I’m a community development worker of over thirty years standing. I’ve seen community development in the UK evolve over the decades and today I see it is undergoing a profound transformation.
It is a matter of life or death. Many organisations that previously supported community development, eg local authorities and churches, no longer do so. Funding for community development has never been so scarce; very few posts are advertised. There has never been a career path for development workers and no professional standards. This means the wealth of experience held by practitioners is in danger of being lost.
Does community development have a future online? I have no idea! It is worth exploration and this website will do that.
If there is an online future, it can work only through close integration between online and real life communication. Online communication cannot substitute locally for face-to-face meetings. How do you integrate such fine-grained local relationships online?
There is a long term need in the UK to drag community development out of the control of local and national government. I have had a ring side seat, watching politicians drain the life out of community development. Community development needs to find its own resources and build networks independently of political control. It is what happens in the United States and could happen in the UK too. This is about independence from political control through funding.
We can support this online but it requires major changes to how we understand community development. The focus must be on how we build local economies (not always geographically local) rather than funding for projects or workers. If these local economies pool resources, they could purchase the developmental support they need.
In future posts I shall develop these ideas further. We need a renewed vision of the future of our communities and that means going back to the roots to find a new way forward.