Galliagh Concerned Residents Group

The term Community Development can be bandied about by different agencies to mean different things, a lot of jargon can also be used to make people think they would not have a clue about whats happening!

Below you will see some information on what community development is about.

What is community development?

Community development can be both an occupation (such as a community development worker in a local authority) and a way of working with communities. Its key purpose is to build communities based on justice, equality and mutual respect.

Community development 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. It starts from the principle that within any community there is a wealth of knowledge and experience which, if used in creative ways, can be channelled into collective action to achieve the communities' desired goals.

Community development practitioners work alongside people in communities to help build relationships with key people and organisations and to identify common concerns. They create opportunities for the community to learn new skills and, by enabling people to act together, community development practitioners help to foster social inclusion and equality.

Community developmentā€™s values

Community development is distinct from other ways of working with communities because it is underpinned by a specific set of values.

  • Equality and Anti-discrimination
    Community development practice challenges structural inequalities and discriminatory practices. Community development recognises that people are not the same, but they are all of equal worth and importance and therefore entitled to the same degree of respect and acknowledgement.
  • Social Justice
    The aim of increasing social justice is an essential element of community development practice.  It involves identifying and seeking to alleviate structural disadvantage and advocating strategies for overcoming exclusion, discrimination and inequality.
  • Collective Action
    Community development practice is essentially about working with and supporting groups of people, to increase their knowledge, skills and confidence so they can analyse their situations and identify issues which can be addressed through collective action.
  • Community Empowerment
    Community development practice seeks the empowerment of individuals and communities, through using the strengths of the community to bring about desired changes.
  • Working and Learning Together
    Community development practice promotes a collective process which enables participants to learn from reflecting on their experiences.

What community development isn't about

  • It isn't just for community development workers.  Anyone can perform in a community development role if they are given the training, resources and support to work with communities on the communities' own priorities from the start
  • It isn't a "quick fix".  Community development is a long-term process, focusing on people and their needs and aims.  This long-term approach is essential to ensure changes are sustainable and long-lasting.
  • It isn't a "numbers game".  If five people turn up to a public meeting, these are the five people that the work starts with and grows from.
  • It isn't a euphemism for "Partnership working". Community development is the activity which enables many people to get to the partnership table in the first place.  It is the way of working which challenges unrepresentative voices: talking with three 'community representatives' is not representative of the needs of the wider community if the representatives are not accountable to the communities and delegated to express the collective views of these communities.  Community development enables many more voices to be heard and ensures they represent the diversity of opinions.
  • It isn't merely "Consultation". Community development is much more than consulting on decisions already made. It is about residents exploring their own needs and seeking the services which meet their differing needs.
  • It isn't "Tokenism".  It won't provide the answer to all problems, such as a cheap way of providing services, demonstrating management efficiency or validating funding bids.
  • It isn't just "Volunteering". Volunteering does bring many benefits, including the opportunities to develop teamwork, community spirit and personal growth.  But many people become involved in voluntary community activity because they cannot get the service they want, and have to provide it themselves.  It is not necessarily because they want to be volunteers.
  •  It isn't the same as "Community Engagement".  Community engagement is generally initiated by agencies or people in positions of power to seek community involvement in planning and reviewing services or engaging in democratic life.  It can be empowering if it leads to communities having an effective say in service provision or political decisions. It will also benefit from community development which builds the road of organised groups which others may find useful to reach people. However community development isn't merely a tool for community engagement; it starts from communities' own concerns.  Community development helps communities reach out to agencies and other influential people when the issues require their involvement.  Community development helps communities to develop clear ideas about what they want to say and the changes they are seeking from others, and then to consider which forums and networks will help them pursue their interests through their collective voices.

We hope that the groups involved with ramming development down the communities throat all in the name of regeneration and community development actually read these points and re-evaluate how they deal with communities.

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