Community Development Society

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We Are the Ones We've Been Waiting For

July 14, 2020 – Outgoing Chair Address to CDS Members at 2020 Annual Business Meeting

Dear Colleagues & Friends:

I am hoping this is my last talk with you as an outgoing president/chair of CDS.

It’s time for the new generation of compassionate, transformative, diverse, equitable, and inclusive leadership to carry out the promise of CDS (and CDS members) as a healing and community-strengthening catalyst for local resilience and vitality amidst and because of global challenges. And the 2020-2021 board you have before you today is that class of dynamic and collaborative servant leaders CDS needs to guide our next steps together.

Serving as your chair for the past year, and serving on the board for the past two and one-half years, was an honor and a responsibility I did not seek but was called to do, as each of us must do if we are to keep whole and healthy an organization that for me and hopefully for you, too, has been absolutely essential to our professional and personal development as human beings on this Earth.

It’s the second time I’ve helped CDS through a major developmental transition. Twenty-five years ago this month, I turned the mantle of CDS leadership over to my distinguished colleague, Moniecia West, after having served 4 years in the presidential track, including a shared final year, 1994-95, as co-president with Monieca, to help guide our beloved CDS in a time of great change both internally as an organization, and externally in the world.

Those mid-1990s saw the public advent of that new-fangled thing we called the inter-network and growing globalization of capitalism and market-based solutions for everything – both in the economy and in society. The promises then were that we would all be connected, that communication would freely flow and ideas and creativity and community would thrive.

Our world was changing quickly in front of our eyes, especially as the Internet and the World Wide Web became commercialized. Economic benefits continued to flow to those who already had opportunity and social/economic standing.

Those left behind in a world driven by expanding market forces included people who lacked opportunity because of their economic and/or social class, their race, their gender, their sexual orientation, and their geography, places rural and urban left behind by so-called progress for some, but not shared equitably by all.

In my speech to kick-off my presidential year back in 1993, at the 25th anniversary conference, Rededicating Ourselves to Community, I posed the question and belief that we had lost our way as researchers, academics, and practitioners of community development, that we had forgotten our CDS Principles of Good Practice and that we, too, had indeed embraced a more market-driven orientation to community development.

I suggested then, strongly, that we needed to rededicate ourselves to community. We were in danger of leaving behind the ideal and the intentional practice to balance market forces with equal if not more investment in our civic fabric.

Today again, in 2020, dominating market forces must be balanced by the belief in and practice of a common good, in vigorous well-informed and productive community engagement on issues and opportunities of the day, and in intentional inclusion of the people and cultures that dominant cultures do not see or refuse to see. Today, more than ever, in our community development work and in our lives, we must practice and be advocates for racial, social, economic, and environmental justice.

At the advent now of our next 25 years of CDS, and hopefully 50!, we must FULLY embrace our role as changemakers –as changemakers for the better, for ALL.

It is who we are, who we have been, from the beginning of our creation days in 1969, after years of uprisings in the world and in the United States, where CDS began.

CDS was literally borne in 1969 out of those 1960s uprisings, out of years of reckoning with the clear imbalances in life conditions that spurred citizen action for racial, economic, social, and environmental justice.

Citizen action then put into place recognition, laws, and practices that propelled civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, and a reckoning with income inequalities and abject poverty so dire as to foment the creation of the Great Society legislation in the U.S. and Food for Peace programs around the world.

The challenge is here again for us in CDS in 2020. The challenge for community is even greater. The solution of community is needed more than ever before as we face existential crises with COVID-19 and Climate Change unveiling worldwide health, education, infrastructure, and economic disparities by race, by region, and by economic and social class.

The tipping point, however, towards sustainable transformational change, for economic, social, and environmental justice, for racial justice, happened nearly two months ago and eight miles from where I live.

I live eight miles from 38th and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, where George Floyd was killed by four members of the Minneapolis Police Force for allegedly passing a $20 counterfeit bill at a convenience store. I also live one and a half-mile from where Philando Castile was killed by a Falcon Heights, Minnesota police officer four years ago, for an allegedly broken tail-light.

George Floyd’s murder, and the murders of so many Black men and women by law enforcement, and the institutional racism and classism and sexism and all the isms over the past centuries, compels us and forcefully tells us that our work in and for community development is not done, and has been in fact, undone.

We ourselves as an organization were nearly undone, too, over the past few years by our own inattention to one another. We can, we are, and we must continue do better.

