Community Development Online
When I started this website, I named the blog "Community Development Online" and for a year or so those who signed up to my email list received a sequence of twenty posts about community development. After a year or so, I found this did not appeal and so I replaced the email sequence with a shorter one about the local economy and changed my offer for those who sign up to the site.
My new offer is a free ebook about how community development has lost its way, "Community Development is Dead! Long Live Community Development!"
The next question was what to do with the old email sequence. Some of it appears in the ebook but there was some unique information in it and I didn't want to lose it. So, I have adapted it into blog posts. This page summarises those posts and acts as an index to them. Do we need a campaign for real community development? introduces the sequence.
I have suspended this sequence for now but may add new material at a later date. If there is any topic you would like me to cover, please leave me a comment on one of the posts.
Four Key Topics
I start with key topics that structure my thinking about community development:
- Meetings - in the post Meetings, Meetings, Meetings I argue the sometimes dull meetings we all endure these days were empowering to the "new industrial poor" when introduced by John Wesley in the later eighteenth century.
- Mutuality - in Beatrice Potter, Development Worker? I describe how the retail co-operative movement became a powerful inspiration and why the Trade Union movement gained the political advantage. These days both are shadows of their former glory. Sadly Jeremy Fisher was not involved but perhaps another Jeremy will find a way to rekindle the mutual spirit?
- Mentors - one aspect of the decline of community development in England is the scarcity of mentors. Everyone, not only the inexperienced, needs support from experienced workers who are distant from the situation and so can help gain some perspective and suggest ways forward.
- Models - this post explains not so much how to use models as warn of the danger of confusing models with reality. They can make fantastic maps but they are not substitutes for observing what is there.
My Three Function Model
Moving on from my dire warnings about the mis-use of models, I introduce my three-function model of community development. The three functions are:
- Representation - three posts cover different aspects of this topic
Participative Methods are essential to community development and can be empowering where they are used properly. This sequence reviews the use of several methods I have previously described. The older posts (referenced in brackets) contain more information and refer to resources.
- Participatory Appraisal is a method designed specifically for community led research and development (participatory appraisal resources)
- Open Space Technology can be used successfully in community development athough it is somewhat explanation heavy (Open Space Technology resources)
- World Cafe is a simple and powerful approach that works well so long as you can find a cafe! (World Cafe resources)
- Citizens' Organising has been very successful in the US but less so in the UK, although it has been influential (Citizens' Organising resources)
- Non-Directive Consultancy - was designed to support church and community work and many see as similar to coaching (Non-Directive Consultancy resources)
Community Development and Community Activity
This final section explores the relationships between community development workers and community activists. An introductory post reflects upon the damage done through grant dependency and excluding local business.
One consequence of this is the marginalisation of local entrepreneurs. For some reason we do not recognuse the contribution made by local businesses, let alone engage with local businesses in community planning.
There is a profound confusion between the role of development workers and the role of local activists. Such is the confusion that often the role of local activists is marginalised and devalued.
This post considers community development in the future and predicts there will be fewer development workers more centralised and possibly online community development.