A Global Perspective of Community Development

Defining community development is difficult because the meaning of ‘community’ is so diverse. In addition, the meaning of ‘development’ also varies!

In 2016, the International Association of Community Development (IACD) agreed upon the following as a global definition:

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.

The European Community Development Network (EuCDN) put in place a framework in an attempt to draw commonalities between the work being done across Europe. In this framework they make the statement that:

The world is not equal … some communities in all of our countries are excluded and unequal as a result of structures and policies that we have created. The defining purpose overall of community development is to transform that reality through the involvement and actions of people as their own agents of change.

Collectively, the EuCDN and IACD suggest the following priorities for community development are common across the globe:

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Determine that the thing can and shall be done, and then we shall find the way.

– Abraham Lincoln

Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, Australia and other United Nations (UN) Members signed an agreement to commit to 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade considers the SDGs to be “non-binding” but “highly influential.” 3

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A Moment of Reflection...

Consider the SDG’s and the video above.

  • How many of these goals do you think align with community development practice?
  • Have you seen community initiatives or programs that are tackling these goals?
  • Do you see Community Development as a global issue or local? Why?

Post your answers in the comments at the bottom of this page!

Priorities of community development across the globe are similar to the priorities in Australia.

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Extend Your Learning

The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2022 from the United Nations reports on how the 17 goals are tracking across the globe.

  1. Ross, C., Clarke, A., McConnel, C., Lachapelle, P. & Stansfield, J. (2020) Towards Shared International Standards for Community Development Practice. International Association for Community Development. Accessed on 18/01/23 at https://www.iacdglobal.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/IACD_25-Standards-Guidance-May-2020.pdf

  2. European Community Development Network. (2014) Community Development in Europe: Towards a Common Framework and Understanding. Accessed on 18/03/23 at 2014-24-09-EuCDN-Publication-FINAL.pdf

  3. Accessed 19/01/23 at https://www.dfat.gov.au/aid/topics/development-issues/2030-agenda-sustainable-development

See the Community Development in 60 Seconds page from the Scottish Community Development Centre. This is also downloadable as a PDF or PowerPoint to easily share with your colleagues and community!

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