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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October Data Viz

Understanding Neighborhoods

nextdoor harris infographic final

 

 

infographic generation y new movers coming to a neighborhood near you 1 638

 

FAS infographic Neighborhoods

 

Appfolio infographic LoveThyNeighbor large

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President's Update - Crossing the river by feeling the stones

Early in my career I spent time living and working in Taiwan, having initially studied international relations and eventually working as a teacher to gain cultural experience. One Chinese saying has stuck with me this whole time - "crossing the river by feeling the stones." This was the phrase used to describe relations between Taiwan and mainland China. The meaning is that no one really knows the future or how to plan for it, but that one needs to continue reaching out and adapting in order to make progress. This is where I feel we are together as a society. We are jubilantly celebrating our 50th year, but the landscape of our field and the composition of our organization has undergone dramatic shifts that make a path forward murky. 

As I noted in my last update, your board has been working to try to paddle together and we will be meeting for an intensive workshop and to tour the upcoming conference facilities in Columbia, Missouri October 6-7. Our workshop will focus on moving the organization toward Policy Based Governance, helping to craft clearer boundaries and expectations of board members, staff, and committees. If there are pressing issues or thoughts that you have about our organization, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or any member of our Board - we are here for you!

We will also be releasing an annual board meeting calendar - stay tuned! Members and committee members are always welcome to join and to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. proposals for the agenda and motions and issues. Reports, motions, and agenda items must be received no later than 5 days before the scheduled board meeting. We look forward to engaging you on this!

Another way we will be "crossing the river by feeling the stones" is to engage with our members through some online "townhall-style" discussions. To plan these, I am asking those of you interested in this to give us some guidance through this brief questionnaire. We will share more information on these as we plan them out - stay tuned!

Thanks again for all that you do and for being committed to our organization. I know we can cross this river together!

 

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Statement from CDS on IACD's "Towards Shared International Standards for Community Development Practice"

The recent publication of the International Association of Community Development's (IACD) "Towards Shared International Standards for Community Development Practice" (Standards) is a monumental step forward to continue to define and refine community development around the world. Building off the definition of community development that was developed by the members and accepted by the Board of IACD and CDS, the Standards are an important piece, articulating the boundaries of our field. IACD and CDS members were invited to comment on the Standards as they were being developed, so many perspectives are represented. An important next step that CDS can take from here is to build off the Standards to describe jobs and roles that take on responsibility in community development, particularly from the context of CDS being an international organization based in the United States of Amerca. I encourage our membership to participate in discussions such as this through our own CDS Connect and through our partners at IACD.

Definition of community development - “Community development is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes participative democracy, sustainable development, rights, economic opportunity, equality and social justice, through the organisation, education and empowerment of people within their communities, whether these be of locality, identity or interest, in urban and rural settings”.

Here is a link to the Standards.

 

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Life or Death! Why Community Engagement is So Important

For those involved in community development, we know that community engagement is the heart of change. We assist groups to organize to respond to shared issues. Engagement is how people connect and act together. Sometimes these interactions can lead to shared agreement, unified investment, and sustained commitment to a solution. Sometimes the interactions can be selfish, dysfunctional, divisive, and lead to distrust and resentment. How the interactions are structured can have significant impact on the outcomes of the situation.

The Socio-ecological model of health (Bronfenbrenner, 1977) recognizes that individual health is affected not only by individual knowledge and actions, but also by the people we are surrounded with, and the habits, norms, culture, and patterns of interaction that support behavior (healthy or unhealthy). These lifestyles are, in turn, affected by the organizational and community policies, systems, and physical environments in which people live.

This isn’t just an observation. The implications are not only that we live in a place with other people. How we live in community also seems to matter. How we connect with others can have very significant implications. It can change our lives. In research on health and happiness, Robert Waldenger (November 2015 Ted Talk) notes a 75-year longevity study indicated that social networks are a key influencing factor contributing to wellbeing. In a positive correlation, more social connection and support relate to increased health and happiness. Susan Pinker (April 2017 Ted Talk) emphasizes that social integration and close relationships are the top factors contributing to living longer.

The wonderful thing about this information from the perspective of a community development practitioner, is that we can facilitate the development of these healthy interactions. In a recent CDS Fellows meeting Mary Emery summarized, “Community is centered around a sense of belonging. Belonging is being part of a structure. We can control structure.”

Designing structure for meaningful engagement is the core of what a community development practitioner does. Whether the focus is on addressing hunger, housing, poverty, business development, or a new community swimming pool, the framework of involvement can invite participation, involve people meaningfully, and support engagement. Is it important? The stakes of meaningful community engagement can impact our health, how long we live, and happiness. I would say that’s pretty important.

Referenced work:

Bronfenbrenner, U. (1977). Toward an experimental ecology of human development. American psychologist, 32(7), 513.

Pinker, Susan (2017). The Secret to Living Longer May Be Your Social Life. Ted Talk. https://www.ted.com/talks/susan_pinker_the_secret_to_living_longer_may_be_your_social_life

Waldenger, Robert. (2015) What Makes a Good Life; Lessons from the Longest Study on Happiness. Ted Talk. https://www.ted.com/talks/robert_waldinger_what_makes_a_good_life_lessons_from_the_longest_study_on_happiness

*Daniel Kahl is an Assistant Professor of community and leadership development at the University of Kentucky and Associate Director of CEDIK. He co-coordinates the 2017 Community Development Society Fellows project with Dr. Kris Hains.

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