We’ve proposed that community development is more of a process than anything else. It’s the process in which a community become more aware of the problems within their community, understands the problem’s causes and effects, identifies feasible and achievable solutions to said problem, develops a plan of attack to solve that problem, and then implements that plan with good monitoring and evaluation along the way.
Good community development not only solves a single problem but also empowers the local community to become more confident and capable to take on other problems assailing their community.
How long does it take? It depends. On the average, we would like to see a community undergo 3 to 4 community development cycles before we (the outsider) would consider exiting a particular community. Generally, outsiders follow these three steps:
- Entry – The first step in engaging a community is entry. This involves identifying the best communities to work with and the best people in that community with whom to begin. It involves trust building and could take 3 to 6 months of visits before we begin to actually initiate a community development process.
- Implementation – This is where, after building trust and getting communities on board with CD, we begin to implement the five phase community development process. Ideally, we would like the implementation stage to be long enough to allow the community to go through 3 to 4 complete development cycles. Typically this could take 2 to 3 years.
- Exit – This is where the outsiders (us) begin to phase out of a community. The community at this time should be taking more and more charge of its development utilizing the tools and process that we have shared with them. In this stage, we might begin working with other communities but still coming back from time to time to touch bases and visit with this community.
So, we have condensed the work of community development into a handful of simple, short blog posts. Let me state that it is much more complicated than what we have discussed here. It is also much more rewarding to get out and start trying to utilize these tools than just to sit and read about them.
Our hope is that as you gain experience in the CD world, we would like you to share them with us and help us learn together, with you, better ways to help people at their deepest levels of felt and real needs.