Community Development Principles – Frequently Flaunted?

Julian Dobson usefully reminded me this morning;

Cracking on with ideas is good. Rooting them in community development principles and practical action is even better.

But what are these principles?  A quick bit of web research found this list from CDX in Sheffield:


Community development workers support individuals, groups and organisations in this process on the basis of certain values and practice principles.

The values at the core of community development are:

  • social justice
  • self-determination
  • working and learning together
  • sustainable communities
  • participation
  • reflective practice

The practice principles that underpin these values are:

Social justice

  • respecting and valuing diversity and difference
  • challenging oppressive and discriminatory actions and attitudes
  • addressing power imbalances between individuals, within groups and society
  • committing to pursue civil and human rights for all
  • seeking and promoting policy and practices that are just and enhance equality whilst challenging those that are not


  • valuing the concerns or issues that communities identify as their starting points
  • raising people’s awareness of the range of choices open to them, providing opportunities for discussion of implications of options
  • promoting the view that communities do not have the right to oppress other communities
  • working with conflict within communities

Working and learning together

  • demonstrating that collective working is effective
  • supporting and developing individuals to contribute effectively to communities
  • developing a culture of informed and accountable decision making
  • ensuring all perspectives within the community are considered
  • sharing good practice in order to learn from each other

Sustainable communities

  • promoting the empowerment of individuals and communities
  • supporting communities to develop their skills to take action
  • promoting the development of autonomous and accountable structures
  • learning from experiences as a basis for change
  • promoting effective collective and collaborative working
  • using resources with respect for the environment


  • promoting the participation of individuals and communities, particularly those traditionally marginalised / excluded
  • recognising and challenging barriers to full and effective participation
  • supporting communities to gain skills to engage in participation
  • developing structures that enable communities to participate effectively
  • sharing good practice in order to learn from each other

Reflective practice

  • promoting and supporting individual and collective learning through reflection on practice
  • changing practice in response to outcomes of reflection
  • recognising the constraints and contexts within which community development takes place
  • recognising the importance of keeping others informed and updated about the wider context

This looks like a pretty good list of design criteria.

  • Anything missing?
  • Anything better?

Reading through this list and reviewing some of the current enterprise and entrepreneurship programmes being delivered in the name of community development and regeneration I am finding it hard to find (m)any that don’t significantly fail several of these tests of principles and values.

And I can’t help but think this matters…

NB: Since this piece was written a new way of codifying the values that underpin community development has been agreed:

Equality and Anti-discrimination

Community development practice challenges structural inequalities and discriminatory practices. Community development recognises that people are not the same, but they are all of equal worth and importance and therefore entitled to the same degree of respect and acknowledgement.

Social Justice

The aim of increasing social justice is an essential element of community development practice. It involves identifying and seeking to alleviate structural disadvantage and advocating strategies for overcoming exclusion, discrimination and inequality.

Collective Action

Community development practice is essentially about working with and supporting groups of people, to increase their knowledge, skills and confidence so they can analyse their situations and identify issues which can be addressed through collective action.

Community Empowerment

Community development practice seeks the empowerment of individuals and communities, through using the strengths of the community to bring about desired changes.

Working and Learning Together

Community development practice promotes a collective process which enables participants to learn from reflecting on their experiences.


  1. ‘Sustainable Communities’ – principles read like it ought to be labelled ‘viable communities’… missing the deeper/wider ‘sustainability-mindedness’

    x thinking and acting with present and future generations in mind
    x working with imagination (as well as ‘experience’) to see opportunities, routes and actions afresh
    x connecting and integrating financial, social and ecological issues and uncertainties
    x working mindful of resilience, robustness, surprises and ‘back-up plans’
    x being grounded in place

    Akin to Wendell Berry’s notion of ‘good work’ perhaps


  1. […] development is in danger of losing its identity as a centred practice with agreed principles and values at its core to a set of competing brands in danger of hacking each other to pieces in a race to […]

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