Editor’s Note Moving Community Development Forward

Which Way Community Development?

The community development field is in an interesting and challenging spot right now. Our new Under the Lens series zooms in and explores this moment in the field.

Illustration by The Linocut LLC

This article is part of the Under the Lens series

Moving Community Development Forward

In this series, we examine the state of the community development field, the challenges and tensions it faces, and some promising approaches to this work.

Community development is many things to many people. Organizations that say they do “community development” work do an average of nine different things, according to the Grounding Values research released last year. Those things vary by the needs and priorities of their communities and constituents. Most do something with development and something with housing, but even that work can vary a lot, from weatherization to single-family construction, to rowhouse rehab and beyond. They also do a ton of other things—including provide services, conduct planning processes, support community building, and carry out advocacy.

That’s one of the reasons why community development has always been so hard to define.

The community development field is in an interesting and challenging spot right now. It is facing the threat of legal action from right-wingers, funders who are getting cold feet about race-explicit remedies, and competition for land and buildings from predatory financial firms. It will likely benefit from the new wave of support for increasing housing supply and dismantling exclusionary zoning, but at the same time it’s still struggling to get funding and attention to the equally crucial need to preserve existing affordable housing.

Those who work in the community development field are recognizing that the field is not immune to the forces of structural racism that pervade other facets of our society, and they are trying to figure out how to change their own processes and procedures to fix that, before it burns out the field’s leaders of color. They are trying to figure out how to work in an expanded housing justice landscape alongside tenant organizers, social housing advocates, resident-controlled housing models, housing supply advocates, and more.

In our new Under the Lens series—Moving Community Development Forward—we start to explore this moment in community development by looking at some recent research on the field. Then we’ll bring you a mix of reported stories and commentary from the field examining challenges, tensions, and promising approaches to questions of identity, alliances, and leadership.

The series launches next week!

We encourage you to weigh in! What does community development mean to you and/or your organization?  Email us at [email protected] with your definition.  

Other Articles in this Series

Moving Community Development Forward