Isn’t community development simply “doing projects” like water wells, building schools, or going on a medical mission trip? The answer is yes… and no.
Here is the key to community development: it is first and foremost a process.
It’s a process that groups of people, or “communities”, go through in order to solve their own problems. It is a process in which the target community, together from the beginning:
- Learns more about its problems
- Identifies keys issues that need to be addressed by the community
- Comes up with “doable” and feasible solutions to the problems
- Implements solutions to the problems, for the most part, utilizing its own resources
If good community development processes are implemented, good projects – such as water, schools and medical care – occur. But the good community development process comes from the host community – they identify their problems, they prioritize what to work on and the solutions, they find the resources to implement their identified solutions, and they lead the development of their communities.
If we are “doing projects” for people and communities, we may quickly solve one problem in the community. However, if “we” – the outsiders – identify the problem and provide the solution, one problem has been solved but the community does not have a process to solve other problems they face. Moreover, if “we” identify and solve problems for a community, we become the way they learn to solve their problems. Therefore, when they have another problem that arises, guess where they are going to come to find a solution?
So, good community development is not just “doing projects.” It is working through a process with people and communities to have them identify their needs, priorities and viable solutions. It does result in “good projects”, but ideally, these projects are initiated, led, and implemented by the people themselves and not us as outsiders.
How do we ensure this happens? We’ll talk about that in our next blog…