Community Development Process – Original material presented by Deborah Tootle

Brief Introduction

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.

Key Points

  • 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.

Discovering Community Assets – Original material presented by Stacey McCullough

Brief Introduction

As we have discussed before in this series, the community development process is an intentional community directed efforts to enact change. Community development is enriched with the use of different types of data and the process of collecting data can be an important step in understanding the community and soliciting buy-in by other residents and organizations. There is a lot of data available and a community can quickly become overwhelmed with the effort it takes to collect and analyze this information. Early in the process, community development leaders need to adopt a guide, or some way of deciding what questions do we need answered? This will decide what types of data the community should collect. This session reviewed the asset-based community development and the community capitals framework as two examples of how to systematically gather data in a community to inform a formal development process.

Key Points

  • An asset-based data collection process, by focusing on the positives in a community, was suggested as a better way to approach community development conversation than a needs-based process.
  • In an asset-based approach there are four overlapping asset areas: people, voluntary associations, local formal institutions, physical resources.
  • The community capitals framework is another way to measure assets. This approach includes eight different types of capital: financial, built, political, social, human, cultural, and natural capital. More information on the community capitals framework can be found here.

A reflection on definitions:

Is an asset based approach a better way to discussing community development and gathering data than a needs based approach?

In reality, the two are intrinsically linked. A community cannot discuss its strengths without acknowledging its weaknesses. Fundamentally, the community development process is about capitalizing on a community’s assets and leveraging those for further development – often targeted towards improving a weakness. Any discussion about introducing change in the community requires participants to gather resources and rank efforts.


What is the difference between asset-based and community capital frameworks?

These two approaches for measuring assets in a community share considerable overlap. The community capitals approach is more detailed. Communities can integrate both frameworks into a single analysis of the community by assigning assets (people, voluntary organizations, local formal institutions, and physical resources) to a particular capital. Further incorporate needs by creating a barriers column that discusses what factors prevent the community from fully utilizing these assets.

Translating these concepts into practice:

  • Depending on the scope of the project, participants may need to devote more energy to listing assets in particular categories.
  • Defining assets, which is one part of a situational analysis, can be open ended without focusing on a particular project or targeted to a specific program/project.
  • Some of the information you will need to collect will be available from existing data sources, other information will need to be gathered through interviews with local leaders.
  • Creating an inventory of community assets can serve multiple purposes in a community: it helps the community think broadly about including citizens and other resources in the development process. It can also create a benchmark of where the community is before a policy is implemented, and it can be data collecting process that also informs the community that there are interested parties who are motivated to act.

In the next session we will be discussing techniques for implementing community development.


Periodically the Federal Government redefines metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas based on the size of their urban communities and economic ties. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released the latest county definitions in February 2013. Two Oregon counties have changed designations. Josephine County is now a metropolitan counties instead of micropolitan counties, after increasing its commuting ties with Jackson County. Linn County has also changed from a micropolitan to a metropolitan county as the population of Albany, the largest urban area in the county surpassed 50,000 residents.

2013 Map of Oregon’s metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas

County metropolitan status as defined by the OMB Feb 2013





















County Type

Size of Largest Urban Area

Where Working Residents are Employed

Jobs in the County


50,000 or more


More than 25 % work in a metro county


More than 25% are held by residents in a metro county


10,000 to 49,999

More than 25% work in a micro county

More than 25% are held by residents in a micro county


Less than 10,000


Less than 25% commute to a single metro or micro county


Less than 25% of jobs in the county are held by residents of a single metro or micro county


Use in Community Development

By using urban size and economic ties, these designations are one method of classifying counties as urban and rural. Any classification that relies on county boundaries presents an aggregate perspective that may feel skewed to some residents, especially in states with large counties like Oregon.

What can these classifications tell us about rural community development?

  • For some people Metropolitan = Urban and Micropolitan and Noncore = Rural
  • There are many rural residents and communities located in metropolitan and micropolitan counties
  • Counties that are next to metropolitan statistical areas usually have faster population growth rates, all else equal
  • Being economically linked to another county through commuting provides more reasons to work regionally
  • When the central city in a county reaches a population of 10,000 or more it might start to become a regional job and service center
  • If you only use this county level designation to define rural and urban, the rural population appears to decline much more rapidly. Not all rural places decline, many grow their way into metropolitan areas or increase their economic ties to neighboring urban areas.