For it is again a time of reckoning. It is a time of rebuilding. Not of the old normal. Not of the new normal. It is a time of building a new society -- free of racial, social, economic, and environmental inequity, free from racial, social, economic, and environmental injustice. It is time to build a society where diversity, inclusion, and equity are cherished as the necessary foundations for a healthy community and a shared, sustainable prosperity.

As I noted 27 years ago in my address to the 25th anniversary CDS conference, “We need community – people in covenant with one another and their environment – because being in community replenishes our character, our trust, and our solidarity. Without community, technology and a free market tend to create collective passivity and inequity. Without community, the state societies we build to coordinate the existence of millions of strangers remain anonymous and formidable."

“For me, community is ideally a place where love is experienced, where respect and compassion develop, where diversity is honored and where basic life needs are met."

“That is why community development – the work we do – is so important. Our work provides the foundation for other life activities. Our work fosters the interdependency created by person-to-person bonds, the interconnectedness of environment and humanity, and community-based decision-making. It teaches critical thought, ethical consideration, careful planning, and involvement of all stakeholders so that the passions of material gain – of the market – do not overwhelm human development and social and environmental justice."

It is our time, again, CDS, in 2020. We ARE the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are needed so much, because our work, our Principles of Good Practice, are ultimately about engaging community members to give to and shape community, to build community, so community returns our shared investments to sustain all of us, not just some of us.

And CDS needs you, to be active members of the CDS community, to serve on and lead committees, to run for the board, to share your talents and ideas in research, writing, and outreach, to donate to the CDS endowment, and more.

We need you to invite others to join CDS:

  • to raise up the community development perspective and insights for a world sorely in need of comprehensive systemic change
  • to share know-how in the interrelatedness of people, places, issues and opportunities
  • to counter the narrative of division with the more difficult but more hopeful narrative of common unity, of community.

For it is in community that our local resilience to global challenges is strengthened and sustained.

Today before we leave, in our For the Good of the Society discussion led by Anthony Cook, our CDS Secretary, we will begin the journey to update our CDS Principles of Good Practice.

We want to state more explicitly that we “Engage community members in learning about and understanding THE IMPACT OF SYSTEMIC INEQUALITIES ON OUR COMMUNITIES.” We want to build on our heritage of advancing equity and inclusion, not just for some communities and some people, but for all

Before we get to that work together, I want to thank you for the opportunity to serve and work with my fellow members of the CDS Board and with you, my fellow members of CDS overall. I want to especially thank members of the Missouri wing of CDS who devoted years to putting on the awesome 2019 CDS conference last summer that celebrated our 50 years of existence and sent us out renewed for the next 50.

I want to thank the Fargoans and others who have been devoted to organizing the 2020 annual conference in Fargo, North Dakota, USA, which should have been happening right now but is postponed due to COVID until 2021. I want to thank those who are planning for our 2022 conference for Portland, Oregon, USA

And I want to again my fellow members of the 2019-2020 board, and welcome the folks who have been elected to the board this round, for your commitment to CDS, and in your honor and by your inspiration encourage other CDS members to join and chair committees and run for board seats in the coming year.

Finally, I thank Justin, Eric, Anthony, and KP for serving so ably with me on the CDS Executive Committee, being willing to work when needed as challenges and opportunities arose this past year.

And now, I turn your attention to Incoming Chair KP Williams to introduce you to the 2020-2021 CDS Board members.

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Jane's Jottings – June 2020 Notes from the CDS Board Chair

Gearing Up for the Next CDS Year: 2020-2021

We look ahead to next month, when we should be all gathering in Fargo, North Dakota, USA, for our annual conference, and we grieve that we will not be together and meet face-to-face. I grieve for all we have lost personally and professionally this year and for the insights gained, too, from COVID quarantines and from a community, country, and world awakening to long-held racial injustices.

Our conference theme this year was prescient: "Global Challenges, Local Resilience". It was to have centered on the climate crisis, refugee migration, workforce and trade disruption, and other challenges. And indeed, we add to these complex and interrelated challenges with COVID-19 exposing long-held gaps in our health care systems and the non-readiness of national/local responses, particularly in revealing racial and income differentials. Race-based disparities and inequities across community and economic opportunity are now further exposed by the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota, USA, which happened about 4 miles from my home.

We must erase prejudice and bias, and better understand the corrosive effects of privilege. We can start in our own CDS Principles of Good Practice. It’s one of the necessary conversations we will have at the annual CDS business meeting, virtually brought to you on Tuesday, July 14, from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Central Time (USA). See announcement in this Vanguard and watch for details in early July on linking in to the meeting and obtaining meeting materials.


