5 Strategies for Community Development

By Jeff Palmer, CEO on May 18, 2017 | Print

We previously noted that chronic needs (poverty, hunger, poor health, etc.) are more systemic and long-term compared to a common disaster event. They require a different approach than relief strategies. Chronic needs require community development tools and strategies. 

While most people think of “doing a project” when they hear the words “community development,” our experience has been that the process of development is more important. We want people to have good roads, clean water, better access to health care, food and income but successful community development approaches focus on the “how” of getting to these things rather than just receiving them.

5 Strategies for Community Development

  1. Food security – This could be agriculture-related projects that help people produce food, store food, use food more economically, or grow/produce marketable products. These generate income that can be applied to purchasing food. Food security could also be job skills training or small business startups to help increase overall individual and family income.
  2. Health care – We mainly use health care in the form of health care education, health extension work, and development of local health care capacities. A community development framework is utilized to gather and engage communities and individuals in topics and issues of health care particular to their situation. Examples are mother/child health classes, nutrition education, community level first aid, or wellness/sickness recognition programs.
  3. Water and sanitation – A common development-oriented project is helping people with clean water. This can be done through the development of local sources such as gravity-fed spring systems, well drilling, rainwater harvesting, etc. It is also commonly accomplished through community-based filtration/purification systems. However, water development projects can manifest themselves in other types of projects such as water for agricultural use (irrigation/food production) or sanitation/hygiene needs (hand washing stations, water sealed sanitary toilets, etc.).
  4. Education and literacy – For children and youth, education can include child sponsorship projects, accrual of necessary materials for attending school (books, supplies, uniforms, etc.), or even simple things such as healthy school lunches. For adults, this is often seen in adult literacy and training programs. An interesting side note is that there seems globally to be a positive correlation between adult female literacy and the overall development and health of a community.
  5. Microenterprise/Microfinance – This is a growing strategy for many development organizations, seen by some as the “silver bullet” to all the development issues of a community. It isn’t. However, projects that utilize good community development principles and work mainly from the resources generating in the local community do have great potential for helping groups overcome poverty.

Obviously, there are a number of other “types” of development projects around the world. I stop here with these five major types, mainly because I want to move from the “projects” and “type of projects” generated through development work to a better understanding of the community development process.

Next time on the blog: the key to community development.

Pam Wolf 7 years ago

We have seen so many projects that were done without a good community process and they are now just sitting gathering dust and other more disgusting things and tons of money and time were wasted. The community is not better off.

Jeff 7 years ago

Pam, too true! Thanks for the testimony!

Chuck McAlister 7 years ago

Really good information. Great ways to engage people in need.

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