Community Development Society

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COVID-19: Could it Unite Us as a Global Community?

COVID-19: Could it Unite Us as a Global Community?

 

The new ‘normal’ as the start of the ‘great turning’ for transformative justice, social change, equity, and sustainable communities.

"Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love."    ~ Rumi

When I agreed to write a post with an international theme for the Vanguard issue, I had no idea that it would be in the middle of the COVID-19 global pandemic – a virus attack which, in one way or another, is uniting us as a Global Community. Dealing with it asks us all for innovative thinking, ideas and approaches on the meaning and purpose of Community Development Practice (CDP), and on our roles and responsibilities as Community Development Practitioners (CDPs).

COVID-19 is challenging all of us in our commitment to each and every one of the principles for which we stand, both as practitioners and as members of a family, community, society and nation. Each one of us now in our social isolation has had, however reluctantly, to realize our vulnerability – not just as a citizen, family, and community member, but also as a species. Many of us were at first positively hopeful that this pandemic would soon pass, and that everything would go back to normal again. Now we are realizing that it is not passing quickly, and that it is increasingly likely that nothing will ever be quite the same again. The new ‘normal’ will differ from the ‘normal’ we thought we knew.

Global pandemics such as COVID-19 re-emphasize the importance of CDPs, the need for our profession, and the role that we play in ensuring community well-being. Going forward in the aftermath of COVID-19, with resources diminished from fighting it, we will need to be more vigilant and innovative in rebuilding communities. We will be working from a micro level of well-being for our families, friends, and neighbors, through our communities, to the macro level well-being of our state sustainability. Although pandemics threaten our very existence, they also provide us with opportunities to ‘reset and turn’ our current way of life into a better one. It is at this turning point that CDPs are needed more than ever before. We will be called upon to guide communities in innovative ways towards rebuilding new sustainable, equitable and inclusive communities in our global society.

This rebuilding of community and society will require CDPs to revisit the works of scholar-activists such as David Korten, Johanna Macy, and Grace Lee Boggs. As early as the 2000s they put forward a much needed ‘great turning’. This ‘turning’ would shift us from our current times of being an economic growth ‘extractivist society’ to a society that is in balance and self-sustaining in every dimension of well-being: socio-cultural, physical, infrastructural, environmental, political, and economical. These scholarly foresights, more than fifteen years ago, emanated from the term ‘earth community’ described in the International Earth Charter of 2000. This charter consists of sixteen principles, clustered in four interrelated pillars derived from an ethical vision that proposes peace, environmental protection, human rights, and equitable human development.

One of the founding pieces of ‘turning’ literature is “The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community” by David Korten (2006). The unequal distribution of power and social benefits that goes back as far as 5 000 years is highlighted. The development of empires, political and social, continues to this day. Korten (2006) warns us of being “on the verge of a perfect storm of converging crises”, and that to avoid it will require major changes to our current economic and social structures.

Who would have thought that COVID-19 could so quickly ‘trigger’ this realization? Who could have anticipated that we as CDPs would be given the opportunity to work with communities to start the ‘great turning’ (transformation) from an ‘industrial growth society’ to a ‘self-sustaining civilization’?

Every one of us has been presented with an opportunity to relook at, and rework, our CDP approach towards making a difference and contributing towards a better life for society. Many resources and scholarly works are available to assist us with re-imaging our ‘new’ future of ‘turning’ towards achieving an Earth Community of well-being. Perhaps a good place to start will be with the founding authors of the ‘turning’: David Korten, Johanna Macy, and Grace Lee Boggs. They led the way to many more publications by other proponents of transformative justice, social change, equity and self-sustaining communities in a harmony of societies.

How are we going to take up this unforeseen opportunity to do things differently in the new ‘normal’ of CDP tomorrow?

Below are some useful links to material by the founding authors mentioned in this blog:

https://davidkorten.org/library/;

https://www.joannamacy.net/main#books;

https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5323/fire.2.1.0060#metadata_info_tab_contents

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Chair's Update - Evaluator's Dilemma

People sometimes think I am wild and crazy. Maybe it's because I love adventure and take opportunities as they arise. Maybe it's because I lived abroad for so many years. Maybe it's because I am a good dancer and like to have fun. What's funny to me about all of these perceptions is that they beguile my typically dogged commitment to process and facts. There have been many times in my personal and professional life over the years where I have found myself saying "...but this may cause problems..." or "...this shows we should change course..." I think it's the evaluator in me, but almost as sure as I am to take on opportunity (like going to Ghana next week!), I also raise questions and concerns where needed to adhere to process, ethics, and facts. 

I've tried my best to uphold those principles in my work for CDS. I truly believe that compassionate and critical dialogue on the activities of our organization are necessary for our continued growth and development. This is one of the reasons the board chose to move to monthly meetings of the full board and ad-hoc meetings of the Executive Committee last fall. These regular meetings encourage exchange of ideas among board members and dissuade the out-of-the-light-of-day decisions that can get an organization into trouble.

