What is Community Development?
Posted: August 9, 2012
Welcome to my first attempt at writing an Economic and Community Development Blog. Bear with me; I’m probably going to ramble a bit. Nevertheless, I hope that’s ok, since as I learned back in college from one creative writing professor – “every story has a beginning, a middle, and an ending, but not necessarily in that order.” I will try to start at the beginning.
I woke up today thinking about community development as a topic for this first blog, and I decided that I’m going to try to define it, or at least start a good discussion about what community development is by asking some thought provoking questions.
I have often heard a question asked by those that work in the field of Economic and Community Development: “Do you consider community development to be development in the community, or development of the community?”
What do you think?
For me, the answer is that community development begins with social and individual relationship building processes, formal or informal, that bring about development of community. (Think about the creation, building, or organizing of community services organizations here.)
Success in this area can lead to more “concrete” development in communities (think “bricks and mortar” development here; and also think about on-the-ground, “job-producing” economic development projects).
Which leads me to another important question – How am I going to define “communities” now and for use in my future blogs? As communities of interest, or as communities of place? For generic definition of these concepts, I send you to – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_of_interest and to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_of_place. (If you click on the “definition of these concepts” link, you’ll get even more food for thought!)
One more very important community development question is -- How should you and I define the boundaries of place?
I’m not going to worry about answering any more of these questions right now, as you can and will define things for yourself, as most folks usually and eventually do, and most definitions work in the long run. Today I’m just trying to start you thinking, as a good blogger should. Perhaps along the way, now and in the future, you and I can develop a community of interest with the potential to make all of our communities of place more vibrant spaces to live, work, play, worship and learn.
Have I started you thinking? That is what this blog entry was designed to do. The graphic on this page lists the goals of blogging, which I am charged to achieve. I’ve been assigned to write this blog once a month for Penn State Extension as one of the organization’s Economic and Community Development Educators. I welcome your feedback and suggestions for future content, and any thoughts you have now about the definition and bounds of community development, and about the roles of community developers.
I hope to ramble more in the future in this space, with more focus, about the importance of “vision” to communities’ vitality, about land use planning concepts like Smart Growth, New Urbanism, Transit Oriented Development, LEED ND, and about land use planning tools like Traditional Neighborhood Development, Euclidean Zoning, and use of the Official Map as defined by the Pennsylvania Municipalities Code (MPC) (Wait! That last topic has already been done a few weeks ago by my Extension colleague Liesel Dreisbach). You can also expect for me to talk a lot about something that is coming to be known as Citizen Engagement, and about effective processes for Citizen Engagement.
I have attempted with this piece just to set a stage for my future blogs. I’m not really sure if I’ve given you the beginning, the middle, or the ending; but I promise, next time I will try to get to one of the other two.
(See http://www.smartgrowthpa.org/event_detail.asp?ID=1277 for a text version of the referenced graphic.)