Is Community Development still relevant?

As reported last month on the IACD website, following the closure of Britain’s national centre for community development, the Community Development Foundation last year, legacy funds left by CDF had been invested in research to look at the future for the empowerment of communities across the country. The primary focus of the research was upon England, where the infrastructure of support for community development work has been largely dismantled since 2011. The research team from the Institute for Voluntary Action Research did however also undertake limited interviews in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

IVAR has today published the first of a series of reports on their findings. This first report looks at what motivates people to get involved, what it takes for communities to become powerful and whether community development still relevant. The report poses more questions than answers, but it’s worth here summarising some of its findings under the section – Is Community Development Still relevant.

They found that Community Development was still seen as an important and relevant practice with a set of values, skills and knowledge that together promote the wellbeing and authority of the most disadvantaged communities in order for them to be able to exercise power over their lives. And there was widespread agreement from respondents that it needs to be sustained. But how? Should it be sustained as a profession? How should Community Development connects with other professions? And by whom should it be organised, funded and accountable? There was also a feeling that Community development has lost its cutting edge.

These throw away findings are fascinating, but the report provides little by way of answers. They conclude that there is not enough investment in community development learning, but it is not clear here if they are referring to the professional training of community workers or the pre and in service training of other professionals in community development values, skills and knowledge. IACD has argued for both. We have also argued that the local state (in England and elsewhere) should become a more pro-active employer and funder of community development professionals and others with community development expertise. We contrasted recently the situation in Scotland compared to England, where the local and national state in the former still funds community development practice and an infrastructure of support agencies and networks, including a Standards Council that oversees training and occupational standards in pre service and continuing professional development.

This first report is tantalisingly brief and we look forward to further findings but more importantly some response from government (central and local) and other funders as the reality on the ground has been one of huge cuts in posts and in training providers over the past seven years.

You can read the report here

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