What in the world is community development?


Here at the Rockwood Community Development Corporation, we often hear the question: “What in the world is community development?”

To answer this question, we think it’s best to start with a basic definition: “Community development is a process where community members come together to take collective action and generate solutions to common problems.”

For us, this means that we work intentionally with community members to solve systems-level issues with systems-level solutions.

What is a system? A system is a combination of public and private sectors defined through policy, power, and personal positions that instills a defined network of structures and hierarchies that get to dictate three very important factors:

Who is normal?

What is normal? And,

How is normalcy achieved?

When we began our work in 2014, we found there were many excellent organizations providing important services in Rockwood and East Multnomah County.

Unfortunately, many of these organizations functioned as silos and the community has not experienced changes at a systems level. While they were doing important relief work by meeting immediate needs, we saw an opportunity for work that addresses systemic problems in the community. We believe this systems-level focus is needed so that long-term change can take place in Rockwood and East Multnomah County.

While relief work is absolutely necessary at times, there is a vast difference between relief and development work. Relief work is done for the community at a time of crisis, and development work is done with the community to address ongoing barriers that prevent a community from thriving.

From the beginning, we have focused intently on development with the community — knowing that community members are best positioned to identify and create solutions to systemic problems.

In fact, all of our initiatives — such as Grandma’s Hands, East County Community Health, Rockwood English Language Initiative, the Shalom Rockwood Network, and the Rockwood Food Systems Collaborative — are focused on development rather than relief.

Each of these initiatives were birthed out of listening to each other as part of an ongoing community dialogue. They are focused on uplifting the community and building long-term solutions to large scale-problems.

We encourage you to get to know more about our work and these important initiatives.

You can follow us on Facebook, or schedule a visit to our community.