We welcome new board members at the annual business meeting, too: Cornel Hart (Vice Chair-elect of Operations), Bob Bertsch (Treasurer-elect), Lisa Gilchrist (board member-elect), and Dilip Patil (board member-elect).

Many thanks to Margaret Stout and MaryAm Ahmadian for their faithful service as board members over the past several years. They rotate off the board in July; so do I as Chair! Thank you for giving us all the opportunity to provide leadership for CDS!

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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:;;

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Jane's Jottings - May 2020 Notes from the CDS Board Chair

CDS Elections 

I hope everyone is doing alright in the midst of COVID-19. CDS is in the midst of the annual elections (electronically) for the CDS Board of Directors. I would encourage and advise you to cast your ballots soon, as the election closes on May 29. Your CDS membership must be up-to-date to be able to vote (meaning you have paid your annual dues). If you haven't received a ballot by email, please let me know at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  and we will check the membership rolls.

We have a good crew of candidates! Please read their responses to the candidate questions, make your selections, and support them with your vote!

Annual Business Meeting

And along those election lines, new board members will take office immediately after the annual business meeting, which will be held online this summer now that our annual conference has been postponed until July of 2021.

The business meeting would have been held on July 14 had the Fargo conference been able to be held this year. So stay tuned for the new date/time/and instructions for joining into the Annual Business Meeting, once we figure out the method to host over 200 members on Zoom or Go-To Meeting or via semaphores (ha-ha), and that we can ensure that all voting attendees are bonafide members. The general public is also welcome to attend but cannot cast votes on CDS business.

Okay, enough of the business of CDS. My CDS friends, I hope you are doing well, and taking care of one another. I'm always available for ideas, concerns, and/or a welcome chat!

--Jane Leonard, CDS Chair 2019-2020


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Jane's Jottings - April 2020 Notes from the CDS Board Chair

Out of COVID-19: More Equitable & Shared Growth - A More Just Society

by Jane Leonard, CDS Board Chair 2019-2020

In this month’s Vanguard edition, our editor, Lisa Gilchrist, highlights “inequity” – in particular how the COVID-19 pandemic is clearly and deeply exposing inequalities in economic and social systems across the world and closer to home for each of us. Thank you, Lisa, for providing insights, news links, and resources on this evolving dynamic we all share.

The inequity reality commands my attention, having worked for the last two years with a diverse network of Minnesotans and organizations to research and create Minnesota Equity Blueprint - Thriving By Design - Rural & Urban Together - a 170-page compendium of 141 recommendations that chronicle regional and community best practices and inspiring efforts to build a more equitable and inclusive Minnesota (it’s available for a free download at if you’d like some decent reading material in our Stay-At-Home times). We started the effort well before COVID-19 knowing that hidden behind the façade of extraordinary economic growth here in the United States and in my home state are great disparities by region, race, and economic class.

Inequities get (and deserve) even harsher spotlight as numerous articles in state and national media have documented the pandemic’s devastating impact on already fragile low-wage workers who are losing both their jobs and private health-care coverage.   Here in the U.S. impacts are acute also on working women and mothers, on hard-working immigrant communities, on the homeless and on low-income seniors, and on the estimated one-third of American households that even before the outbreak were employed but just one paycheck away from economic calamity.

A New York Times special commentary on April 10, “America Will Struggle After Coronavirus. These Charts Show Why”, reviewed the underlying basic facts and trends of four decades of growing economic and racial inequality. Their series on “The America We Need” describes how we can emerge from this crisis stronger, fairer and more free.

In Minnesota, many of our most underpaid and economically insecure are emerging as the front-line heroes and most essential workers in the coronavirus fight. They are grocery store employees, child-care providers, service workers and delivery people, personal care attendants and nursing home employees, and more.   This extraordinary crisis exposes the severe imbalance and inequities in their compensation as opposed to people in the top half of the income hierarchy.

COVID can be our crucible of long-term change for the better, if we choose. We can build out of this travail an improved socioeconomic contract with one another, for more inclusive and equitable growth and a more just society, so that all of us have the tools, the opportunities, and the fair compensation to thrive together and to weather oncoming adversity, including climate change.

We in the community development field have the tools, resources, and experience that such a massive community healing and rebuilding effort requires. Jump in and help where you can. And please share your ideas and actions on community equity strategies in the face of COVID-19 and beyond. We’ll publish more links and resources in the May Vanguard (please send your examples to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

Take care out there!

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