I’m a community developer at heart

I was googling for some info on community development definitions for  a piece I’m writing elsewhere and came across Jim Ife’s wonderful work, coincidentally I had just lent Jim’s book to a social work student on placement at Sandbag yesterday. 

Community development (CD) is a broad term given to the practices of civic activists, involved citizens and professionals to build stronger and more resilient local communities.


Community development seeks to empower individuals and groups of people by providing them with the skills they need to affect change in their own communities. These skills are often created through the formation of large social groups working for a common agenda. Community developers must understand both how to work with individuals and how to affect communities’ positions within the context of larger social institutions 


Community Development Principles

Ecological principles

  1. Holism– everything relates to everything
  2. Sustainability– must be able to be maintained long-term
  3. Diversity- between communities and within communities. Not seeking to impose one world view or ‘right’ structure
  4. Organic development– respect and value community’s particular attributes
  5. Balanced development– recognising social, economic, political, cultural, environmental and personal/spiritual development

Social justice and human rights principles

  1. Addressing structural disadvantage- not reinforcing structural oppression but confronting and countering them
  2. Addressing discourses of disadvantage– eg. People with disabilities redefined as contributing members of society rather than reliant on ‘charity’
  3. Empowerment- providing people with resources, opportunities, vocabulary, knowledge and skills to increase their capacity
  4. Human rights– both protection and promotion
  5. Need definition– need definition of community themselves should take precedence but should be agreement between various need-definers (inc. service users, service provider, researchers, funding bodies)

Valuing the local

  1. Valuing local knowledge– as opposed to engaging an outside consultant or ‘expert’
  2. Valuing local culture- without disregarding other principles such as human rights or addressing disadvantage
  3. Valuing local resources– including financial, technical, natural and human
  4. Valuing local skills- skills developed locally most likely to succeed in that environment
  5. Valuing local processes– not imposing specific answers, structures or processes from outside the community
  6. Participation- provide broad range of participatory activities and legitimise equally all people involved

 Process principles

  1. Process, outcome and vision– each is relevant and helps achieve the others
  2. Integrity of process– the processes themselves should reflect all of the principles outlined
  3. Consciousness-raising– helping people explore their personal experiences and the links between their experiences and the structures or discourses of power and oppression
  4. Cooperation and consensus- rather than competition
  5. Pace of development– community must determine the pace- cannot be ‘sped up’ for those who want to see results
  6. Peace and non-violence– including addressing structural violence, physical violence (domestic, street, police, corporal punishment) by non-violent means. Eg, not appropriate to respond to youth crime with harsher penalties because it reinforces violent solutions
  7. Inclusiveness- processes that include even those with opposing views so people can change positions without losing ‘face’
  8. Community building– bringing people together and emphasising interdependence

Global and local principles

  1. Linking global and the local

  2. Anti-colonialist practice– not taking over the agenda, devaluing culture/experience or stripping people of identity

 From ‘Community Development: community-based alternatives in an age of globalisation’, Jim Ife and Frank Tesoriero, 2006.



About stevewilliams1901

Social entrepreneur based in Australia.
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