Community Development Process – Original material presented by Deborah Tootle
In the last seminar of this series, we focus on the process or the actions involved in community development. As a process for bringing change to a community, involved residents and facilitators need to be prepared to continue engaging and to handle problems as they arise. We have discussed the ideas of situational analysis and strategic planning in previous sessions. This session spends more time on these concepts by exploring the process that community developers should use to complete a community development effort. The main components covered today included: nominal group process, strategic planning, implementation, and conflict management.
- Predict what elements of the community development process may produce conflict within the community and be prepared to discuss conflict directly and channel energy towards productive purposes.
- Stay focused on the implementation stage, many communities lose enthusiasm and energy during the planning phase. Distribute volunteers and resources between both stages to make sure the process will result in tangible changes in the community.
- Evaluate the planning and implementation process, this will allow everyone who is involved to get an objective look at the process, and what led to success/failure.
- Sometimes a program might fail if the intervention was not appropriate for the need and there was not earlier research done to see if it would work, there were too few resources devoted to the project to make it successful, or it was only partially implemented.
Translating these concepts into practice
- Just as a community developer needs to plan for all stages of a process: planning, implementation, and evaluation, the planning process needs to account for all stages of the project: planning, construction, maintenance.
- Community development should occur in stages. Staging changes in a community increases the potential that the process will be successful by allowing the community to continue to gather resources appropriate for each stage and slowly adjust to the changes that are occurring.
- The current macroeconomic climate makes it even more important that community members have an open discussion about the use of resources and to go ahead in stages.
- Conflict management requires a community developer to stay “aggressively neutral” and work with participants to resolve conflict. Conflict should not be ignored. The Southern Regional Rural Development Center produced information on conflict resolution found here.
- A community development process should never commit to an action or the use of a resource if the people or groups who control that resource or have the ability to do that action are not present.
- Keep your expectations realistic, during the entire community development process, especially as you evaluate the efforts of the process – remember that some changes in a community are harder to make than others and that it might take years of work to produce measurable differences among the community’s population.
This session concludes the Understanding Communities and Their Dynamics Training.