Community Power Dynamics – Original material presented by Dan Kahl, Kansas State University

Brief Overview

Every community has a leadership structure of people and organized groups who exert influence over different areas of the community taking a position of power. Community development projects, by their nature, are efforts that support a shared vision of how the community should change or processes of developing a shared vision. Therefore, community development projects might be seen as a challenge by a community’s existing power structure. The people who are behind new energy in the community to discuss and effect change need to understand how others will view their efforts. Projects are more likely to be successful if the organizers work with and draw on the resources of others in the community, often some of these resources reside with people in positions of power.


Key Points

  • Having the power to participate in community development and effectively bring change in a community has two components: 1. A person needs to believe that they have the capacity (skills, knowledge, resources) to change their community; 2. They also need to believe that their community will support their efforts.
  • It is often well known who holds position of power in a community. If you are a newcomer to a community or an outsider who is consulting on a community development project it is important to find out how other residents view their place’s power structure.
  • Power is not a zero sum game although that is how many people view it. Working to transform this view can build support for sharing leadership in a community.
  • Academics have identified several theories to describe community power. Dan mentioned four: pluralism, elitism, class-based, and the growth machine. Less important than understanding the differences between these theories is to think about how power is distributed and linked in a place.

Points I would add:

  • People who hold power in a community might vary by issue. Holding power is not the same as being in a leadership position. Some influential people prefer to work behind the scenes or have moved out of power positions after a long period of volunteering but are still sought out by existing leaders.
  • An important element of the capacity part of power in community development is access to financial resources and previous experience. Too often the link between community capacity and change is reduced to social capital. However the best connected communities still need financial resources for many projects.

Translating these concepts into practice:

  • If you are not an established leader but you are motivated to make a change in your community, you should make an effort to work with other leaders in the community sooner than later. You don’t need to seek permission for your efforts, but you do need to attempt to access the wealth of experience and resources these leaders hold.
  • Don’t let your effort to change the community be seen as an insult to another person’s best efforts or their perceived vision of the community. Think about whom your project might affect and sit down and talk to them about your goals and invite them to be part of a diversification strategy. Try to present your efforts not as a competition but as coordination of multiple interests the leaves room for the work of others.
  • It may seem like a waste of time to try to bring others in the community around to your idea, but the investment you make can have significant returns. An inclusive strategy that has broad buy-in and support from the community and accesses the ideas, abilities, and resources of the community stands a better chance of success.
  • The development process gets personal quickly, people in the community can purposefully seek to damage your reputation and thwart your efforts, not on the grounds of your idea, but the process you use in trying to get there.
  • Stay focused on the project’s results, the positive change you seek in your community. Keep talking to others in the community who share your interest in change and be prepared to adapt roles and share credit.
  • Established leaders in a community carry a lot of institutional knowledge and experience. Seek out this expertise to avoid missteps.
  • Community members express support and disapproval in a variety of ways. In some of the rural communities, disapproval turns into overt or anonymous violence against an individual advocating change. When this happens the community needs to directly address this violence with the support of outside mediators. The community should not tolerate this type of behavior as a way to express disapproval.


In the next session we will be discussing techniques for mapping community assets.

Community Economics – Original material presented by Stephan Goetz, Penn State University

Brief Overview – There are many different strategies that a community can pursue to increase the availability of jobs in the region. Communities should select a strategy or strategies based on their current economic context, available resources, and support from others in the community. Economic development, the act of developing a community’s economic opportunities and health, requires communities to be strategic, well-timed, and prepared. It is not about finding the single best strategy, waiting for the perfect time to start, or doing exactly what the neighboring community does. This week, six strategies – each with their own positives and negatives – were discussed: strategic planning, attracting manufacturing, business retention and expansion, downtown development, tourism and recreation development, and entrepreneurship. All six strategies are fairly complex and I will address these strategies separately, in greater length, in future posts.

