Principles for Community Development

In 2015, PolicyLink, a national research and action institute advancing economic and social equity, released its “Equity Manifesto.” When it was released, the Manifesto was meant to reframe how civic leaders approach the work that they do in their communities to incorporate an understanding of social and racial equity. It addresses the complexity and interconnectedness of working in community, and is a good starting point for creating a set of principles for community development.

 

PolicyLink - Equity Manifesto

  • It begins by joining together, believing in the potency of inclusion, and building from a common bond.
  • It embraces complexity as cause for collaboration, accepting that our fates are inextricable.
  • It recognizes local leaders as national leaders, nurturing the wisdom and creativity within every community as essential to solving the nation’s problems.
  • It demands honesty and forthrightness, calling out racism and oppression, both overt and systemic.
  • It strives for the power to realize our goals while summoning the grace to sustain them.
  • It requires that we understand the past, without being trapped in it; embrace the present, without being constrained by it; and look to the future, guided by the hopes and courage of those who have fought before and beside us.

This is equity: just and fair inclusion into a society in which all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential. Unlocking the promise of the nation by unleashing the promise in us all.

 

While these are not in and of themselves principles for community development, they are a statement for a way of working. The main issue is that these are very broad and vague notions that provide an equitable framework for growing democracy, but they are not specific enough to be tracked and measured in everyday community development work.  

Another great starting place for generating these principles would be a set of principles for community development that already exist, coming from the Community Development Society. 

The CommunityDevelopment Society is an international member-driven organization that provides leadership to professionals and citizens across the spectrum of community development. All members commit to CDS’ Principles of Good Practice, which are detailed on the next page.

 

Community Development Society - Principles of Good Practice

  • Promote active and representative participation toward enabling all community members to meaningfully influence the decisions that affect their lives.

  • Engage community members in learning about and understanding community issues, and the economic, social, environmental, political, psychological, and other impacts associated with alternative courses of action.

  • Incorporate the diverse interests and cultures of the community in the community development process; and disengage from support of any effort that is likely to adversely affect the disadvantaged members of a community.
  • Work actively to enhance the leadership capacity of community members, leaders, and groups within the community.
  • Be open to using the full range of action strategies to work toward the long-term sustainability and well being of the community.
 

These principles have a similar issue - they are fantastic goals, but are also difficult to track. Principles for community development practice in the North End need to be more responsive to the actual issues that exist in the neighborhood, and the conditions that have created them. They need to be informed by the feelings of North End residents that are a part of this document, as well as the history that led to many of those feelings. They need to respond to what is happening on the ground now.