Although Europe is a ‘wealthy democracy’ where everybody should have guaranteed basic human rights, the reality shows that there are still people being excluded. That is why EuCDN works on inclusion, participation and democracy through the promotion and development of sustainable community development in Europe. In that way EuCDN:
- supports citizens, professionals and policy makers from different countries in Europe;
- endeavours to develop a Europe which functions on the basis of community and participative democracy;
- helps build European civil society through community development.
Three resources are available that provide a Europe-wide perspective on the role and importance of community development:
- The EuCDN Common Framework document is agreed by all EuCDN members and sets out the values, methods, outcomes and approaches that we share.
- The video at the top of this page can be used in training and presentations to say something about the value of community development.
- The Budapest Declaration jointly produced with the International Association for Community Development and the Hungarian Association for Community Development sets out an agenda for advancing community development across Europe which remains relevant today.
Advancing Community Development in Europe
Community development is concerned with working collectively with communities and groups for positive social change, inclusion and equality. It is often described as placing equal emphasis on product and process. Community development is an approach to addressing poverty, social exclusion and inequality that emphasises the participation of those experiencing the issues at all levels of intervention. Community work approaches are also used to build democratic participation and citizen participation.
“Community development has become an activity that contributes to social integration and community cohesion. It is able to increase civil society’s potential to take initiatives and action. It is able to help the transformation or re-establishment of society’s institutional systems; it can bring together the various interests in society and build partnerships at both regional and society-wide levels. Finally, it can increase society’s capacity for democratic self-organisation.”
Community development reflects European principles as:
- a true expression of the Europeanprinciple of subsidiarity, ensuring that decisions, problems and issues are addressed at the lowest possible level;
- democratic and egalitarian: it values all citizens as equal and worthy of inclusion in the process of development;
- social, for it addresses social processes, such as exclusion, inequality, neighbourhood fragmentation, alienation and poverty;
- inclusive, for it seeks to unite divisions across gender and race, promote equality and thereby combat discrimination, racism, xenophobia or socially divisive politics or movements;
- ergonomic, for problems of exclusion are defined and addressed by those who know most about them and who are experiencing them. It provides an efficient means of analysing problems, addressing need and defining solutions;
- political, for it engages with the political process, uses democratic means to redress imbalances and inequalities in decision-making and engages with governmental structures;
- improving, for it drives up the quality of administration through the identification of shortcomings in the public sector;
- effective, for where used, it has empowered people, enabled them to take greater responsibility for their own affairs and led to a greater sense of citizenship. It has also improved public services, ensured a more just allocation of resources, improved the quality of life and has made government more accountable.
Community development is a values-based practice, which leads to concrete, positive outcomes, provided that the process is followed throughout. Community development is a cross-cutting principle which affects a wide range of policies – social inclusion, urban and rural development, planning, the physical environment, employment, spatial segregation, sustainable development, environmental protection and transport.
What do we mean by ‘community’?
The term community is used to refer to geographical communities, communities of interest and communities of shared identity. According to the definition of community, shared by EuCDN members it “embraces locality, common interests and shared identity.” A community can be a cross-section of different communities and individuals are often members of several ‘communities’. The EuCDN definition recognises the distinctiveness of diverse communities, while recognising common patterns across Europe. Links to a number of ‘communities’ increases with increased mobility across Europe. In community development terms a sense of ‘community’ implies a commitment to human rights, solidarity and equality and engagement with the development of civil society. Members of EuCDN all prioritise different areas within community development. Areas of focus include: participative democracy; intercultural mediation; sustainable development; anti-poverty and social exclusion.
The following are some of the terms used for Community Development in Europe:
Samhällsarbete och Mobilisering
The following principles have been identified as core principles shared by members of EuCDN:
- Collective action;
- Equality, Diversity, Tolerance;
- Partnership, Solidarity and Co-operation;
- Creative and Innovative organisation.
Some shared concepts that define what we mean by Community Development:
- Delivers interdisciplinary, professional and independent support to groups of people
- Identifies, together with local people, community problems;
- Increases the empowerment of local people so that they can organise themselves in order to solve problems;
- Turns its attention primarily to people struggling with social deprivation, poverty, inequality and exclusion;
- Contributes to a sustainable community based on mutual respect and social justice;
- Challenges power structures which hinder people’s participation;
- Contributes to the socio-cultural development of the neighbourhood through local people.
 Paul Henderson & Ilona Vercseg, Community Development and Civil Society – Making connections in the European context (Bristol: The Policy Press, 2010), 32 .
The summary of definitions shared by members of EuCDN was drawn mainly from the EuCDN publication “Including the Excluded: From practice to policy in European Community Development”, Policy Press, June 2005.