifestations. Strong communities have the capacity to identify potential problems and take preventative action; community resilience.
  • Collaboration; CD acknowledges and promotes collaboration between groups, government and citizens, and the importance of collective and integrated responses.  

Community development influences policy;  

CD seeks to identify and define issues of public concern, and influence public policy in relation to those issues; it has a particular role in making the connections between private troubles and public issues. 

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