Community Development Society

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Community Development, Leadership, and Resilience

Greetings and happy new year to each of you! As we reflect upon 2020 and anticipate the months and years ahead, I am hopeful in this new year that we can be mindful and intentional about our work and its implications for the communities of place, practice, and interest of which we are members.

My identities and professional interests have converged in my role as Chair of the Board of Directors at the intersection of community development and leadership education. For many, terms such as leadership and community development are equally specific yet ambiguous. Most could likely describe what these terms mean; however, there are no universally agreed-upon definitions of either. And still, the same ambiguity could be attributed to resilience. The 2021 conference theme “Global Challenges, Local Resilience” remains prescient as we begin the second year of a global pandemic and ongoing social injustices and anticipate an eventual return to a new normal. In addition to planning the CDS conference, resilience has also remained a focus in my faculty role as we are planning the Iowa State Leadership Experience (ISLE), a one-day student leadership conference with a 2021 theme of “Unified Resilience in Leadership.”

What is resilience?

So, this resilience thing - What is it? Who has it? How do we develop more of it? Far short of a comprehensive scholarly investigation, the following are my thoughts on the intersection of community development, leadership, and resilience, based on my reflections and a collection of resources recently recommended by the Harvard Business Review. I hope we can all reflect upon and incorporate these practical resilience strategies in our roles as community development practitioners and scholars and our roles as global citizens and community members.

LaRae Quy (2020) described resilience as the ability to cope with adversity and obstacles and that it is a product of believing not just in oneself but in something bigger than oneself. Hougaard, Carter, and Mohan (2020) wrote about building resilience in times of crisis such as the pandemic, noting the collective experience of worry, anxiety, and instability and how this impacts our mental state and vulnerability to distractions. The authors wrote that such distractions could lead to negative thinking, obsessive thinking, fear, and helplessness. Diane Coutu (2002), in her research of resilience theories, identified three overlapping characteristics, including acceptance of reality; firmly held values that life is meaningful; and the ability to improvise. Our inability to be together in community has had multiple effects, including a sense of isolation and separation; stigmas, judgments, and blame spreading; and an impulse to adopt a survivalist mindset and behaviors. As a result, “We can easily forget our shared vulnerability and interdependence” (Hougaard, Carter, & Mohan, 2020).

In a study related to the COVID pandemic, Marcus Buckingham (2020) observed no discernible differences in resilience based on gender, age, ethnicity, or nationality. Instead, the study found two primary drivers of resilience, operating independently of a nation’s response to the pandemic. First, resilience is a reactive state of mind created by exposure to suffering from COVID; increased exposure led to increased resilience. In short, we develop resilience by facing reality and responding to it. Second, the more tangible the threat, the more resilient we become. The study found that experiencing multiple work-related changes increased resilience. It is safe to assume that most, if not all of us, have experienced many professional and personal changes and that, perhaps, we are weathering the ongoing crises more resiliently than we may realize.

Authors Shawn Achor and Michelle Gielan (2016) examined resilience through the tendency for many of us to be workaholics and the importance of pausing for recovery amid our work and resilience development. I note here my feelings of guilt over the past year seeking a balance between a need to feel productive and a need for self-preservation, all the while trying (and often failing) to perform at a pre-pandemic level.

What are some strategies for developing mindfulness and resilience?

While this is not an exhaustive or empirically definitive set of tasks for developing resilience, there are some common themes across the resources I reviewed. Broadly, we are encouraged to develop greater self-awareness and preservation, accept reality and respond appropriately, and maintain belief in the power of community and coexistence. What can we do?

  • Don’t sugarcoat or minimize reality; embrace it, improvise in response to it, and prepare for some changes to remain permanent as we find a “new normal” (Buckingham, 2020; Coutu, 2002)
  • Build mindfulness (e.g., attention control, emotion regulation, increased self-awareness; focusing on your responses to situations and what you can control) and strategically stop your work to recover and recharge (Achor & Geilan, 2016; Quy, 2020)
  • Develop competence and commitment by taking responsibility for your success; find your “zone of competence” and by searching for meaning and developing a sense of purpose (Coutu, 2002); Quy, 2020)
  • Compassionately connect with others, which I believe is crucial to community and leadership development. We must start with compassion - to question how we can help those around us have a better day - to see and seize upon possibilities (Hougaard, Carter, & Mohan, 2020).

Relevance in 2021 and Beyond

My final thoughts are related to the timeliness and relevance of focusing on community development, leadership, and resilience. Are these topics merely fashionable in times of crisis, or are they more enduring even if seemingly less critical during times of stability and peace? Coutu (2002) recalled an industry leader who described resilience as a popular buzzword yet something one realizes they have only after the fact, while Quy (2020) explained that resilience is universal, involving thoughts, behaviors, and emotions that anyone can master.

