The name of this blog, Rainbow Juice, is intentional.
The rainbow signifies unity from diversity. It is holistic. The arch suggests the idea of looking at the over-arching concepts: the big picture. To create a rainbow requires air, fire (the sun) and water (raindrops) and us to see it from the earth.
Juice suggests an extract; hence rainbow juice is extracting the elements from the rainbow, translating them and making them accessible to us. Juice also refreshes us and here it symbolises our nutritional quest for understanding, compassion and enlightenment.

Tuesday 30 April 2013

Community Development: Vocation, Profession or Occupation?

When I stumbled across the term “community development” in the 1970s it was exciting.  Here was a collegial group with a body of knowledge, a strong sense of community values and the espoused goal of social change.

Community Development workers and theorists unashamedly advocated for and worked with those sectors of society that were disadvantaged, disempowered or marginalised.  Community Development was a vocation in the sense of a calling.  From the Latin vocatus (calling), a vocation originally was applied to the likes of a “religious calling.”  It has a sense of life’s purpose or at least a sense whereby what one did, one did for the betterment of society, for something greater than oneself.

As Community Development grew it became a profession.  In common with other professions, Community Development established a cognitive base, collegial support and mentoring, professional training and a commitment to excellence.

Profession derives from the Latin professus – “arrived”, or “having declared publicly.”  Community Development workers publicly professed a commitment to equity, community empowerment and social change.

With the training came qualifications and the emergence of community development “experts” along with salaried positions in government departments and other bureaucracies.  In and of itself, this development was not too contentious.  What did cheapen and undermine the vocation of community development though were two attendant phenomena.

Over the past decade or two there appears to have been a shift in the motivation of some of those entering the practice of community development.  Many still enter with a sense of a calling, there are many who are true professionals.  But, what is alarming is that for some Community Development is nothing but an occupation.

Allied to this, and possibly stimulating it, is the take-over of Community Development by a management or business mentality.  This mentality reduces Community Development to nothing more than a means by which communities are presented with some semblance of engagement yet remain excluded from resources and power.

So what sort of activity is Community Development?  Is it a vocation, a profession or an occupation?

Let’s re-discover our calling.


  1. Of the three, I consider it a profession. I think calling it a vocation almost minimizes its importance personally. Great post Bruce.

  2. Good point Keith. I'd like to think of it as both a profession and a vocation. As a profession it gives the impression that one is serious about the work and brings to it a thoughtfulness and analytical mind. A vocation for me suggests the passion and compassion needed. Most certainly, treating it as simply an occupation does both the profession a disservice as well as those for whom a community development worker is working with.


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