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 them with the skills they need to effect change in their own communities. These skills are often created 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 a myriad of job titles for CD workers and their employers include public authorities and voluntary or non-governmental organisations, funded by the state and by independent grant making bodies. Since the nineteen seventies the prefix word ‘community’ has also been adopted by several other occupations from the police and health workers to planners and architects, who work with more disadvantaged groups and communities and have been influenced by CD approaches.
CD practitioners have over many years developed a range of skills and approaches for working within local communities and in particular with disadvantaged people. These include less formal educational methods, community organising and group work skills. Since the nineteen sixties and seventies through the various anti poverty programmes in both developed and developing countries, CD practitioners have been influenced by structural analyses as to the causes of disadvantage and poverty i.e. inequalities in the distribution of wealth, income, land etc and especially political power and the need to mobilise people power to affect social change. Thus the influence of such educators as Paulo Friere and his focus upon this work also being about politicising the poor. Other key people who have influenced this field are Saul Alinsky (Rules for Radicals) and EF Schumacher (Small is Beautiful).
The UK currently hosts the main international body representing community development, the International Association for Community Development. IACD was started in the USA in 1953, moved to Belgium in the seventies and to the UK (Scotland) in 1998. Community development as a term has taken off widely in anglophone countries i.e. the USA, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand and other countries in the Commonwealth. It is also used in some countries in eastern Europe with active CD associations in Hungary and Romania. The International Community Development Journal, published by Oxford University Press, and set up in 1967 has been the major forum for research and dissemination of international CD theory and practice.