 Key Points

  • Before selecting a strategy, decision makers should consider a community’s strengths and weaknesses and use data during the decision-making process. Communities have different needs, broadly understanding those needs first can find opportunities for investment and collaboration.
  • An initial situational analysis, as mentioned last week and reframed as a strategic planning process this week, can be used to gain a broad overview of the community’s needs and resources before developing strategies.
  • Some people narrowly define economic development as increasing the number of jobs in a community by attracting manufacturers to relocate. However, fewer jobs are won in this way than in the past.
    • A better way to continue to engage in external business attraction is to consider what businesses will offer a good fit for the community’s existing businesses, institutions and workforce while positively contributing to the community’s quality of life.
  • Strategies require different amounts of investment and risk. Building an industrial park and using tax incentives to attract manufacturers is a high risk and financially expensive strategy. Developing stronger relationships among a community’s business owners and establishing a mentoring program for new companies or people with entrepreneurial ideas is less risky and requires social capital but comparatively little financial capital. Both strategies add jobs to a community and can be pursued simultaneously.


Translating these concepts into practice

  • There are a number of resources available for implementing these strategies in your community. Consider the trade-offs between obtaining a more one-time analysis by hiring an outsider or making the investment to build capacity within the community to complete parts of the analysis locally. Choosing to involve the community will likely increase how much the final product is used.
  • Find local and regional resources and partnerships. Connect to the local small business development center, the regional economic development district, universities and community colleges, and find ways to connect the community’s youth to business owners and managers.
  • Be informed and discuss the risks, costs and benefits of available strategies. Be open-minded about pursuing new ideas, multiple strategies at once, and staging the investment in economic development to best use local resources.


In the next session we will be discussing identifying and navigating power structures in a community.

Community Situational Analysis – Original material presented by Lori Garkovich, University of Kentucky

Brief Overview –

A situational analysis can take many different forms and can offer a multitude of benefits to the community development process in a community. The analysis is a systematic method of gathering and delivering information to the community. A situational analysis might include: analyzing secondary data for trends, SWOT analysis, key informant interviews, focus groups, and network analysis.

Analyzing secondary data for trends: Examine the community and the county’s population, economic, income, and other trends in relationship to similar communities, all rural counties, or the state average using existing data sources.

SWOT analysis: An assessment of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats within a community. A commonly used technique for more details see:

Key Informant Interviews: key informants are people in leadership positions in multiple organizations in the community or those who know a lot about the community’s history and earlier community development efforts

Focus Groups: Conversations among small groups of invited people, the facilitator asks the group questions and encourages all members in the group to respond to one another and have a voice in the conversation.

Network Analysis: Diagrams of the working, organizational, and social relationships between people in a community.


Key Points

  • Do not decide to do an analysis without a clear statement of purpose – define what information needs to be known and what needs to be done with the information
  • Done properly, the analysis should lead to community conversations, be used by local planning/non-profits/governments to inform development conversations
  • The analysis itself offers an opportunity to develop skills in a community – it gauges commitment from different organizations and leaders and offers an opportunity for community members to collaborate
  • The analysis contains different levels of complexity, communities may need outside expertise or broad participation by various community members
  • Some parts, especially network analysis and key informant interviews, address power norms for enacting change in a community by identifying people and groups who are the most influential and how they interact with others in the community.


Translating these concepts into practice, examples in Oregon:

  • The posted resources contain more details about translating these concepts into practice. The Extension Service can help communities in Oregon.
  •  Situational Analysis: Community Vitality Indicators Project – a  survey based comprehensive overview of a community’s progress towards a range of stated goals, completed by Tillamook and Wallowa counties.

Project Overview:


A fuller description of the situational analysis is available from this Extension document by the University of Kentucky: Situation Analysis by Roger Rennekamp, Martha Nall and Julie Zimmerman


In the next session we will be discussing six strategies of economic development.

The federal government releases data through a number of agencies. The majority of this data is available for counties and not communities. Some of this information is more easily accessed through other websites specifically for Oregon (see post here).


AmericanFFAmerican Fact Finder


** Most of the data from the 1990 2000 Census and the American Community Survey are available on Oregon Explorer

This website stores data collected by the US Census Bureau. Available data sources include: American Community Survey, 2000 and 2010 Decennial Census, Annual Economic Surveys, Surveys of Governments, Economic Census, and Population Estimates. For an overview:


BEABureau of Economic Analysis – Regional Economic Information Systems

** Most of this data is accessible through the Oregon Regional Economic Analysis Project

Data available for counties and metropolitan statistical areas. Key variables include employment by industry and components of total personal income, available from 1969 – current.


The eExtension Service in cooperation with the nation’s four Rural Development Centers is offering an online set of educational seminars titled: Understanding Communities and Their Dynamics. A number of Oregon Extension faculty members are participating in this training. This blog will serve as a site to continue the Oregon dialog around community development and offer local access to state specialists in this area.

