Working in Community Development
While many communities have spontaneously arisen due to flukes of geography or natural resources found in the area, most long term successful communities are actually very consciously created. This highlights the importance of having as strong community economic development team that has the vision to shape a community in such a way as to ensure the long term viability of the community.
While this is true in every community, it is even more important in areas where economic development has faltered. In areas such as rural communities that once relied on heavy employment in farming or resource based economies this is an especially important focus for communities. The question of how to rebuild urban areas that have been devastated by economic shocks in an equitable manner that does not impose gentrification on currently existent communities is another challenging proposition.
Even for regions that have had a long history of sustainable growth, the importance of Community Development cannot be overstated. There are a few different educational routes one can use to purse employment in Community Development.
A person working on Community Development can have a substantial impact on their community in a variety of ways, including but not limited to:
- Implementing environmental sustainability initiatives to make sure the development is environmentally sustainable in addition to being economically sustainable
- Educating small business owners and community partners on zoning ordinances
- Facilitating the acquisition of financing for economic development projects
- Discovering untapped potential in community real estate
- Acting as a liaison for the community with potential sources of State and Federal funding
- Writing comprehensive reports on community economic potential
- Boosting the local economy
- Increasing the local tax base
- Reduces poverty in the community through job creation
Community Development is especially key in rural areas where demographic and economic changes have caused the community to begin to shrink and move toward being unviable in the long term. In the case of rural communities, a balance must be struck between providing economic opportunities sufficient to keep young people employed and therefore living locally and also making sure that the quality of life provided by a rural community is not undermined in the process. This is a challenging task and one that will require foresight and creativity.
For urban areas that have suffered from economic malaise the bigger task is figuring out how to grow economically without uprooting existing populations. This is a task that will require a high degree of historical perspective and also cultural competency. By having a historical outlook you can understand how economic shifts caused the current urban decay and also have appropriate sensitivity for people who currently inhabit an area. With cultural competency you will have the empathy required to make sure that stakeholders in the community are heard and embraced as partners in community development.
There are a variety of educational routes one can take to embark on a career in Community Development. Having a Bachelor’s degree in Economics or Community Development can get one started in an entry level capacity within Community Development teams. However, if you wish to immediately join in a position with more influence you will want to consider pursuing a Master of Public Planning, a Master of Urban Planning, Master of Economic Development or a Master of Community Economic Development. All of these degrees will give one the baseline knowledge and skills required to make an immediate impact in your city or town’s Community Development team.