Friday, 17 December 2010

Community development now: time to start preaching to the unconverted In times of exceptional public sector funding constraints, when the state is constantly looking to do more for less, you might think the stage was set for community development to make a lasting impression. But the case still needs to be made, laboriously, to policy makers. Last week, seven days before the publication of the Localism Bill, CDF published the report of its ‘Independent Expert Panel on Community Development’. The report has been based on several background papers and input from across the field: it’s harder than it looks to coordinate that and come up with a series of statements that are more or less coherent and have impact. But we do need to have something we can all sign up to which says things like this: there is a direct and crucial link between CD expertise and the government's desire to promote people's self-reliance, confidence and capability. However the role of CD is not only to support communities to provide self help or to design and deliver better public services. It also has a critical role to play in analysing the underlying causes of the problems facing disadvantaged communities and in developing preventive strategies. It’s good that the panel’s work is to continue. This document feels like it was a necessary clearing of the desk which reveals how different packages are going to be needed for different audiences. There are recommendations for government, foundations, trusts, business, civil society and local government: but the main audience for the report seems to be CD practitioners and organisations themselves. Take this, for example: While there may not be a wider understanding or commitment to CD practice, it is important that CD adopts an open and pluralist approach to those seeking to work with communities rather than adopting a purist ‘walled off’ practice. Because CD lacks confidence and status in the policy context, points like this have to be clarified and consensus gained around them before we all stand up and roll our sleeves up. It’s time to start preaching to the unconverted. What the report suggests to me is that we are now ready for the short punchy document with mini-case studies, that gets sent to elected members and senior local government officers, explaining irresistibly that CD is just what is needed, now, to maximise local social contribution to quality of life.

Recent Comments