What is Community Development?

What is Community Development?

Community Development

Social workers in the field of community development can be found in many areas of practice and a variety of settings. The work is often not situated within legislated programs, and workers may or may not be required to be registered with the provincial regulatory body. Community practice can involve community economic development such as improving local economies in rural areas experiencing outmigration, or it can include working with citizens, groups, and organizations to interface with large systems, institutions, and the political process. The identity of "community” varies widely and changes depending on the context of the specific issue or social problem. Social workers who practise from a community development or community organizing perspective attempt to address the systemic issues that create social problems. In many cases, they may also be engaged in the kinds of individual problem-solving practices embodied in many social work positions.





Community development is a structured intervention that gives communities greater control over the conditions that affect their lives.  This does not solve all the problems faced by a local community, but it does build up confidence to tackle such problems as effectively as any local action can.  Community development works at the level of local groups and organisations rather than with individuals or families.  The range of local groups and organisations representing communities at local level constitutes the community sector.

Community development is a skilled process and part of its approach is the belief that communities cannot be helped unless they themselves agree to this process.  Community development has to look both ways: not only at how the community is working at the grass roots, but also at how responsive key institutions are to the needs of local communities.


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. Community development should help people to recognise and develop their ability and potential and organise themselves to respond to problems and needs which they share. It supports the establishment of strong communities that control and use assets to promote social justice and help improve the quality of community life. Community development ranges from small initiatives within a small group to large initiatives that involve the broader community.


Community development is a process where community members come together to take collective action and generate solutions to common problems. Community wellbeing (economic, social, environmental and cultural) often evolves from this type of collective action being taken at a grassroots level. Community development ranges from small initiatives within a small group to large initiatives that involve the broader community work” (Twelvetrees, 1991 : 98)




Community development is a group of people in a community reaching a decision to
initiate a social action process to change their economic, social, cultural and environmental situation – Christenson et. al. (1989).

Community development is a process that increases choices. It creates an environment where people can exercise their full potential to lead productive, creative lives. – Ron Shaffer (pers. com.)

Community development is a process where people are united with those of governmental authorities to improve the economic, social and cultural conditions of communities and communities are integrated into the life of the nation enabling them to contribute fully to national progress. – (United Nations, from Biggs, 1999)

The community development model of community work is concerned with assisting grous to acquire the skills and confidence to improve the quality of the lives of its members. With the emphasis on promoting self-help by means of education, this model is thought to reflect the “uniqueness of community”

Community Development emphasises self-help, mutual support, the building up of neighbourhood integration, the development of neighbourhood capacities for problem-solving and self-representation, and the promotion of collective action to bring a community's preferences to the attention of political decision-makers.




Community Development is a wide and important subject. It can be defined as a continuous process, through which community members come together to take collective action and generate solutions to their common problems. Community development ranges from small initiatives within a small group to large initiatives that involve the broader community. Community development produces self-reliant and self-sustaining communities that mobilize resources for the benefit of their members.



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