Community development comes in many forms, and from a variety of people interested in improving different aspects of local areas. Involved citizens, political leaders, and activists may all become community developers, working together to advance local policy and participate in regional planning. These individuals must work within the context of the community, the law, and social institutions. Community development tools — such as statutes, negotiation skills, and customized economic planning — can help citizens and policy-makers work together to enhance and enrich neighborhoods.
Constitutions, statutes, and rules are the foundations of community development tools. These regulations direct administrators, informing civic leaders of community expectations and local laws. Activists may work to push political leaders to create new laws, adjust existing laws, or enforce ignored rules.
Conflict negotiation and mediation skills are vital community development tools. Often, community developers attempt to fulfill the needs of diverse groups of people. For example, a group of activists may want the local government to build a community center, while another group of involved citizens doesn’t see the need, or want to pay for such a place. Mediation and negotiation tools can help navigate and compromise situations like this and similar points of conflict.
Cultural development may lead to a more cohesive community that rallies around shared ideals. Communities with a culture tend to draw citizens with similar tastes and values, while giving the neighborhood a sense of identity and pride. This can come in many forms, including naming the neighborhood, associating the community with symbols of pride, holding community events centered on music and the arts, and using public relations tactics when responding to media reports about the area.
Economic development is a series of related community development tools designed to stimulate the local economy, increase tax revenue, and bring jobs into the area. Civil leaders may attempt to attract new businesses by lowering community entry barriers, such as high rent and taxes. Similarly, leaders may change statutes and rules to make operations easier for existing businesses. Small business owners may join together to create community business groups that promote each other and hold neighborhood events.
The success of community development typically hinges on the strategic planning of the area’s political leaders. Such plans are commonly part of a set of community development tools that focus on the area’s strengths, weaknesses, and long-term community plans. Political leaders may analyze finances and create budgets to determine which elements of community development are financially feasible. Depending on available funding, leaders may have to prioritize, or address community issues in order of immediate importance.