Many managers and planners – (USA and international) find themselves making community a central feature of their mission. Community can be a mission in and of itself or community might be seen as a way to achieve other outcomes such as deeper reach in social service delivery. Community building has also emerged as an important approach to rebuilding urban and rural communities through comprehensive strategies. This movement of civil society organizations working in partnership with donors and local policymakers uses a bottom-up approach to create an economic base, reduce poverty and improve the well-being of citizens in particular places. Clearly, effective community building takes place in different sectors and turns on a complex set of community-building skills. Learning from these experiences, and reviewing the context that has given rise to the call for community in so many settings, is the purpose of this half course.
The course will focus one part on context, history and background and one part on the practice of community-building, with an eye to the career goals and preparation of managers and planners.
In the introductory part of the course we will discuss the elasticity of the term “community building,” some historical themes, and how a term originally focused mostly on neighborhood revival in the USA is now also used in the context of building stronger ties among people who share specific interests (e.g., “micro-communities” defined by race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or other special group characteristics) and used by managers who would like to reinvent the workplace around community principles. With community building jargon increasingly entering into management and public policy literatures, managers and planners must understand the parameters of this “movement” and acquaint themselves with some of the skills and developments that people doing this work have found useful.