Community development is the process of helping a community to strengthen itself and develop towards its full potential. It’s concerned with change and growth … “with giving people more power over the changes that are taking place around them, the policies that affect them and the services they use.” (Marilyn Taylor, Signposts to Community Development).
Viewed in this way, community development is dependent on communication and participation, to enable individuals and communities to express opinion, and “grow and change according to their own needs and priorities rather than those dictated by circumstances beyond their boundaries. It works through bringing people together to share skills, knowledge and experience.” (Standing Conference on Community Development)
The Scottish Community Development Centre (SCDC) defines community development as follows:-
“Community development is a way of strengthening civil society by prioritising the actions of communities, and their perspectives in the development of social, economic and environmental policy. It seeks the empowerment of local communities, taken to mean both geographical communities, communities of interest or identity and communities organising around specific themes or policy initiatives. It strengthens the capacity of people as active citizens through their community groups, organisations and networks; and the capacity of institutions and agencies (public, private and non-governmental) to work in dialogue with citizens to shape and determine change in their communities. It plays a crucial role in supporting active democratic life by promoting the autonomous voice of disadvantaged and vulnerable communities. It has a set of core values/social principles covering human rights, social inclusion, equality and respect for diversity; and a specific skills and knowledge base.”
Asset Based Community Development
According to the ABCD Institute, the core of this approach is its focus on social relationships. Formal and informal associations, networks, and extended families are treated as assets and also as the means to mobilise other assets within the community. By treating relationships as assets, ABCD is a practical application of the concept of social capital. Essentially it’s a strategy for solid, sustainable and community driven local development.
“The appeal of ABCD lies in its premise that communities can drive the development process themselves by identifying and mobilising existing, but often unrecognised assets, and thereby responding to and creating local economic opportunity.”