Defining Community Development

There isn’t one definition of community development (CD). Throughout the world, it can be seen as many different things. Even within the same state or suburb it may be defined differently!

Depending on the context it is being discussed in, community development might be seen as:

Click on or hover over the cards below for more information

A job role or profession
A way of doing things that creates social or political change
A field of study or knowledge
A set of values, principles or ethics

Community development may be utilised across a number of sectors – health, social services, education, etc. There are often similar themes and principles regardless of the sector or definition.

Some definitions of community development that might be considered include:

Community development is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes participative democracy, sustainable development, rights, economic opportunity, equality and social justice, through the organisation, education and empowerment of people within their communities, whether these be of locality, identity or interest, in urban and rural settings.

Community development is a process where community members are supported by agencies to identify and take collective action on issues which are important to them.

At its heart community development is rooted in the belief that all people should have access to health, wellbeing, wealth, justice and opportunity.

We’ll explore these definitions and more in detail in the following topics of this lesson. To understand community development, we must first understand what it means to be a ‘community.’

Click on The Concept of ‘Community’ below to begin.

  1. International Association for Community Development (2017). Accessed 18/01/23 at

  2. Smart, J. (2017). What is Community Development? Child Family Community Australia. Accessed on 18/01/23 at

  3. Scottish Community Development Centre (n.d.) What is community development? Accessed on 18/01/23 on