As we continue to engage with our communities through volunteerism, activism, and advocacy, we must become more versed with terms that are associated with infrastructural and economic development.
A term that I want to want to emphasize throughout this article is the practice of community development and how you, as a community organizer, non-profit, or civic club, can properly and proactively add this term to your repertoire to move your community and city forward.
From a theoretical standpoint, community development is explained as a collaborative and systematic practice of improving the overall quality of life in communities through mediums such as community projects, education, outreach, and reinvestment. Furthermore, supplemental capacities of community development are community redevelopment, community reinvestment, community relations, and economic development.
It is also important to note that from a position of practice, community development is especially focused on improving the overall quality of life for a community to maintain or become a better place to eat, work, and live.
The industry of community development depends heavily on two factors: the first being economic development, because this practice introduces new jobs and equity to a community, while carrying out the task of serving as a hub of employment and opportunity. The second factor being long term community buy-in from current and future generations of that community.
It is crucial to note that community development must be community-based, not community placed. With the push for economic development in cities across the nation, it is now time for communities to understand how economic growth can directly benefit their community long-term. There are many ways to start engaging in community development or developing a voice for the community, but I recommend that communities conduct research that will indicate what exactly they want as a community, i.e., more jobs, more parks, more outreach events.
Standard ways to collect this information can come by creating surveys or conducting interviews to capture primary data, which can be an asset when making presenting local leadership, HOA’s, or Volunteer Community Associations, commonly known as VCAs.
The infancy phase of community-based development does take time, and success will depend on trial and error; however, it is essential to remember that this plan, and many more like it, must be community-based and supported.
Community development is a continuously growing and unique practice, but it can prove to be extremely beneficial to the community and the region if strategies are community-based and factors such as avenues for self-substantiality are primary long-term factors. In my next article, I will discuss community asset maps and Volunteer Community Associations.
Na’Shon Edwards, MCD is a recent graduate of Prairie View A&M University Community Development Program and an independent community development consultant.