Community Development Key Points

When we talk about community development, what are we really saying? The ABCD (asset-based community development) video by Joel Verhoef mentioned in an earlier post gives a good overview, but community development is a big idea that can involve many things, and always could use more exploration.

World Renew works toward change at a deeper level by beginning at a community’s vision, values, habits, and worldview. It is a long process and its effects may not be visible at first, but we believe it is valuable because it is sustainable.

What are some questions you have about community development? Here are some common ones…

  • What is unique about community development?

    World Renew staff begin by asking the community what their needs are, prompting the community to take action. Together they decide what they need to be a safer, healthier, thriving community. World Renew believes it is important for members of the community to take ownership of the project. This gives people dignity and control, and allows them to learn how to maintain what they have been taught even after World Renew leaves a community. “Community development is giving power to the powerless, is giving security to the vulnerable, is making strong those who are weak, and is giving companionship to the isolated” (Geisterfer).

  • How does this change the community?

    “Development is never just one thing, like health, but a whole process of growth that involves social, economic, and spiritual sides of life too” (Geisterfer). World Renew hopes to transform communities holistically, not just in part.

  • What about communities where people are too weak or poor even to learn?

    World Renew is also comprised of DRS (Disaster Response Services) which is active in communities following natural disasters and also human-caused disasters such as wars and conflicts. For example, international disaster response teams are working in Syria and South-Sudan in conflict response, West Africa regarding the Ebola crisis, and New Jersey following Hurricane Sandy, amongst other places ravaged by disaster. Community development could come later in these places, but first it is necessary to address other immediate issues.

Do you have more questions regarding community development? Post a comment, let’s learn together!

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Participant

Good questions. 

Key question, does the community néed/want change agents from outside? If so are the agents aware/knowledgeable about community leadership structures?

 

 

 

Community Builder

Thanks so much for that excellent and important question, Fronse! 

Susan Van Lopik is a staff person at World Renew and has multiple years of experience in community development overseas. Susan says,

"Not all communities do need or even want “outsiders”.  It is presumptive of international or local community development practitioners to assume that we can enter any and every community.

Personally I think of the community, its members and structures, to be the real change agents, not outsiders. So I agree with what I think you are suggesting here that the leadership comes from the community.

I do think outsiders can play a role within the community to grow their own vision, to strengthen their organizing, and support their mobilizing which are important ways to support community leadership.

In World Renew’s practice, we work with skilled local partners who are known by the community and who also know the community.

World Renew enters communities by invitation. Often that invitation comes from community leadership through a local partner that is already working in the community, and/or a local church in the community. Working through invitation by the community provides a certain amount of legitimacy for those coming from the outside. That legitimacy can only be maintained as long as the community is fully respected."