Unit 17 Community Development Work

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The aim of this unit is to enable learners to understand the complex nature of community development work and the role a community development worker has in facilitating community initiatives.

Unit abstract

Successful community development work requires skilful facilitation and those involved need a wide range of knowledge and skills in order to empower communities to engage in development work. They also need to understand how to encourage communities to identify their needs and initiate action. In this unit learners will examine the complex nature of communities and community development work. First, they will examine diversity within communities and the strengths and potential problems that can arise in different communities. Second, they will consider the knowledge and skills that community development workers require in order to successfully engage with communities. They will explore the processes involved in both initiating and sustaining community development work and the skills required for project management. Finally, they will look at possible outcomes of development work within communities, potential barriers and strategies for improvement. Learners will investigate a range of community development work within a variety of diverse communities. Strategies for empowering communities will be analysed along with relevant legislation and agreed ways of working.

Learning outcomes

1 Understand the complex nature of communities and community development

  • Communities: different communities eg children and young people, women, elderly, people with disabilities, people from ethnic minorities, travellers, prisoners, hospital patients, care residents, unemployed, homeless, rurally isolated, council estate tenants
  • Community development:projects and initiatives related to eg health, education, leisure, culture, crime prevention, care services, health and safety, fundraising, regeneration
  • Diversity: religion; culture; sexual orientation; gender; age; disability; socio-economic status; demographics; environment; housing; lifestyle
  • Strengths and support systems: individual, group and organisational; nuclear and extended family groups; self-help groups and networks; neighbourhood support; voluntary organisations; community forums; tenants associations
  • Potential problems: discrimination; marginalisation; social exclusion; alternative values and beliefs; crime; vandalism; safety; lack of communal facilities for eg sport, leisure, social networking.

2 Understand the role and responsibilities of the community development worker in facilitating community initiatives

  • Knowledge and skills: communication; collaboration; negotiation; networking; partnership working; development of resources; funding strategies; accountability and control of financial resources; publicity, marketing and media networks; use of ICT; identifying problems; developing creative solutions; teamwork; political awareness; knowledge of local community support systems; knowledge of relevant legislation and agreed ways of working
  • Empowering communities: identification and agreement of community needs; inclusion;participation; partnership working; interaction with individuals, groups and agencies eg government, voluntary, charitable, community forums, tenants associations; development of learning opportunities for individuals and groups; conflict resolution; collective action
  • Initiating and sustaining community development work:defining project work, establishing aims and objectives for projects; information gathering and research eg survey, questionnaire, observation, interview, data collection, sampling, analysis; strategic planning; development and maintenance of resources: fundraising strategies and methods; planning community action; target setting; project planning and management; monitoring systems; quality assurance.

3 Understand the impact of community development work on communities

  • Long- and short-term impact: positive impacts eg changing attitudes and perceptions, continuing motivation, improved relationships, empowerment, improved facilities and life chances; negative impacts eg marginalisation, dependency, imbalance of power relationships, sustainability problems.
  • Potential barriers: lack of funding; apathy; lack of physical resources; breakdown in communication; different priorities; opposing factions; demotivation
  • Reflect on improvements: management and monitoring of community projects; gathering and assessing feedback; measuring outcomes; democratic accountability; training needs; development of resources; planning for improvements; sustainability; accessing community networks; stakeholder analysis; acknowledging and celebrating achievement; marketing and publicity; reflective practice.


It would be helpful to use community development websites, such as:

  • www.cdx.org.uk Community Development Exchange
  • www.comm-dev.org Community Development Society
  • www.fcdl.org.uk Federation for Community Development Learning

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