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Thread: The topic of community development

  1. #1

    The topic of community development

    Are there someones who can introduce the field of community development in urban planning?
    I have to write a writing sample for my application for the Ph.D program in urban planning. And I have to choose a topic. I would like to write some thing about the commnunity development. However, I do not know what kind of the topic is proper. And I can not find out the academic wedsite about that. I find out some books in the library. But those books seems to be the works of sociology rather than the the works of urban planning. Or some books only explain the procedures of the community development planning rather than the academic studies.

    So I was wondering if anyone can explain what topics do the field of community development often research?

    Because I do not like the economics, I want to find out a topic from the social or cultural perspective. Therefore, what are the difference between the research concerning the community development in sociology and in urban planning.

    Is there anyone who would like to recommend some books, leading academic journals, or prestigious professors? I do not know how to write the academic paper in this field at present.

    Are there some hot topics in this field?

    I would like to apply for the Ph.D program in this year, but I have not preprare any material now. So I was wondering if I have the enough time to complete them. At last, I will appreciate any infornation or idea. Thank your very much.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
    May 2005
    New Town
    Ni hau ma?

    In the US, community development typically addresses topics such as:

    economic development - issues surrounding the creation and retention of jobs, support for small businesses, attracting large employers, shifting from one type of economy to another (Pittsburgh, for example, is shifting from an industrial steel town to a high tech industry), Main Street programs and so on. Depending on the nature of one’s work, it is not necessary to be an economist to work in this area.

    Housing - particularly the issue of “affordable” housing, but also things like containing sprawl, encouraging adaptive reuses of buildings, ensuring housing stock and housing demand are in line with each other, etc.

    Firstly, you might try looking at planning literature related to these subtopics and see what you come up with. Community development also deals with other aspects of “improving” (developing) a particular area. Using the arts to drive renewal, the establishment of public markets, community gardens, developing community events/celebrations, etc. would also be considered community development.

    Both community development corporations (CDCs), which are non-governmental organizations, and municipalities with City departments devoted to these topics deal with jobs and housing. It would be interesting to compare and contrast the different ways these entities go about accomplishing their work to assess their efficacy.

    Bear in mind that the term “planning” is not as widely used in the “developing” world. There, “development” is more common. If you look at various UN agencies, the World Bank, or individual country programs (USAID = US Agency on International development, or something like that), “planning” is not often used. So, depending on where you plan to focus your work, you may adjust your searches accordingly.

    Good luck!

    Zai jen
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  3. #3
    Thanks a lot wahday. Your reply is very helpful.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian yesteryear's avatar
    Apr 2006
    No Cal
    You're not the only one having a hard time defining these things, as there are lots of "gray" areas. The California Association for Local Economic Development has some interesting definitions of economic development that you might check out. Also - there aren't a whole lot of books out there that cover both subjects in a synergistic way, which would be interesting... at least I havent found many. So if you do, please pass on the titles!

    Here's the CALED website:

  5. #5
    Sep 2006
    Saltair, British Columbia
    For what it's worth, I'd like to weigh in on the discussion of what is community development. As I learned it and have practiced it for 40 years now, it's about bringing people together to improve their community whilst strengthening their sense of community. One of its many forms is economic development, but many, many community development projects are not about economic development at all. Projects may be about community arts, juvenile problems, substance abuse, transportation, mental health or any other community issue. So, the two - community development and economic development - are not one and the same. One may, in fact, be practicing economic development in ways that are antithetical to community development values and methods, such as not open, participatory, democratic, etc. There's a lot of that that goes on!

    The Community Development Society web site is a good place to get introduced to the topic.Google will get you there.

  6. #6
    Jan 2006
    Toronto, Ontario
    People who study community development within Environmental Studies at York U often look at things like community gardening, the effects of the housing market on community formation (eg. problems of condos with only singles or difficulties for seniors to find affordable rental housing in certain areas), the effects of gentrification and slum clearance on immigrant and economically marginalized communities, the role of participatory art in community development, etc.

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