Because community development is a large part of my life — both professionally and personally — I tend to overlook and underestimate the fear that can exist within local communities when we talk development. The distrust, the fear, and the misunderstandings consistently surprise me. I have learned the importance of community education every step of the way when engaging in any kind of community development project. As we move forward and adopt new strategies for success, it is imperative that we focus on providing education to community members to ensure the community itself is ready and able to embark on these projects.
There is no question that community development must be tailored to meet the needs of the local community. However, we must start thinking about the role of community development in aiding the strengthening of our states, nation, and potential contributions to the global economy. We must frame our thinking about community development strategies to include long-term and far-reaching impacts and how these impacts can promote growth beyond our local communities.
We must also adapt and grow our current community development strategies to be in line with changes in the global marketplace. We need to tailor workforce development initiatives to growing industries where there is current and future demand. Our workforce is our lifeblood and we must ensure that we are adequately training individuals to perform jobs that ensure we, as a nation, are competitive, and ensure that those jobs are sustainable within the frameworks of our local economy. Additionally, digital forms of communication have emerged, and will continue to develop as an essential form of communication. In order to promote our full participation in this growing field, we must keep the importance of digital infrastructure in the forefront of our minds.
The dollars available for community development strategies are changing. Most of my experiences with community development projects have involved some level of government funding — I do not count on this being the case in the future. We must make a concerted effort to involve multiple stakeholders, parties that we may not have traditionally considered as important to our processes, in order to develop the necessary buy-in and financial support to continue our work. We must seek and establish new allies in our fight for our communities.
For me, the future of community development spurs both fear and excitement. I fear the unknown future for community development and hold a fear that stems from the pressures associated with success. I am excited and energized by the possibilities that community development strategies offer and inspired by the need that is always present within our local communities. Practices of community development have been, and will continue to be, paramount in supporting healthy, thriving communities. I am honored to have a small role to play in this valiant effort.