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Course Overview

Explore both the structure and practice of community development around the world. Engage in a critical analysis of different approaches to community development, their historical development and underlying assumptions. Gain an understanding of the structural and practical issues that promote or detract from the goal of community empowerment.

Upon completion of this course participants will be able to:

  • Outline the historical development and underlying assumptions of different approaches to community development.
  • Identify the issues faced by the rapidly changing field of community development.
  • Distill key structures and practices for becoming more effective on the ground.

Testimonials from Past Course Participants for Approaches to Community Development:

“After taking this course my idea of development is more about empowerment of the community than anything else… Having local people trained so they can pass on the knowledge, rather than an outside organization coming in with the high technology and then leaving with the knowledge is key.”

“That seems to be my overall take-away message from this class: the first and most important thing you can do for the people of a community is rekindle their sense of value. Value in themselves, value in their neighbors, and value in their environment. Then there is something worth fighting for.”

“This course has been very eye-opening, and not what I expected – in a good way! I think I expected that Community Development was an established, well-oiled machine rather than a somewhat splintered system going through changes and working hard to remedy its ills. This is the most hopeful: the self-assessment and continual striving to be better at what you do.”

“When I began this journey, I sought out information to help me operate with best practices. The books I read inspired and informed me, but armed me with “methodless enthusiasm” as described by Martinez [a class reading]. I came in like a wrecking ball demanding change. I recognize now that change is slow. I have a greater understanding of the ground up/grassroots approach. Community involvement from the outset is absolutely imperative…The need for aid to move from “palliative to transformative” is the most important lesson these students can learn.”

“The course offered a very comprehensive view of development tracing it from its roots in post World War II to its many different forms practiced today. I felt the most beneficial article dealt with helpers vs. doers and I used this perspective to critically evaluate my role in community development projects in Central America. I have used the insights gained in this course to further steer and guide my coffee project in Costa Rica.”

“This course has provided me with language around why the current development discourse is hard to swallow (its industrialization mind-set) and that has opened doors for me, while allowing me a space to connect the examples I read here, the comments of my peers with my own experiences and skills. It also highlights how locally based ideas can eventually grow to the national and international level”

“I was really glad for the chance to take the Approaches to Community Development Course. Given my schedule this year, it was just what I needed to give me accountability to stay engaged and keep learning while not overwhelming me with more work than I could handle.   I was glad for the expose to articles that I wouldn’t have found on my own and the chance to process those articles with others who are also learning. One bite has made me hungry for more. I’ve gone ahead and signed up for the Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation Course. Thanks to you and to the other staff at Village Earth for making this resource available.”

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Learn more about the VE/CSU Online Certificate Program