Community Development Theory

Community Development Theory is the most practical framework for social workers seeking lasting change for individuals and the communities and societies in which they live. It focuses on the centrality of oppressed people in the process of overcoming externally imposed social problems (Allison Tan, 2009). This theory is community development work because by the meer fact of the definition it speaks for itself. The theory could adapt to other disciplines like Neighborhood Development.

Empowerment Theory

Empowerment Theory refers to the experience of personal growth and an improvement in self-definition that occurs as a result of the development of capabilities and proficiencies (Staples 1990). Another definition suggests that empowerment is a combination of personal strengths, initiative, and natural helping systems to bring about change (Perkins & Zimmerman, 1995). This theory can be applied to community development by empowering the people within the community to develop their own community. The theory can adapt to other disciplines like Sociology.

Ecological Systems Theory

Ecological Systems Theory is a form of general systems theory in which ther is concren with the relations among "living entities" and "between entities and other aspects of their enviroment." This theory can be applied to community development by or through the enviroment because the developer has to check out the environment and it's surroundings first in order to build sucessfully. The theory can adapt th other disicplines like Ecological psychology an general systems theory.



  • Definition: "the basis of sociology's claim to a scientific paradigm which measures human behavior, often in a decontextualized way and with little concern for the more intangible intuitive, emotional or feeling aspects of being human". This theory has basis in dichotomous thought as well as bourgeouis philosophy which looks to empirical science to be the true source of knowledge. See xiv of Ledwith's "Community Development: A Critical Approach". People are looked at in a scientific, objective manner.

  • Apply: A community development situation exemplifying this theory would be where the organizer(s) is looking at the community not as individuals, but as objects needing to be dealed with as a part of the problem solving. There is no thought to how the community members may be feeling about the issue at hand and how they may be affected by the potential changes. If the issue is at the interpersonal level, the practitioner simply looks at the person, decides what they need to solve their problem and does not discuss with them how they might or might not want that change.

  • Adapt: In an effort to do "Positivism", there is not so much positive emotions carried in the work with the community. It is objective; scientific. This can be adapted to be more intuitive to community concerns and desires by looking at scientific research/surveys and considering how change based on that information may effect the people. Further research can be done by the organizer(s) to learn how the community feels about the issues at hand.

Communication Theory

Communication Theory examines any person that behaves in response to information about himself and his environment. when peolpe exchange information , they influence each other (Communication Theory and Social Work Practice by Judith C. Nelson). This theory can be applied to comunnity develpoment by the fact that the develper has to communicate with the peolpe wwithin the community to gain an understanding of what the people need or want to be developed. This theory adapts not only to social work and communicaton but it exists not only as a single entity but as a series of interrelated areas of study.

Naive Consciousness

  • Definition: In the words of Ledwith (Community Development, A Critical Approach) found on page xiv, "Freire's concept for partial empowerment which relates to the symptoms of oppression, engaging with single issues rather than the underlying roots of injustice".
  • Apply: Naive consciousness can be seen in a community situation where the people are dealing with an issue such as poverty, and in the process overlooking the root of the problem and not resolving the issue where it starts. i.e. A person is homeless, and the social worker works to take care of that aspect of their lives while ignoring the issue of that person not having stable income or competitive job skills needed in order to more permanently be out of that homeless situation.
  • Adapt: Also in the situation of working with a homeless person; instead of focusing on just the housing issue, the social worker can collaborate with the consumer, co-workers and other resources in addressing the other issues affecting his/her homelessness. In this way, naive consciousness will no longer only address a single, outstanding problem. Rather, social justice can be more effectively served by looking at the overall issue and its foundation.

Building Powerful Community Organizations

Organizing: Pathway to Change - Organizing as a Strategy, A Theory (Based on Observation): The Imbalance of Power. Defined - An organizing strategy assumes that problems exist in the world because of an imblance of power. (Building Powerful Community Organizations by Michael Jacoby Brown) This theory can by saying that some people have the power to control the lives of others including control over others' work lives, communities, neighborhoods, schools, and their environment. This power includes control what it costs to most people for the necessities of life: health care, transportation, decent housing, education, heat, electricity, and food. This theory can be adapted by the sear fact most people in the world have to fight for all the bear necessities of life. Not including those that have to beg, borrow, and even steal for these necessities that should be provided by either having a well paying job, given due to disabilities, or just provided to those that are taking care of others like parents, chilren's children, and so on.