Community Development – an age old solution

There appears a singular definition of development that is being promoted as the world navigates its way through an economic crisis unlike any that it has seen before.  This definition suggests that development is about economy, economy is only money and money come from business.

This definition has led most governments to conclude that the solution to this crisis is to turn the world over to business.  At the same time, they diminish government, governance and regulation and curtail or eliminate any form of human or social support and environmental oversight, because these impede business.

This development model has evolved, not from a humanist perspective, but from a philosophy of the necessity for fiscal expansion and growth, which has consumerism as the engine and financial wealth as the measure of success.

It has not only failed, but has resulted in irreparable damage to many societies and the environment, as business creates greater and cheaper production and builds and collapses economies with haste.  Little consideration is given to either the human devastation or the ecological mess that remains.

The reality is that the benefits of such production and consumption, is centered on the few; the destruction is amongst the many.

The very foundations of developed society and the world’s ecology have been shaken to its core by this development model.  It has also devastated the basis of community, as changes and forced migration patterns are promoted under the guise of progress. It has negated the contribution, struggle and commitment by those who have built the many communities (and countries) that now find themselves under duress.

In their haste to “create wealth”, most governments have ignored or dismissed the fundamentals of development vested in people, rooted in the spirit of community and wrapped in the sanctity of the environment.

Fortunately, not all leaders have bought into this model, nor has the usually silent majority.  Many now realize that the world has arrived at a precipice of change, one which may spell disaster for the majority of its population, as economies collapse, institutions implode and societies fragment.

The necessity for new theories, models and processes of development is indisputable.

True development encompasses community, social, economic and spiritual foundations and begins with the basics of human need and relationships.  Building community is fundamental to any healthy economy and vibrant society.

There have been other definitions of development.  These include one, as old as time itself, which offers solutions that have been utilized throughout history, most often, in times of crisis.

This form of development, most often called 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.

A genuine community requires the connecting of individual spirits to share.  Thus each sharing is a new beginning, a new development and a new reality.

Perhaps rather than an economic, social or environmental transformation, what is required is one of a more spiritual nature.

Written by Bill Pardy

June 5th, 2012

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