“Community development is a structured intervention that gives communities greater control over the conditions that affect their lives. This does not solve all the problems faced by a local community, but it does build up confidence to tackle such problems as effectively as any local action can. Community development works at the level of local groups and organisations rather than with individuals or families. The range of local groups and organisations representing communities at local level constitutes the community sector. Community development is a skilled process and part of its approach is the belief that communities cannot be helped unless they themselves agree to this process. Community development has to look both ways: not only at how the community is working at the grass roots, but also at how responsive key institutions are to the needs of local communities”. Community development (CD) is a broad term applied to the practices and academic disciplines of civic leaders, activists, involved citizens and professionals to improve various aspects of local communities.
Community development seeks to empower individuals and groups of people by providing these groups with the skills they need to affect change in their own communities. These skills are often concentrated around building political power through the formation of large social groups working for a common agenda. Community developers must understand both how to work with individuals and how to affect communities’ positions within the context of larger social institutions. There are complementary definitions of community development.
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The Community Development Challenge report, which was produced by a working party comprising leading UK organisations in the field (including Community Development Foundation, Community Development Exchange and the Federation of Community Development Learning) defines community development as: “A set of values and practices which plays a special role in overcoming poverty and disadvantage, knitting society together at the grass roots and deepening democracy. There is a CD profession, defined by national occupational standards and a body of theory and experience going back the best part of a century.
There are active citizens who use CD techniques on a voluntary basis, and there are also other professions and agencies which use a CD approach or some aspects of it. ” STEPS FOR DEVELOPMENT PROCESS 1. Realize that the goal is to learn to depend on one another within the community. Outside consultants can be extremely valuable, but the community’s goal should be to learn to help itself. 2. Form a working group. Recruit members representing a cross section of the community, the more diverse the better. This will help to establish two-way communications across multiple lines that will be the basis of your network. . Identify community stakeholders. These are people, institutions or organizations whose own well-being will rise and fall with that of the community. They’ll be concerned and enthusiastic allies. 4. Do an honest assessment of your community. What needs improvement and where does your potential lie? Objective consultants are particularly good at helping with this task. 5. State your purpose. Set goals. What do you intend to accomplish? 6. Develop a detailed plan of action, but be prepared to modify it as necessary as you go along. 7. Implement the plan. Don’t let it sit on the shelf.
Plans are easier to write than to execute. Once you’ve planned your work, work your plan. 8. Review and evaluate periodically throughout the process. 9. Celebrate success! Let those who are doing the work know that they are appreciated for their efforts. Praise their success among your group, their peers, and in the media. 10. Number 10, do it again. Start another project. Community development is never finished. There’s always another worthwhile project waiting for someone to recognize it and make it happen. Pursue community development vigorously and be amazed at what you can accomplish!
ROLE OF A COMMUNITY WORKER A community development worker works with particular communities in order to collectively bring about social change and improve quality of life. They work with individuals, families or whole communities to empower them to: * identify their needs, opportunities, rights and responsibilities; * plan what they want to achieve, and take appropriate action; * develop activities and services to improve their lives. Community development workers often act as a link between communities and local government and other statutory bodies.
They are frequently involved in addressing inequalities, and projects often target communities perceived to be disadvantaged, for example due to race, economic circumstances or geography. Typical work activities Community development work seeks to engage communities actively in making sense of the issues which affect their lives, setting goals for improvement and taking action through empowerment and participative processes. A good deal of the work is project-based, which means that community development workers usually have a specific geographical community or social group they focus on.
Tasks typically involve: * identifying community issues, needs and problems; * developing new community-based programmes and resources; * evaluating and monitoring existing programmes; * enlisting the cooperation of government bodies, community organisations and sponsors; * helping to raise public awareness on issues relevant to the community; * providing leadership and coordination of programmes; * acting as facilitator to promote self-help in the community; * preparing reports and policies; * networking to build contacts and fundraising; developing and agreeing to strategies; * liaising with interested groups and individuals to set up new services; * mediating between opposing parties; * recruiting and training paid as well as voluntary staff; * planning, attending and coordinating meetings and events; * overseeing the financial management of a limited budget; * encouraging participation in activities; * challenging inappropriate behaviour and political structures; * administrative work. Community work can be generic or specialised.
Generic community work takes place in a given geographical area, focusing on working with the community to identify their needs and issues, formulating strategies and developing services to address those issues. The setting is either urban or rural, with rural community development work increasingly attracting attention in recent years. Specialised community work focuses on either specific groups within a region (such as the homeless, the long-term unemployed, families with young children or ethnic minorities) or on particular concerns (such as public transport, mental health or drugs action).
Work conditions * Range of typical starting salaries: ? 15,000 – 20,000 (salary data collected Oct 08). * Range of salaries with two or more years’ experience: ? 20,000 – 30,000 (salary data collected Oct 08). * For public sector posts, there are national pay scales and sometimes an unsocial hours allowance. * In the voluntary sector, variations are considerable, and pay often depends on experience and location. * Each working day will vary depending on scheduled activities for that week. Workers need to be accessible to the communities they serve.
This means the work will often include unsocial hours, such as evenings and weekends, so considerable flexibility is required. * The work is usually either urban or rural based, and conditions vary considerably according to the nature and location of the project and funding. Large towns and inner city areas with recognised social deprivation are more likely to receive sustained funding. However, the number of rural community development workers is steadily increasing as recognition of social issues affecting rural communities grows. Self-employment/freelance work is sometimes possible working as a trainer or consultant. * Part-time and temporary work and career breaks are possible. Short-term contracts are common, due to the nature of funding in the sector. * Coping with social disadvantage and disaffected members of the community can be stressful. * There is frequent personal contact as well as contact with other agencies and group contact in the community. Therefore, travel within a working day is to be expected.