As a leadership educator, I see parallels between Quy’s notion that everyone can be resilient and believe that everyone can learn to lead and engage in the leadership process. I consciously encourage students in my leadership courses to make personal connections to the discipline so that leadership is not just a buzzword on their applications for jobs and advanced education. To draw further connections, each of us has the potential and responsibility to engage in community development. We should be sure to acknowledge the vital work being done around us by those who might consider this work by another name or something other than community development altogether. My challenge to myself and our CD peers and fellow global citizens is to be mindful, engaged, and inclusive in mainstreaming our work and passions in both good times and in bad. I believe the very name of this publication – the CDS Vanguard – which is by definition “a group of people leading the way in new developments or ideas” (Merriam-Webster, n.d.) is reflective of this challenge. How will you lead the way in 2021 and beyond? You might start by planning to join us for the CDS Annual International Conference.

The Local Host Committee developed plans for the 2020 conference, now to be hosted virtually July 12-15, 2021 (learn more and register here), with an intentional focus on our individual and collective roles and responsibilities in community development practice and scholarship. The conference will explore how community developers, organizers, and leaders pursue local resilience in light of global challenges and how local actions contribute specifically to global resilience in the face of climate change, refugee migration, workforce and trade disruption, and other challenges. I suspect the conference, the keynote speakers, and the richly diverse posters and presentations will continue to inform and inspire our work at the intersections of community development, leadership, and resilience.


Achor, S. & Geilan, M. (2016). Resilience is about how you recharge, not how you endure. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved January 9, 2021, from:

Buckingham, M. (2020). What really makes us resilient? Harvard Business Review. Retrieved January 9, 2021, from:

Coutu, D. (2002). How resilience works. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved January 9, 2021, from:

Hougaard, R., Carter, J., & Mohan, M. (2020). Build your resilience in the face of a crisis. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from

Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Vanguard. In Merriam-Webster dictionary. Retrieved January 9, 2021 from

Quy, L. (2020). Building Resilience When Life is Not Perfect. Smart Brief. Retrieved January 9, 2021, from:

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CDS Launches Companion Journal

By Rhonda G. Phillips
Local Development & Society is a new journal for bringing together locally-focused aspects across domains in social and economic systems. Interest in localism is on the rise around the world, and we seek to create a repository of cross-disciplinary academic research in local contexts that will be integrated with national, provincial, state, and community practices. The journal will explore potentials and limitations of local growth and test evidence from academic research and practice against relevance in local societies. 
The journal welcomes original research manuscripts as well as overview, perspectives and case studies. Additionally, we encourage reviews of programs, policies or organizations for locally-focused work. Areas of interest include but are not limited to planning, geography, economics, sociology and other disciplines. The scope is global and of interest to diverse social scientists, planners, researchers, policy makers, students, and practitioners in fields that influence local development. 
For more information, see The inaugural issue is now available and note that access to the journal is included for CDS members. Feel free to reach out to any member of our editorial team for more information and submit your article or review! A few special issues are planned as well and we'll send out invitations to those as well. Rhonda Phillips, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and Norman Walzer, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. serve as founding co-editors and we invite you to Editorial team and board members at:
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Membership Committee - looking to the future

Update from Cornel Hart
Vice Chair Operations
Membership Committee Structure
December 2020


Dear current, past and future CDS members,

CDS has gone through a significant number of changes since 2018. One of which was to streamline our organizational structure towards more effective functioning and participation of our members. This month you will read all about the different Committees of CDS.

I wish to share with you the Role and Functions of the Membership Committee that I chair and its respective Sub-Committees and chairs.

We invite you to participate in any one or more of these sub-committees as we build our Society to be a ‘Home for all Community Development Practitioners (CDPs)’.

The Membership Committee is chaired by the VC-Operations and consists of Sub-committee chairs and ad-hoc members who wish to also participate at this level. This committee recruits, serves and retains members of CDS as well as supports the CDS Chapters. We see this committee as the ‘engine room’ of our Society that must collectively work with current members to grow our Society and become more effective in serving CDPs.

The Membership Committee’s theme for 2020/21 is: Reinventing our Society for systemic change in the 21st Century, and the following sub-committees are all geared up to take us towards this change.


Membership Org Structure

Recruitment & Retention Sub-Committee – Chair - Ron Hustedde


This committee encourages CDS membership retention and expansion. As part of this effort, we report our activities to the CDS Vice Chair of Operations. We also cooperate with the paid CDS staff member who is responsible for operations and collection of membership fees.