I continue to commit to you, the members, that I will work hard to uphold our shared values and to name potential threats to our organization so the board can work to avoid them. Because my leadership here has never been about me, but about you, the member, and our professional home and beloved field of community development. As a leadership volunteer and an independent consultant who self-financed every meeting and conference (except one), including my 6 years of leadership to the organization, you could say that I put my money where my mouth is in terms of commitment - a commitment to our field and our home. For you. For us. So we can stay strong and stay together into our 50th and beyond!

Let me know your thoughts. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Board Update:

The May board meeting has been cancelled because of scheduling conflicts that would result in not having a quorum. 

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Chair's Update - Lions and Lambs

I've been reflecting on the old addage for March, "In like a lion, out like a lamb." March certainly has been a lion for many places around the US this year and I'm sure we're all hoping that the month ends in a more gentle, lamb-like fashion. This is particularly true to ease the burden of our friends and neighbors suffering through extreme temperature swings and flooding this season.

Since I live in Florida, I have the pleasure of a constant stream of northern guests through the month of March. It's wonderful to connect with family and friends and bring them a literal dose of sunshine during the deary late winter months. I'm very fortunate to have so many lifelong friends and close family members that make the trip. These connections, our own social captial, are the building blocks of communities and what we as practitioners of community development seek to build and support in the areas we serve.

Lions and lambs also convey symbolism of the weak and the strong, specifically of the weak becoming strong. For me, this also has relevenace to our shared work as so many of us are working with disempowered people - helping to bring out the voice of the lambs to stand toe to toe with the lions. We are often working to develop a community's social capital to enable their self determination - rise and rise again until lambs become lions. 

Board Activities Update

The board and it's committeess have been working together to continue the necessary transitions required with the now formally adopted bylaws, including shifts in scope and consolidation. Committees are working to further develop policies aligned with the new bylaws and further streamline our organization. 

The board approved the scholarship amounts.

2019 conference planning is underway. Accespted session proposals have been sent out, keynotes have been planned, mobile learning workshop development is moving along, and fundrasising is rocking and rolling!

2020 conference proposal for South Dakota was submitted to the board.

Staff search is underway.  

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President's Update - 50 looks good on you CDS!

President's Update - 50 looks good on you CDS!

Happy new year! Welcome 2019! What a joyous year for us here at CDS as it marks the official beginning of our 50th anniversary year celebrations! We have our homecoming conference, Coming Home to Cultivate the Future, coming up July 14-17 in Columbia, Missouri. What a perfect year to honor someone in our field who has made an outstanding contribution through an award (nominations due February 14)! I can't wait to see you in July and to see what the future has in store for us!

Meanwhile, your board has been busy working together to make sure our organization is ready to face the future. We have committees focused on revamping the bylaws and the structure of our organization, as well as preparing us a budget to ensure proper operations through our 50th year and beyond.

We are focused on growing our membership to reach those that have been with us over the years and the next generation of community developer. Our 50th anniversary and homecoming are the perfect time for outreach and we encourage our members to do the same. Will you commit to reaching out to one old colleague and one new to tell them about our annual conference? Imagine how robust our network would be and how lively our conference would be if each and every one of us did this! I'll be making my calls today!

Finally, thank you for your commitment to our field and to our organization. Without dedicated members like you, we would not have made it 50 years - Thank you!! Give yourself a nice little pat on the back - 50 years looks good on you CDS. 

 

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Meet Our Board - Huston Gibson

By Huston Gibson

Hello CDS! My name is Huston Gibson. I hold a PhD in Planning and I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional & Community Planning at Kansas State University where I serve as the program Director for our online graduate certificate in and Master of Science in Community Development (M.S. CD). I also serve as Faculty Coordinator for the Great Plains IDEA Community Development online graduate program consortium, which our Community Development academic program is part. In addition to serving on the CDS Board of Directors I am also a U.S. country correspondent for the International Association of Community Development (IACD) and serving as guest editor for the March 2019 edition of Practice Insights, a special edition of the magazine focused on CD education. As a CDS board member, I am interested in the society’s foci and relationships related to the practice of community development, as a professional field and academic discipline.

I have a passion for helping create sustainable, resilient, and livable communities; I have worked domestically and internationally helping promote downtown viability, economic development, environmental conservation, ecological consciousness, social equity, land-use compatibility, housing options, public school quality, and neighborhood amenities.

As an academic I regularly speak at local, regional, national, and international events and I have published my work in multiple peer-reviewed outlets, including Community Development, the journal of the CDS. I have been a member of the CDS since 2014 when I attended my first conference in Dubuque that year, and I have attended every annual conference since. Hope to see you at the next one!

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