In a group/meeting, the techniques of conflict resolution look the same as the techniques of Community Development. In the process (beyond just one meeting) of trying to agree on a decision, conflict resolution is still similar; however I guess conflict resolution has a definable start point and end point, whereas Community Development is continual. Plus, Community Development is concerned with how the decision is identified well before it becomes a matter for disagreement: conflict resolution requires a conflict/decision to be “in play” before it can start.
It should be about “sea-changes”, change, excitement, innovation, moving forward, improving, and transforming.
Community Development does start where people are already, and goes with where they want to go, but Community Development is NOT “going with the flow”: it is new and has new energy, and revolutionises people’s lives.
So, it’s likely to involve turmoil, upset, difficulty, pain, struggle, battle, and some disappointment when risks don’t pay off or when expectations are dashed.
Communities of locality, and communities of interest: groups of people who share a geographical location, or who share a concern or interest in something particular: the definition of “Community”.
It’s quite easy to picture Community Development in a locality: a rough estate, a rural village etc. And it’s also easy to picture Community Development in a group of people who share a need or concern: maybe a group who want to stop the building of a road, or a group who have a disability and are facing barriers to getting a job.
But what does Community Development look like in a group of people who share an interest or hobby? For example: a sailing club, some people who like to bird watch, some people who enjoy going to the pub.
Having written those examples, I realise it’s actually quite easy to picture it. Maybe it doesn’t quite fit the “helping people out of poverty/deprivation” bit of my definition, but the tools and techniques of Community Development could all be used, and the process would have similar phases (consultation, action planning, early events and “successes”, forming structures, campaigning and fundraising etc), just as the process would be as important as the “product” or goal.
Maybe Community Development can change any aspect of life: it doesn’t have to be limited to “good works” of a social care nature. So it can change the world – but it isn’t biased to how the world would look after being changed.
The “glue” that holds a community together.
- Built through people doing things together to help each other, and seeing things improve as a result.
- Spent when there’s an emergency, or someone needs help: if there’s enough social capital, people will cluster round and help in ways that are above and beyond what might be expected.
- It tends to generate its own positive feedback cycle, so the more it is built and spent, the more of it there is available.
- It’s about relationships between people in the community, about doing things for the greater good, about feeling good about joining in.
Building communities and social capital go hand in hand. It’s the “soft” stuff that is very intangible, but talking about it using the term ‘social capital’ means it can be more easily identified and used in models, theories, and the development of professional practice.
Is the image of “social capital” directly comparable to that of economic capital, or environmental capital (resources and potential available in the natural environment) for instance? This comparison seems to have been drawn, but how far does the metaphor stretch?
Community Development can change the world… partly because it has the capacity to draw together every aspect of life, every profession, and every public service.
It often involves:
- jobs, economic development, training, and education;
- issues around the built environment as well as ecological concerns;
- housing, town planning, and new buildings are often the most visible outputs of community development (and so people think they are the sum total of what Community Development is);
- leisure, parks, and sports are where people identify “fun” changes;
- personal and public health are also improved through Community Development, though as with education, the real impact takes a generation to emerge;
- citizenship, inclusion, faith groups and relations, democratic participation;
- crime reduction, the reduction of the perception of crime, and community safety;
- volunteering, community groups and activities
- …and there must be more.
When it’s proper Community Development, there’s a strategy which draws all these things together “to help people help themselves, help themselves out of poverty, in the context of building communities”.
[This statement is what I say to describe what Community Development is, if you do it as a job.]
- with people not for/to people
- starts where people are, and listens properly, with no agenda
- catalyses what is already there, doesn’t impose from the outside
- sustainable, long-term, committed, “hands dirty”
- “the process is the product”.