To find out more about the goals and projects of this committee and/or to join in all the excitement; please contact Ron at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Chapters Sub-Committee - Chair – Mary Simon Leuci


This committee encourages regional groups within and beyond the United States to form chapters for local interaction and activities. It also supports the CDS Student Chapter in its work to engage budding practitioners and scholars in the Society's operations. All chapters receive guidance and support in meeting CDS guidelines. It also supports an international working group for engagement with CDS and all aspects of the Membership and Recruitment Committee.

To find out more about the goals and projects of this committee and/or to join in all the excitement; please contact Mary at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Engagement & Communications Sub-Committee – Chair - Lisa Gilchrist


This committee keeps the pulse of our Society and its members. Through the Vanguard newsletter, updates are shared, and Society business is published. The CD Practice provides an opportunity for sharing innovative approaches, tools, and techniques that can be readily applied by community development practitioners. The committee continuously identifies ways to increase engagement and gain insight into member needs and interests. A cornerstone initiative for this year will be the CDS member survey to assist with Reinventing our Society for systemic change in the 21st Century.

To find out more about the goals and initiatives of this committee and/or to join in all the communication and engagement for CDS; please contact Lisa at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Awards & Recognition Sub-Committee – Chair - Cornel Hart (interim)

This committee oversees the process for issuing annual awards for CDS, which recognize outstanding achievements and volunteer efforts for those who assist the society. The committee also recognizes outgoing board members for the society.

We are currently looking for a chairperson to lead this sub-committee. To find out more about the goals and projects of this committee and/or to join or chair this committee; please contact Cornel at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Chair's Update: October 2020

The fall weather descending upon the Midwest is a reminder that we are ushering in another season and its associated changes. We have spent the better part of this calendar year navigating anxiety about the present and uncertainty about the future. Personally, as someone excited about the future, I have struggled to cope with having no real endpoint to COVID, and I have questioned the sustainability of strategies we have adopted to get by. However, one thing has remained unchanged, and that is the need for accepting personal responsibility for the well-being of our immediate and extended groups. Never before have I appreciated the value of community and our role in its collective development and maintenance.

As we near the end of the first quarter since the annual business meeting, the board has been actively engaged on several issues. In this and subsequent issues of the Vanguard, you will find important updates regarding the Society's business. First, you can find the minutes of the annual business meeting here. Second, I would like you to join me in welcoming Dr. Maryam Ahmadian back to the Board of Directors. Maryam, a candidate for reelection this year, was invited to fill the remaining two-year term of the Director position vacated by Dr. Cornel Hart, who transitioned to the Vice Chair of Operations. The fully staffed and engaged board has met twice since the summer virtual business meeting held in place of the annual conference.

2021 Conference Update: On that note, the Board of Directors formally accepted the Fargo local host committee's recommendation to hold the 2021 annual international conference virtually. Additional details will be available from Justin Fallon Dollard, Vice Chair of Programs elsewhere in this issue of the Vanguard, and upcoming communications.

Committee Updates: We have collectively been working to more fully operationalize the new committee structure adopted with the revised bylaws in 2019. The standing committee chairs have worked over the last couple of months to recruit CDS members to bring the work of the committees to life. If you are interested in joining one or more standing committees or sub-committees as a member or in a leadership role, please communicate with the appropriate chair/board liaison:

  • Membership:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Vice Chair of Operations (sub-committees: Awards & Recognition; Chapters; Communication & Engagement; Recruitment & Retention)
  • Nominations: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Secretary
  • Programs: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Vice Chair of Programs (sub-committees: Conference; Professional Development; ad hoc committees: Academic Accreditation; Editorial RFP)
  • Stewardship: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Treasurer (sub-committees: Donor Relations; Scholarships)

Current Initiatives: Some of the initiatives of committees currently in development include revisiting and updating the CDS Principles of Good Practice, re-launching the CDS Membership Survey, and new publications in Community Development Journal, CD Practice, and Local Development & Society. You can look forward to updates on these initiatives and others in the coming months.

Engagement Opportunities: Lastly, and an important call to all CDS members, we are actively seeking to develop and offer ongoing engagement opportunities leading up to and in addition to the annual international conference. We envision these opportunities would be more interactive and/or discussion-oriented, as opposed to a lecture or traditional webinar format. However, details are still taking shape. If you are interested in developing this programming either behind the scenes or as a presenter/facilitator, please reach out to me directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

My best wishes to you and yours for continued health and well-being as we continue navigating our current reality. As always, the rest of the board and I remain available as resources to you, and we appreciate your continued membership in and support of the Community Development Society.

In service,


Kyle Patrick Williams, Ph.D.
Chair, Board of Directors
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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