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Comprehensive Community Development:

 

Communities are complex environments

interdependencies are critical

 

For example:

  • The ability for a single mom to thrive in the work force is enhanced by the presence of day care, workforce training and referral.
  • Neighborhood safety is increased by the presence of youth sports and activities, and is also influenced by the quality of parenting and the vibrancy of neighborhood social networks.
  • Local businesses fare better when customers have jobs, and when those businesses do better they, in turn, grow and are able to provide more local jobs.

 

Yet, the work of community development largely exists in program “silos.” Local efforts to improve affordable housing, education, workforce development, entrepreneurship, youth programming, day care, violence reduction, etc. are usually performed as programs that are isolated from one another, eliminating the possibility for these efforts to add value to each other and therefore denying the complexity which is the very essence of a neighborhood environment.

Comprehensive Community Development seeks to change this. Its potential lies in the identification and creation of strategic set of disparate program approaches, planned by local leadership, to be carried out by a wide array of partners that, when achieved, yield results beyond what these programs can achieve by themselves, because of the value they add to each other. When practicing community development “comprehensively” the “whole” is, indeed, greater than the sum of its parts.

So how do you launch a comprehensive community development approach? Here is the sequence:

  • Engage neighborhood leaders by listening to them. Ask them what they think is most important. There are two types of leaders to engage. Those who are leaders because they have a “following” (constituency,) and those who are leaders because they have a capacity to implement programs or project that are conceived.
  • Convene those leaders to:
    • report to the collective what you learned (what they told you,)
    • create a future long-term vision for the community.
    • create a planning group, from the leaders assembled, to draft a plan which will identify the programs and projects which, when accomplish, will achieve the long term vision
  • Recruit partners – agencies organizations and institutions which will agree to implement specific plan elements.
  • Begin the simultaneous implementation to the array of plan elements, by the array of partners.