Community development is based on the notion that people share some sense of identity, such as the place in which community members reside, the social or cultural similarities among them, or the ideological or political cause about which they care. Social identity can vary according to ability, age, class, color, culture, ethnicity, geography, gender, national origin, race, religion, or sexual orientation. The types and intersections of social identity are numerous, and they can create quandaries for political representation (Forest 2004; Lum 1999; Tatum 2000).
How will community development look different from a more multicultural perspective? One way to address this question is by comparison of concepts of community (Checkoway 2007).
First, monocultural community can be conceived as one whose people are similar in their social characteristics and who, as they pursue their common purpose, gain strength in unity. They conceive of a “community as a whole” whose members agree upon broad issues of public policy that serve a singular “public interest” in which majorities rather than minorities prevail.
Second, pluralist community can be conceived as one whose people comprise distinct groups, each having its own social characteristics and interests in education, economic development, housing, health care, or human services. Because each group pursues its own ends, the public interest is served when each group organises on its own behalf, and influences the outcome of decisions.
Third, multicultural community can be conceived as one which recognises differences in groups, and increases communication and collaboration across them. It is neither monocultural nor pluralist, but rather combines “difference” and “unity” in the same situation. Some cities have reputations for multiculturalism – such as Sao Paulo, Toronto, and Rotterdam – as do some neighbourhoods, marketplaces and malls, where people rub shoulders without necessarily touching (Sandercock 1998, 2003).
Community development is when people join together to improve conditions and create change at the community level. It can operate in indigenous initiatives or formal agencies; with diverse racial, ethnic, religious, or other groups; and in rural and urban communities in industrial and developing areas.
Despite its variety, community development has some core concepts on which there is relative agreement, such as “starting with people,” the idea that the process should originate in the experience of people; “strengthening community,” that community is a unit of solution; “joining together,” that individuals acting collectively can accomplish more than one person acting alone; and “creating change,” that change is both desirable and possible (Checkoway 1997; DeFilippis & Saegert 2008).
Community development is one of several strategies to create change. For example, people can organise for social action, plan local programs, participate in government proceedings, advocate issues that concern them, raise critical consciousness, and provide community-based services. There is no single strategy to create change; there are many (Checkoway 1995; Hyde 1996; Rothman 1996; Weil 1996).
Community development has several steps in the process. People can negotiate their entry into the community, assess its strengths and needs, develop organisational capacity, make action plans, build support for implementation, and evaluate the process. Each step can have various methods of practice and various techniques for practicing them depending upon the purpose and population to be served.
Sources: Forest, B. (2004). Mapping democracy: Racial identity and the quandary of political representation. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 91, 143-166.Checkoway, B. (1995). Six strategies of community change. Community Development Journal, 30, 2-20. Sandercock, L. (2003). Cosmopolis II: Mongrel Cities in the 21st Century. London: Continuum.
Phares, D. (2004). Metropolitan Governance: Without Metropolitan Government? Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing.
Reardon, S.F. (2008). The geographic scale of metropolitan racial segregation. Demography, 45, 489-514. Checkoway, B. (2007). Community change for diverse democracy. Community Development Journal, 42, 1-12.