Accessing Data for Your Community

– Original material presented by Don Albrecht, Director of the Western Rural Development Center, Utah State University

Brief Overview

The theme this week was very straightforward, community based conversations about change are better when they use information about the community. Several state and federal agencies collect a different types of information. It is easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of data. To reduce some of the confusion, foundations and state agencies often develop their own websites to make it easier to use local data. Today’s presentation talked about a few national trends, but there is a lot of data available.

On this blog we will begin to break some of this stuff down. Check out posts tagged data. Access all data posts at once by selecting “Data” under the “Categories” box on the right.

Oregon Specific Websites for Community Data

Residents in Rural Oregon have access to a wealth of community data. Oregon State University maintains many of these websites– if you have a question we can help!


RCE-logoThe Rural Communities Explorer

US Census and American Community Survey Data 1990, 2000, current




OR-REAP-logoOregon Regional Economic Analysis Project

County Level Economic Data from Bureau of Economic Analysis 1969-current




Oregon Agricultural Information Network (OAIN)

County Level production and sales data for agricultural commodities



MappingOregon Explorer Map Viewer

Map many different types of data



OLMISOLMIS – Oregon Labor Market Information System, Oregon Employment Department

Monthly, quarterly and annually updated data. Unemployment rates, civilian labor force, industry trends, and occupational data and projections.


Some Resources:

Background information on data sources

Vince Adams is the Coordinator for the Rural Communities Explorer. He also provides training sessions for community members who are ready to dive into the data. Vince has agreed to share the PowerPoint slides to another one of his presentations on how to and use data. Choose to view the PowerPoint in full color: Community Data Sources-color OR choose to print the slides from this black and white file which removes the dark background: Community Data Sources -bw

Follow additional posts in this blog tagged of Data

Ask specific questions in the comments!

The eExtension Service in cooperation with the nation’s four Rural Development Centers is offering an online set of educational seminars titled: Understanding Communities and Their Dynamics. A number of Oregon Extension faculty members are participating in this training. This blog will serve as a site to continue the Oregon dialog around community development and offer local access to state specialists in this area.


Basic Introduction to Community – Original material presented by Steve Jeanetta, University of Missouri Extension

Brief Overview – Establishing a common ground

This session focused on establishing a common set of definitions, principles and goals. Practitioners should think of community development as the planned and organized process through which people and communities learn how they can help themselves. Within this definition is a potential point of conflict for Extension agents and others who are trying to do work in this area: do you understand the community, its diversity, and values well enough to effectively engage? One of the most critical elements of community development is that it is a process that empowers the community, builds capacity locally, and serves local needs and interests.

People have modeled many different ways of implementing community development – from a simple linear process to more complicated views of the world. What is most critical is that the effort to discuss the future of a community or talk about a particular issue be inclusive, equally accessible, and focus on respecting the comments of all participants.


Key Points       

  • Community Development has a rich history as a practice for enacting change in communities.
  • This approach to addressing community needs to be an inclusive process that empowers all local residents’ ideas and involvement.
  • Community Development is a long-term strategy, there is no “right” way to enact change but the process takes time, consensus building among participants, and the community’s consideration of alternatives.
  • Practitioners need to respect the community’s current state: their interest to work together and their history of creating dialog around a common future. Building these characteristics need to come first.


Translating these concepts into practice

  • Community development is not always focused on a single community. Some issues that arise in a community are better addressed by the people interested in that issue from several communities.
  • Increase the diversity of voices in the community’s decision-making processes.
    • Hold meetings in Spanish
    • Engage with the Ford Leaders in your community as a way to spread the word about community meetings
    • Contract with Rural Development Initiatives (RDI) to facilitate contentious discussions in the community
  • Establish guidelines for participating. Americans have seen plenty of bad examples of how to take part in public conversations – especially in the last few years. The community development process must create a respectful space to talk about problems, and the opportunities and costs of proposed solutions.
    • Define accepted and unacceptable behaviors as a group
    • Enforce these behaviors – a moderate should step in and remind the group of the established guidelines
    • Take a break if the conversation gets too heated or ask to speak with a participant who is struggling to follow these guidelines privately
    • Ask participants to write down their thoughts first and then share their ideas one at a time


Next week we will be discussing some of the data communities can use during their conversations.