What Are the Different Approaches to Community Development?

There are many different approaches to community development that are designed to bring about some type of needed change for the people living in that community. Many of these approaches involve using the resources already present within the community or supplementing them with some other type of social or economic assistance. Strengthening relationships and families within a community are the main benefits of faith-based community development. Asset-based community development involves using the strengths and experiences already existing within a community to take action and achieve goals. Some approaches to community development involve the combined power of government agencies and large corporations to improve the local economy and foster social change.

Of all the approaches to community development, the faith-based model may be one of the most well-known. Throughout history, faith-based institutions have played an important role in improving the quality of life for all members of a community. Local churches are especially adept at nurturing long-term relationships with individuals and families in many aspects of their lives. Since churches are a constant presence and church members typically reside in the surrounding community, faith-based community development is easily implemented. For example, one church in Houston, Texas created a partnership with the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) to provide specially arranged mortgages for those in that particular community.

Asset-based programs provide another one of the more effective approaches to community development. Utilizing the talents and skills of its own members, this approach works to focus a community on its assets rather than its needs or problems. These community development programs typically provide incentive or encouragement for community members to become more involved in local government, education, or business. Asset-based community programs typically determine various capabilities and assets of individuals, institutions, and associations that already exist within the community. Collaboration among these groups is intended to bring community members together to address particular needs, take appropriate action, and meet specific goals to improve that community.

Economic community development involves more than just providing economic assistance to an impoverished area. This is likely the most comprehensive of all approaches to community development. This concept utilizes a whole-community approach and combines the tenets of asset-based community development with assistance from local, regional, or national government agencies and corporations. These approaches to community development are not meant to exploit the resources of a community. Rather, the ultimate goal of economic community development is to combine the strength of various community-based enterprises, non-profit organizations, and large corporations to improve the economic, social, and cultural well-being of that community.

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