People have an innate need to belong. A stronger sense of belonging begets a stronger sense of community. Feelings of belonging will influence how a citizen chooses to participate in their community. When someone feels like they belong to their community, they are more likely to take collective action for the common good.
When a challenge or opportunity emerges, a community will respond to it. The community itself improves upon its own situation. It is the community members who unite to establish a positive approach to resolve a need. Drawing on their strengths and resources, community members will eventually implement a plan of action.
Common sense tells us that passion alone will not bring victory – a framework is needed. Positive change must be managed. A community development model will support the change by lending it structure. Community development models are prescriptive but adaptable. It is good to study community development protocol, but what is most needed is the belief that something can be done!
Creating a community development plan can be time-consuming, but the people leading the change will persevere. An appointed leader or hired facilitator is essential to guide the consultations.
So, what is involved? Firstly, the process must engage the people who live there. Authentically, listen to the people’s ideas for tackling the community issue, because in community development everyone’s participation is respected. Not everyone will agree, so there should be a standing rule about how decisions are made.
Next, distinctly know the community - report on its profile, previous successes, and existing assets. Identify gaps but focus on strengths. Who needs to be brought on board? Who has resources? Cooperative partnerships have the potential to uncover more assets, plus share the work load. Remember, clear communication and lots of clarification is essential to keep everyone united and motivated.
With some momentum underway, people will begin to envision the change. Ask the questions, “what will we have that we don’t have now?” and “what actions will bring us there?”. Write down what the action is, who is responsible, by when, how much will it cost, who to report to, and what the next steps are. Community development is iterative, so keep up the consultation and planning process until the change is achieved.
People can grow weary. Frequently remind everyone of the purpose for the work being done and the benefits it will bring afterward! A division of labour is important, so try to break down the work into manageable tasks. Inspire people to share their gifts - it fosters the feeling of inclusion and utilizes peoples’ strengths. Also, nurture the social aspect of community building – people thrive alongside other people. Understand that the process can take a significant amount of time, because relationships shouldn’t be rushed.
Feelings of belonging nurtures community spirit. When we belong, we care. Margaret Wheatley said, “great change starts from very small conversations held among people who care”. How rewarding community development can be when we stand united and in harmony - simply because we belong.
The Community Development Handbook
Planning Toolkit Yukon Territory
The Context Experts by L. Attygalle