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

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Works
  • Reference Works
  • Textbooks
  • Definitions and Practice Guidelines
  • Journals
  • History
  • Disparities and Specific Populations
  • Manuals and Handbooks
  • Anthologies and Case Studies
  • Organizational Resources

Public Health Community Development
Frances Dunn Butterfoss
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 January 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 February 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756797-0019


Although its work is continuously redefined by current social issues, community development (CD) is a broad term applied to the values, practices, and academic disciplines of civic leaders, activists, citizens, and professionals to improve local communities. CD empowers individuals and groups to affect change by providing them with skills that build political power and alter their communities’ positions within the context of larger social institutions. CD methods are used at many levels of society and focus on organizational, community-wide, and international campaigns. Because CD work is so broad, this article acknowledges its many approaches, including community-driven economic development, community empowerment and capacity building, social-capital formation, political participatory development, ecologically sustainable development, asset-based community development, community-based participatory research, community building/mobilization, and coalition building and participatory and community-based planning. Since some of these areas are covered elsewhere in Oxford Bibliographies Online, this article will focus on community development as it relates to community empowerment and capacity building, social capital formation, community building and mobilization, and coalition building and participatory and community-based planning.

Introductory Works

Four books stand out for introducing the novice community developer to the field. Ferguson and Dickens 2011 tells the story of the development of community development (CD) using broad examples, and Phillips and Pittman 2014 and Robinson and Green 2011 focus more on CD’s theory, along with its tools and methods. Green and Haines 2011 gives an overview of assets-based approach to CD.

  • Ferguson, Ronald F., and William T. Dickens, eds. 2011. Urban problems and community development. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution.

    This book surveys community development’s past, current, and potential contributions. The authors—economists, sociologists, political scientists, and a historian—define community development broadly to include all capacity building (including social, intellectual, physical, financial, and political assets) aimed at improving the quality of life in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods. The book addresses the history of urban development strategies, the politics of resource allocation, business and workforce development, housing, community development corporations, informal social organizations, schooling, and public security.

  • Green, Gary P., and Anna L. Haines. 2011. Asset building & community development. 4th ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

    This text examines the promise and limits of community development. This comprehensive approach to asset building focuses on the role of different forms of community capital in the development process. It explores how communities build on key assets—physical, human, social, financial, environmental, political, and cultural capital—to generate and sustain positive change. Focusing on community outcomes, the authors illustrate how development controlled by community-based organizations provides a better match between community assets and needs.

  • Phillips, Rhonda, and Robert H. Pittman, eds. 2014. An introduction to community development. 2d ed. New York: Routledge.

    Comprehensive, practical approach to CD and community planning. Shows how to use local economic interests and integrate finance and marketing considerations in strategies. Revised content on local food systems, sustainability issues, localism, quality of life, community wellbeing, and public health. Text boxes, outlines, keywords, and skills-based exercises turn learning into action.

  • Robinson, Jerry W., and Gary P. Green, eds. 2011. Introduction to community development: Theory, practice, and service-learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

    Theoretical and practical introduction to community development. Uses conceptual background and contemporary approaches, with a progression from theory to practice. Case studies and supportive material are included to develop community service-learning activities.

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