We often hear the term community development being used to reference the activities geared toward making a community better than it is presently. While this is a simple and fair assessment of the intent of developmental activities done within the community, it is a bit more than that. Community development for one takes place within the community, as opposed to it happening to the community. It is important to point this out as some people have the misconception that the development effort lies with the government or some other related agency. While these bodies do put means and measures in place to assist with the improvement of the quality of life within the community, it is not their responsibility to make it happen.
Community Development Takes Place from the Grassroots
The community is for the people and must be taken forward by the people who dwell there. Another definition for community development which does incorporate this bit of information can be found on http://maaori.com. It relates that community development "is a process and a tool to facilitate meaningful and sustainable change in quality of life through grassroots involvement and participatory planning."
Outside forces can never adequately develop a community unless the grassroots people are involved. These people must see and appreciate the relevance of the development to their own existence if it is to mean anything. The government could, for example, see the need for a new school and build one, but the people of the community feel that a skills training center would serve the community much better. Outside forces must work along with the community's people as opposed to working 'above' them. The entire process should be geared towards helping the people develop their skills and empowering them to take charge of their own lives, and collectively work to develop the community. This is usually achieved through the formation of large social groups that have one common agenda, which is to identify their needs as a community and work towards a solution.
Community developers work along with a community's members/social groups and larger institutions to effect growth, but this is only achievable if they understand the people and how to effectively present the community's intentions to these larger institutions. The active participants within a community development effort would be the civic leaders, professionals, activists and the grassroots citizens themselves. The community developer must be able to work along with each body and facilitate any discrepancies while being able to skillfully help work through these factors and still achieve the main goal, which is development.
Community development, it could be said, is based on the principle of - give a man a fish and you'll have fed him for a day, but teach him how to fish and you'll feed him for life. The process aims to give people the necessary skills to tap into their own personal resources, so that they can better manage and/or effect a change in their community for the greater good of all its citizens.
Kevin Pearson is an independent urban development researcher. His particular field of research is in the wider Calgary area. He enjoys sharing his finding on various real estate blogs. To find out more about the Reunion community developments, visit their website.