The Holistic Approach To Community Development

Your community development efforts in the knowledge-based economy of the new century must focus on more than highways, rail spurs, water lines, sewer systems and the like.

This isn’t your father’s 20th century!

“Health care, education, the arts, recreation and economic opportunity are among the myriad factors that influence a community’s quality of life,” says Robert Pittman, a community development specialist with Janus Economics of Atlanta.

“Community improvement does not happen by accident. It happens when local citizens plan and work together cooperatively and inclusively.

Through research and experience, we are gaining a better understanding of what facilitates community and economic development.

They’re often used but sometimes misunderstood terms.”

Pittman says economic development is commonly regarded as “creating jobs in a community through recruiting firms and the facilitation of business start-ups.

A more holistic definition of economic development would include raising the standard of living and quality of life for all residents through higher-skilled jobs and diversifying the local economy in a sustainable manner.

Community development, on the other hand, is a broader field that encompasses economic development.

The outcomes of community development include:

•  improved infrastructure,

•  better health care,

•  lower crime rates,

•  improved education and other advancements.

“The process of community development occurs when residents address problems by planning and acting in a unified fashion to improve the community,” Pittman says.

“The ability of a community to successfully undertake the process of community development is often called social capacity.

Successful communities constantly work to improve their social capacity — a process often referred to as capacity building.”

If you’re not successful in community development, it will be much more difficult to achieve success in economic development.

Pittman explains:

“Economic development involves carefully planning and executing programs to recruit new firms, working with existing local firms in retention and expansion and facilitating business start-ups.

In addition, community development creates better communities that will attract and grow businesses.

Without a good product to sell, it is hard to be successful in economic development.”

When I worked as one of the two presidential appointees at the Delta Regional Authority, we came up with a comprehensive strategic development plan for the 252 counties and parishes we served in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.

The plan represented a departure from traditional economic development models. We wanted to be creative in our approach to revitalizing the Delta, so we came up with a community development document.

Has your community come up with a vision for the future that will allow its people and businesses to flourish?

Do you have prioritized goals, strategies and actions that will provide focus to your efforts?

If not, you’re falling behind.

– Rex Nelson

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7 Responses to The Holistic Approach To Community Development

  1. Shawn Miller says:

    I get scared that there are too many communities that think there is a one-size-fits-all pattern for community and economic development. For example, if a city is small and industrial land is in short supply, only focusing on attracting companies which generate at least 25 jobs per acre is prudent. Another mistake is not focusing enough attention on existing busnesses. In a tough economy, it’s easier to keep the businesses that we have than to attract businesses from somewhere else. So at least 85% of our efforts should be poured into helping our current businesses thrive.

    • Rex Nelson says:

      Amen, Shawn.

      We don’t pay enough attention to our existing businesses. They will create most of the new jobs. As economic and community developers, we must ensure that we are meeting their needs — Rex

  2. Dr. Quazi Mesbah says:

    The concept of community development has to recognise that elements of such development are inherently different in not only in-country context but more importantly in intra-country context.The more you give credence to the variation in the levels and stages of development of various countries in the world, the more you will probably get perplexed about how wide the range of community development can become.

  3. inusah says:

    indeed community development is very complex such that, it becomes difficult to fully achieve if we fail to respect and recognize the elements of development.that is views and decisions of the people at the grassroots or the beneficiaries should be looked at and taken into consideration. needs of the people should be critically accessed for a sustainable development
    agambire, a student of community development in the university for development studies, Ghana.

  4. SURAKA SANNI, a student of UNIVERSITY FOR DEVELOPMENT STUDIES. ghana says:

    any developmental project that is going to take place should be bottom-up for the sustainability of the project. because if it is done that way, the people see themselve to be part of the decision and project, this gives room for OWNERSHIP. they feel they own the project so in this regard the project would be sustainable

  5. Isidiho, Alphonsus says:

    community developmental programmes have not created much impacts in Nigeria because of the approaches and high level of corruption. The projects most times have been designed and imposed on the communities by the politicians without involving the communities themselves. There should be need to emphasize participatory, empowerment, sustainable and holistic approaches in community development in Nigeria. Even when good projects are planned, the corruption that has taken over the country gulps up the resources meant for the implementation of the projects. Therefore for any meaningful community development to succeed in Nigeria, the communities must be fully involved, integrated and corruption securely guided and guarded even among the local participants, the stakeholders and government officials as no one can be trusted when money is involved. Isidiho, Alphonsus : A post graduate student of University Putra Malaysia.

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