What Are the Different Types of Community Development Jobs?

Jan Fletcher

Community development jobs often involve some form of grassroots organizing, or other strategies aimed to increase economic parity in an area. These positions may involve lending assistance and expertise to nonprofits to increase their operating capacity. Providing expert advice in assuring sustainable enterprise is also a common activity in this career field. Many activities in this area involve efforts to increase the quality of life for rural or economically stressed communities. A variety of administrative tasks are often part of community development jobs.

Development directors at community groups write proposals to grant makers.
Development directors at community groups write proposals to grant makers.

Grassroots organizing is a frequent activity in community development jobs, as this is a time-honored approach. This method typically involves coming into a community and doing a variety of educational outreach activities that raise awareness of potentialities for improving community life. Organizers may canvas neighborhoods, host meetings, or groom certain residents to take on leadership roles by teaching them how to use effective grassroots strategies.

Community development professionals often outline initiatives to members of the public during informal meetings.
Community development professionals often outline initiatives to members of the public during informal meetings.

Training and assisting existing nonprofits is also a common activity for those who work in community development jobs. Building an organization’s capacity to assist residents is part of the community organizer's role. For example, nonprofit staff may be trained in fundraising techniques. Community developers may also provide expert assistance to nonprofits in obtaining funding through grants.

Community developers may also offer advice concerning how to increase the number of sustainable enterprises to help ensure ongoing economic viability. For example, a town may be dependent on a solitary resource-extraction industry, like mining. If the mine becomes depleted, or is shuttered for environmental reasons, the community may sink into a deep economic slump. In such a case, the community developer may be tasked with training residents in micro-enterprise in order to increase economic diversity. This strategy is often viewed as a way to prevent the poverty that may plague a town when one company dominates the area politically and economically.

Helping economically stressed communities increase the quality of life for residents is another common activity among community development jobs. Specific tasks in this area may include disease prevention and treatment, improving water and sewer services, or helping farmers increase productivity. Some community developers may work as union organizers, particularly in communities that export produce, or have many residents employed in factories. Union organizers may train workers, teaching them effective techniques to organize labor unions and more effectively advocate for improved pay and working conditions.

Community development jobs may also focus on housing project development. Frequently, there is a need for better housing in migrant-farming communities, and a lack of sanitation is a common concern. Community organizers may use a combination of political action, publicity campaigns, and fundraising to address inadequate housing in communities.

Administrative tasks that are common to many career positions may also be found among community development jobs. People who work in this field may do so as accountants, office managers, or administrators. Depending on the size of the community development organization, these positions may or may not include interaction with members of the communities served.

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