We need professional intervention. Which of the many professions can we look to? The political or legal profession? Both are too enamoured with an adversarial approach. Business and financial leaders? The last couple of years should shy us off that road. Academia perhaps? Certainly academics have supplied us with compelling analysis and information, but lack the capacity to translate that into a common vocabulary or action. Perhaps professionals from within the sporting or musical arenas can inspire us? Notwithstanding the worthy efforts of the likes of Bono or Sir Bob Geldof, celebrities have not been able to initiate widespread change beyond big-scale, high-profile events that come and go like, well - pop songs.
The profession of Community Development has many attributes going for it that other professions do not. Community Development professionals:
- Attempt to work in a consensus model, respecting the contributions of all.
- Seek to empower people no matter what their status.
- Espouse a vision of equity, social justice, respect and diversity.
- Understand the connections between people and their environment.
- Work in an holistic manner.
- Take a bottom-up, rather than top-down approach.
- Realise that community development requires a long-term, sustainable strategy.
- Recognise that in order to solve many of our problems, we need to look for underlying causes and not just treat symptoms.
- Understand the need to have a big picture, yet are able to work at a local level.
- Reject the notion of the “expert” and put their faith in the collective wisdom of local communities.
Let us not get complacent however. Professionals acting within a community development framework have some serious work and thinking to do. To help guide us through the many and complex issues facing humanity over the coming decades community development practitioners must think about:
- Becoming community educators, enabling communities to understand the forces at work in society that have shaped our predicaments.
- Furthermore, helping communities to understand that global forces are having serious impacts upon local lifestyles and vice versa.
- Enabling communities to understand that climate change and environmental breakdown will impact seriously on the lifestyles that we have become used to.
- Also enabling communities to understand that corporate globalisation seriously impacts upon the wellbeing of local communities throughout the world.
- So much so that, community development/education professionals will need to understand and be able to translate the message that our current lifestyles are no longer sustainable.
- Assisting communities to become resilient in the face of possible breakdown.
- Helping communities establish alternative economies, workplaces, transport, agriculture, energy production, leisure and recreation.
- Empowering communities to discover forms of governance and public decision-making that encompass diversity and broad participation without giving rise to party politics or career politicians.
The role of community development professionals must be to act as change agents to help society reject its current unhealthy lifestyle and find a way of living that is sustainable, just and equitable.