Community Development is Risks and Resources

Community development is a funny thing, because the basic definition is so general – basically, “people helping people to make things better.”

The range of possible actions is extremely broad. This can lead perhaps to an overblown sense of what it is, and an overwhelming sense of how to do it.

From the standpoint of local community development, much insight can be gained by reducing “development” to the relationship of two things: risks and resources. That is, the consideration of the gains and losses that may occur as resources are managed.

Local communities have a range of resources already in place, and a range of risks, or potential losses that can happen depending on how these resources are managed.

This is a simplistic way of looking at community development but if we give it some practical form, we can help make the potential outcomes clearer.


Let’s say a community has a senior center and a food bank, and someone suggests networking the two in order to improve services to the elder population. Sounds like it might be a good idea, but there are practical steps to take in dispensing food: who will qualify, what food to offer, and how to dispense the food. Each of these decisions can offer positives and negatives, requiring some form of assessment in order to understand what the best choices are.

Risks and choices.

Who will qualify? Population age, health, income level.
What food to offer? Quality. Extras like alcohol, cigarettes. Quantity.
How to dispense? Living status. Transportation availability. Physical challenges.

Each of these items can be mapped to illustrate the relative benefits and risks they represent.

The main issues for local community development are:
Identifying the resources that are available.
Identifying the risks, or gains and losses, in utilizing resources.