Monday, May 23, 2011

Top CD Ideas?

"Thinking back on the ideas that have really made a difference and stood the test of time, I settle on three: creation and expansion of community development corporations (and their intermediaries), the practice of asset-based community development, and vehicles to provide affordable capital. These three ideas encompass the essential elements of any change strategy: a structure for change, a vision for change, and a strategy for change."

Suzanne Morse, Communities Revisited: The Best Ideas of the Last Hundred Years, The National Civic Review, Vol 100, No 1. Spring 2011.

It's worth saying that the goal of community development is to help create resilient, connected, opportunity-rich, connected, affordable, and engaged communities, transcending all dichotomies and deadends of people or place thinking.

Of course, I have to ask, why just three big ideas? And why pick three from the last fifty years (two from the last thirty) while saying you are looking at the whole century. What might one find in those lonesome years.

Well, community organizing from the 1930s on would be one idea. The notion that people can obtain power for the betterment of their communities by joining together. A variant of organizing would be the advocacy-type planning that helped stopped highways, urban renewal, etc.

Settlement houses are of a different vintage -- but might be included under CDCs and neighborhood resource centers. Maybe the discovery of neighborhood or community as a nexus for engagement, investment, and development would be worth considering. This wasn't a given.

A few recent ideas are worth considing, perhaps as amendments or revisions to CDCs, etc. Community building became a counter trend to the narrow physical development focus of CDCs in the 1980s. There's recently been a rebound to the older, more holistic version of community development. And today the buzz is about regional equity -- in organizing, policy, and development. CDCs are not always nimble enough to play in the "outside game."

Picking a few important ideas is a useful exercise. What else isn't on the list?

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