Community development as an approach is about moving from private concern to public action. It is a relationship-based method underpinned by guiding principles. There are a range of values and principles attributed to human service work concerned with social justice.
There are some principles in particular emphasised by community development practitioners and academics which guide our work. These include:
- working "with" people rather than "for" them
- enhancing participation in the community and in decision making especially for the most disadvantaged
- focusing on geographic communities as integrated wholes, not just target groups
- building on the existing strengths, skills and organisational capacities of communities
- providing opportunities for relationship building within and between communities
- building relationships between people who have power and resources and those who don't
Bea Rogan (2002) Community Development Training Booklet states:
"Community development is about the building of active, informed communities where people
- build relationships which support, sustain, encourage and value them
- make decisions together about things which affect them
- act, with others, in relation to things which concern them.
Problems we experience in our personal lives often have wider social causes;
Personal experience and personal knowledge is always the starting point for community development;
When we act with others to address the social causes we improve our own and others' lives;
Every little step we take makes a difference;
Tiny little steps are best!
Every step beyond ourselves is a step inside ourselves.
Our practice as community development practitioners is influenced by the values that we as individuals hold. There is often a great deal of debate about values and principles and what they mean. Values refer to ways of striving, believing and doing whenever purpose and direction are involved, or choice and judgment are exercised (Ausubel 1958:30). A value is the very basis from which we make choices and act.
Every one of us need to reflect on our core values and then draw principles from our values, as a principle is a pathway to action. Community development practitioners have the capacity to influence individuals, organisations, sectors and systems. The principles which underpin our work will shape the direction of that influence.