On Community Development Education

By Ron Hustedde

The community development field continues to grow across the globe. It is argued that this expansion is rooted in three factors: devolution, the subsequent growth of non-governmental organizations, and the revived interest in community and the politics of place and interests. Community development can be defined by solidarity and agency. Solidarity is about identifying a common core of shared interests, while agency is about people defining and acting on those shared interests. This multi-disciplinary field is rooted in the values associated with social justice, felt needs, and the democratic principle of civic participation. Community developers are nurtured through a variety of educational initiatives.

Indications of Growth and Fragmentation

Since the University of the Philippines began its community development department in the 1970’s, higher education has continued to serve the field. An IACD preliminary web search recently identified over 1,000 degree and certification programs in Europe, the Americas, and parts of Asia and Africa. In addition, community development skills and knowledge are also sponsored by government and nongovernmental organizations and professional groups. In 2003, I raised the question in the Community Development Journal of whether there was an international core canon of knowledge and standards for preparing community development practitioners among institutions of higher education. While community development educational offerings continue to grow, I believe the question is still valid. We do not have an international venue for a comprehensive debate and deliberation about the purpose and direction of community development education. From my perspective, this communication fragmentation weakens community development education and impedes the impact of our field. We need to make the voice of community development more potent in national and international circles.

An Action Plan To Move Towards Greater Cohesion

The purpose of this article is to suggest a plan of action to foster the growth of community development education that will lead towards greater clarity and cohesiveness. I propose IACD move forward with these four initiatives over the next three years.

Initiative One: Who is Doing What?

We need to understand who’s doing what in community development education. What are the community development degree and certificate programs across the globe? What is the core curriculum, standards, and key values of each program? What is their source of funding? What are the credentials of the instructors? How many people are being trained? How do they apply their knowledge? What is their self-professed impact? If we understand the patterns and breadth of these programs, we can build communication bridges and establish venues to encourage deliberation about the direction of community development education. We can explore questions about community development global standards that have been defined by the Standards Council for Scotland (2009) and are being investigated by our colleagues in South Africa.

Initiative Two: Creating International Venues For Advancing Community Development Education to New Levels

We need international venues for representatives of community development educational programs to deliberate about key standards, values, and pedagogical research about the field. At this point, the Standards Council for Scotland has taken the international lead in identifying core standards and requirements for educating community development practitioners. The Community Development Professionalization Steering Committee (2019) in South Africa is pursuing similar goals. I believe we need to investigate the strengths and limitations of an international certification body for community development education, while honouring the unique contexts of communities of place and interests. We should also find ways to encourage healthy debate and on-going dialogue to advance the field and face new challenges. These international venues are essential to addressing our fragmentation and making us more potent.

Initiative Three: Expanding Our Community Development Virtual Library

The Global Community Development Exchange (GCDEX) in New Zealand was designed to create a virtual place for community development educators, practitioners, and learners from across the globe to share teaching and learning experiences, tools, and resources. The GCDEX resources include course syllabi, course materials, and various tools. While the service is being run by enthusiastic volunteers, it needs professionals in the information business to move it towards the next stage. A key depository can help bring greater cohesiveness to our growing but fragmented field.

Initiative Four: Community Development Pedagogy

There has been a lack of significant research on how community development practitioners learn. Paulo Freire challenged the traditional banking concepts of education with a focus on consciousness-raising and building on indigenous knowledge. Others, like Habermas, have focused on the integration of technical knowledge with hermeneutical or folk knowledge to create emancipatory knowledge. Is there a balance or bias in community development education? What are the various dimensions of communityengaged learning and how does this learning impact the practitioner and community? How does one balance the need for theoretical concepts with process and communications skills? What kind of education and awareness must community developers need in the future? While the field has expanded and matured, there are other questions about community development pedagogy that have not been investigated. We need to find ways to fund research initiatives about community development learning and encourage publication in the Community Development Journal, edited books, or other outlets. Each of these four initiatives will require significant investments of time, creativity, participation, and financial commitments to advance community development education. I am eager to cooperate with other IACD colleagues who are interested in working on these key initiatives and in contacting potential funders such as philanthropic foundations. I can be reached via email at rhusted@uky.edu.

Further Reading

Community Development Professionalization Steering Committee (South Africa). Retrieved January 1, 2019: http://www.cdpsc. co.za/partnerships.htm.

Gruidl, J. & Hustedde, R. (2015). Towards a robust democracy: The core competencies critical to community developers. Community Development, vol. 46, no. 3, pp. 279-293.

Hustedde, R. & Calvin, J. (2003). News from the International Association for Community Development: Facing the current challenge of the community development field: expansion and fragmentation. Community Development Journal, vol. 38, no. 2, pp. 175-177.

Melling, A. & Pilkington, R. (2018). Paulo Freire and Transformative Education: Changing Lives and Transforming Communities. London, United Kingdom: Palgrave Macmillan. Standards Council for Scotland. (2009). The competencies for community learning and development. Retrieved January 1, 2019: http://cldstandardscouncil.org.uk/resources/ the-competences/.

Ron Hustedde Past President,Community Development Society & served on the IACD Board for 8 years; Extension Professor of Community Development, University of Kentucky, USA rhusted@uky.edu


Hustedde, R. (2019). On Community Development Education. Practice Insights, Issue 12, 5 – 6. Retrieved from http://www.iacdglobal.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Practice-Insights-12-a.pdf

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