Absence from home at night is occasional. There may be opportunities for occasional overseas travel as links and exchanges abroad are developed. Entry requirements Although this area of work is open to all graduates and Diplomates, a degree/HND in social sciences may improve your chances. Entry without a degree or HND is possible, although career development is more restricted. A degree in any subject will be an advantage in gaining higher level posts. Relevant experience is far more important than subject studied.
Work is currently underway to develop more relevant and standardised qualification and progression routes. Prospective recruits who will be working with children or vulnerable adults will be expected to undergo a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check. For many posts, postgraduate qualifications are essential in order to progress to more senior-level positions. This is particularly true in generic community work. A variety of full-time and part-time courses are available, with some open to Diplomates. One or two years of relevant experience is usually required.
For further information on courses in youth work, see The NYA Guide to Youth Work and Youth Services (youth work is more specialised and often involves a different agenda than community development work). For details of other courses see Prospects Postgraduate Directory. Scottish courses, and a few elsewhere, are often referred to as ‘community education’. Pre-entry experience and/or voluntary work is crucial. People often become community development workers after working in teaching, youth work, the health sector or other roles within community work. Development work overseas may also be relevant.
It is essential to have a proven interest in community and social issues. Experience of at least a year’s involvement in areas such as community work, women’s projects, pressure groups or youth work is advisable. Candidates need to show evidence of the following: * coordination, planning and delivery of training; * advocacy and networking skills; * excellent communication, interpersonal and team-building skills; * research and report writing skills and the ability to interpret or present data; * detailed knowledge and understanding of community and social issues; * creative thinking and problem solving; political and social skills to establish and maintain effective links with organisations and departments dealing with such issues as housing, education, transport and legal and planning processes as well as the ability to negotiate and lobby to achieve the community’s goals; * an understanding of how public sector bodies work; * the ability to empathise with people’s life experiences; * fundraising – at a management level, there is an increasing emphasis on the need to identify and pursue sources of funding. Community work is challenging, exciting and, at times, frustrating.
You need to be prepared to cope with inevitable conflicts and setbacks. Results are long term rather than immediate, so patience and perseverance are essential, not least in developing links with groups and individuals. Close involvement with the community group can deepen your empathy, identification and commitment. At the same time, you need to be able to switch off from your work. Above all, you need tact and diplomacy in order to negotiate your entry into a community. Try to get involved in voluntary work as a student.
Contact your local Volunteer Bureau or the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) to get community project experience. Competition for jobs is keen, especially for the limited number of local authority posts, which are often more secure than other posts. It is also affected by political climate, current issues (e. g. unemployment, immigration) and the identification of groups within the community that need particular support. Strong commitment to equal opportunities in the public sector creates a demand for ethnic minority applicants, particularly those with language skills.
Life experience can be a factor. It is illegal for employers to discriminate against candidates on the grounds of age, gender, race, disability, sexual orientation or religious faith. For more information on equality and diversity in the job market and how to handle discrimination, see Handling Discrimination Training Ongoing training is essential in community work and usually occurs on the job or as part-time study to gain a recognised qualification. Since projects and communities vary so much, community development workers must constantly develop new skills, update old ones and acquire specific knowledge.
Training provision varies depending on the employer, but there are likely to be opportunities to develop relevant skills along with general self-development. The voluntary sector is especially rich in interesting and relevant training opportunities, including accredited training programmes available at colleges and other learning centres. It is possible to take National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) or Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs) in Community Work, and City & Guilds offer related courses throughout the UK.
Social services and other organisations employing community development workers often offer programmes of in-house training, which usually focus on issues such as child protection and equal opportunities. It is also quite common for community development workers to pursue their own professional development by undertaking masters degrees or other postgraduate qualifications. Relevant subjects include voluntary sector studies, housing practice, business and community studies, legal studies, public health/community health and social services management. Career development
Opportunities for promotion are limited in both the public and voluntary sectors, and you may have to move to another geographical area. Sideways movement into projects with a different focus, from generic to specific work (or vice versa) is common. Senior posts usually involve managing a larger number of staff, a larger budget or a wider geographic area. As community development workers embark upon postgraduate study, there is the tendency to move into more policy-making positions, with a view to becoming directors of organisations, responsible for implementing large-scale and complex projects.
With substantial experience, there is the possibility of freelance work in the role of a trainer, consultant, or adviser, having gained expertise in a specific field. Due to the broad nature of the term community work, it is feasible that workers could develop their careers by moving into other fields such as education, environment, social work, youth work or the health sector. There are also opportunities for overseas development work. Typical employers The list of organisations who employ community development workers is lengthy, but some of the most common are: * voluntary sector organisations; local authorities; * community education; * rural community councils; * social services; * housing associations; * NHS trusts. With reduced state provision (e. g. reduced benefit entitlement for young people, ‘care in the community’, and general socio-economic changes), the need for community development workers has increased. The shift in recent years from central government funding to project-based funding, distributed by rounds of bidding, has led to an increase in workers employed on a short-term basis by voluntary sector organisations.
Organisations within the voluntary sector are incredibly varied and include community associations, women’s groups, environmental groups, children’s charities, homeless projects, shelters, churches and other faith groups, health and mental health organisations, and many more. It is feasible that because of the broad nature of the term ‘community work’, which encompasses almost anything with a community or outreach focus, a community development worker could be employed by any of these organisations doing a variety of different types of work.