How is community development a process

Visitor Question: Someone recently commented to me that community development is a process and that I need to be patient.

I find that frustrating because I feel like there has been more than enough time for the government to make community development a priority. Somehow we find time for all of these politically inspired investigations, naming post offices, offering resolutions about stuff that other organizations pay sufficient attention to, and four-day weekends, but we don't seem to have time to send enough money to communities so they can survive and thrive.

Do you think community development is a process?

Editors Reply: Yes, we think community development is a process. You seem to think that the U.S. Congress is responsible for community development and sending money to local communities to make it happen.

That might be your ideal vision for community development in the U.S., but it is an impractical vision for the near-term and medium-term future. (If you read our website, you will see that we are not at all allergic to impractical visions, but this one is so far afield that we cannot embrace it.)

Now could the federal government send more money to local communities to allow them to refurbish homes, improve neighborhoods and their infrastructure, convert brownfields to green spaces, invent solutions for homelessness and a mismatch between housing costs and ability of residents to pay? Yes, we would advocate for an increase in the primary means of funding community development, the Community Development Block Grant. We advocate for dramatically more funding for neighborhood-level economic development, workforce skills development, and practical community college programs. We want to see better support for so-called "alternative transportation," including bicycling, walking, emerging scooter rental and related technologies, and also transit. We think the federal government could move faster on providing funding and cutting red tape for cleaning up brownfields.

But regardless of federal funding or lack of it, implementation still occurs at the local level. Locally, governments still must and should work with citizens, community organizations, and various interest groups and governmental districts to obtain agreement on precise plans. And when we involve residents or take on significant interest groups, we are going to have questioning, political blow-ups, bargaining, and often refinement of plans in a good way. All of this takes time.

Compounding the need for time to devise and implement appropriate plans is the need to actually identify, train, and develop community leaders. We do not think that even the best executed plans constitute community develop if the local, state, or federal government were to plan and execute those projects without any involvement of residents and citizens. And if you want community leaders who are constructive, rather than simply oppositional and loud, you have to have time and effort involved in allowing those leaders to emerge and become educated on topics such as the ones explored on this website.

Yes, we think community development is a process. Although the process can become extremely complex and often involves two steps forward and one step back, roughly the community development process consists of these steps:

1. Identification of a need, problem, or opportunity by a person, group, or local government in a position to explain, document, and implement a solution.

2. A group or often the local government identifies alternative ways that the need or opportunity might be addressed, and researches those potential solutions to an extent that will allow input from residents and other organizations, businesses, utilities, and groups that might be impacted.

3. A preferred alternative is chosen and a design is refined. Cost estimates are devised, and further revision occurs.

4. Budgeting, fund raising, and grant seeking all may be required before the project can be scheduled.

5. Environmental clearances, permits, zoning changes, changes in local or state laws, and property acquisition or even condemnation all may be required before any construction can actually occur.

6. Construction drawings are finalized and bids are obtained. Even in one of the simplest common community development projects, the repair or rehabilitation of a single dwelling, a scope of work must be developed before bids or quotes are entertained.

Now we would call the sum total of all of these steps quite a process. But there is no need to "take our word for it." We would encourage you to become active in community development in your local community for a year or more, and then let everyone know here if you think there is such a thing as a community development process. As a side benefit, when you work in your local community, where you may actually see and enjoy the benefits of your work, you will become less frustrated.

Click here to post comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Ask a Question.

Join GOOD COMMUNITY PLUS, which provides you monthly with short features or tips about timely topics for neighborhoods, towns and cities, community organizations, and rural or small town environments. Unsubscribe any time. Give it a try.