In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Community Development

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Works
  • Textbooks
  • Journals
  • Theories of Development
  • Toolkits and Guidelines
  • Specific Populations and Case Studies

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Social Work Community Development
Frances Dunn Butterfoss
  • LAST REVIEWED: 23 August 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 August 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0192


Community development, also known as community economic development, is a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary field. Practitioners and scholars representing disciplines such as urban planning, social work, rural sociology, public health, and international development have developed its many models and methods. The concept of community development incorporates two elements. The concept of “community” refers to people who reside in a particular geographic location, such as a neighborhood, village, industrial corridor, rural area, or small town, and who interact with each other and share common characteristics, such as interests, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, culture, or activities. The concept of “development” refers to economic development as part of a planned change effort to improve the standard of living and well-being of people. Typically, community development targets local communities beset with economic and social problems, such as concentrations of poverty, high crime rates, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, outdated infrastructure, unemployment, and a poor economy. The specific objectives of community development depend, however, not only on the needs of the local community, but also on the interests of the organization or group initiating the development activity.

Introductory Works

Johnson Butterfield and Korazim-Korosy 2007 points out the interdisciplinary and international nature of the field of community development. Since it is impossible to cover all the ways that community development is implemented in countries around the world, the books listed below provide some reference to the practice of community development in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Community development practice is bounded by policies and legislation in the various countries where it is practiced. There are, however, commonalities in the practice of community development that emerge, and practitioners in one country can learn from the community development approaches in other countries. Halpern 1995 provides a history of initiatives to address poverty in the United States up through the 20th century. Chaskin, et al. 2001 outlines four areas of community development—leadership development; organizational development; community organizing; and collaboration, partnerships, and organizational networks—as key elements of community development drawn from research on comprehensive community initiatives. Campfens 1997 is a major work on community development that provides deep insight into efforts at community development around the world. Starting with the definitions of “community,” Somerville 2011 brings UK models and methods into focus. Craig, et al. 2011 is a reader than spans sixty years of community development efforts in the United Kingdom and countries across the world. DeFilippis and Saegert 2007 is a collection of critical and important articles that define the field of community development in the United States. Emerging areas of community development include inner-city business development, improving community safety, and efforts to build human capital and social capital through labor markets, youth development, and schools in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Brophy and Shabecoff 2001 is an important contribution as a guide to careers in community development.

  • Brophy, C., and A. Shabecoff. 2001. A guide to careers in community development. Washington, DC: Island Press.

    Provides information about the various and multiple possibilities for careers in community development.

  • Campfens, H., ed. 1997. Community development around the world: Practice, theory, research, training. Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press.

    A seminal work on community development that includes practice, theory, research, and training.

  • Chaskin, R., P. Brown, S. Venkatesh, and A. Vidal. 2001. Building community capacity. New York: Aldine DeGruyter.

    Provides a conceptual framework for community development by outlining four areas of capacity building in comprehensive initiatives.

  • Craig, G., K. Popple, M. Shaw, and M. Taylor. 2011. The community development reader: History, themes, and issues. Bristol, UK: Policy Press.

    Offers a view of international development over the sixty years prior to publication, from best practices and research.

  • DeFilippis, J., and S. Saegert, eds. 2007. The community development reader. New York: Routledge.

    A compilation of major articles that together bring students and scholars up to date on the state of community development in the United States.

  • Halpern, R. 1995. Rebuilding the inner city: A history of neighborhood initiatives to address poverty in the United States. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

    An excellent historical review of efforts to address poverty through policies and programs in the United States.

  • Johnson Butterfield, A. K., and Y. Korazim-Korosy. 2007. Interdisciplinary community development: International perspectives. Binghamton, NY: Haworth.

    Includes an examination of the concept of interdisciplinarity in community development, with examples from best practices and research from around the world.

  • Somerville, P. 2011. Understanding community: Politics, policy and practice. Bristol, UK: Policy Press.

    Emphasizes the concept of the beloved community within the UK context.

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