Community development is one of the most enduring alternatives to conventional models focused on economic growth and over time, it’s resonance has alway increased in times of crisis.
Bill Pardy is, for me, a legend in the field, even if I can only smile wryly at his message this morning that says “Ed, I hope that you are well. We are having exceptional warm weather here in Newfondland for this time of year…”
Here below is what Bill says of his thirty years of learning and success in the field:
Community development, has in its more beneficial modes, recognized the intrinsic nature of education, development, and the value of the human spirit. It has always focused on people and their inherent talents, capabilities, needs and ambitions.
It is unfortunate that many current models of community development follow business practices; focusing on production and outcomes. They too have been corrupted by the expediency felt necessary to provide growth.
Traditional community development philosophy implies togetherness, understanding and cooperation and is based on simple values, not a single ideology. It recognizes that community is more than the sum of its most evident characteristics, which include physical infrastructure, the social environment and the services which people have come to expect. It acknowledges that community is the intangible and spiritual environment where people co-exist, raise families and build futures and memories.
This type of development springs from a movement of people who come together to find resolutions to whatever the problems that must be faced. In such alliances, people have commitment to each other and to the nebulous concept that is community. In times of radical change people dig deep within themselves and ask: what next?
Real community development engages people in a genuine education process, whereby people identify what really has value and what has relevance. They come to understand and agree that there is not some mystical end to be reached, but all are engaged in a continuous process of human transformation.
It is development founded on more than just thinking and doing, but in the belief that “being” is important and “belonging” is a necessity. Thus, valuing oneself, and feeling a part of a whole is imperative to life itself.
It is my belief that the essence of community is about feelings, which emerge from knowing and are deepened by awareness. The more that we become aware of our environment, our circumstances and those who share the world with us, the more our knowledge grows. Expanded knowledge creates stronger feelings, deeper relationships, and an enhanced sense of our inter-connectivity, resulting in stronger communities.
It is this writer’s contention that community begins when two people share. The sharing is what creates economy, social well-being, spiritual comfort and shapes lifestyle. Development is neither the beginning nor the end; it is the process and the measure of our ability to share. It relates to people, their aspirations, their dreams and, most importantly, their own efforts to bring these to reality.