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In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Community Development

Introduction, introductory works.

  • Theories of Development
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  • Asset-based Community Development
  • Community Building
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  • Community Organizing, Collaboration, and Coalition Building
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  • Specific Populations and Case Studies

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Community Development by Frances Dunn Butterfoss LAST REVIEWED: 23 August 2017 LAST MODIFIED: 23 August 2017 DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0192

Community development, also known as community economic development, is a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary field. Practitioners and scholars representing disciplines such as urban planning, social work, rural sociology, public health, and international development have developed its many models and methods. The concept of community development incorporates two elements. The concept of “community” refers to people who reside in a particular geographic location, such as a neighborhood, village, industrial corridor, rural area, or small town, and who interact with each other and share common characteristics, such as interests, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, culture, or activities. The concept of “development” refers to economic development as part of a planned change effort to improve the standard of living and well-being of people. Typically, community development targets local communities beset with economic and social problems, such as concentrations of poverty, high crime rates, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, outdated infrastructure, unemployment, and a poor economy. The specific objectives of community development depend, however, not only on the needs of the local community, but also on the interests of the organization or group initiating the development activity.

Johnson Butterfield and Korazim-Korosy 2007 points out the interdisciplinary and international nature of the field of community development. Since it is impossible to cover all the ways that community development is implemented in countries around the world, the books listed below provide some reference to the practice of community development in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Community development practice is bounded by policies and legislation in the various countries where it is practiced. There are, however, commonalities in the practice of community development that emerge, and practitioners in one country can learn from the community development approaches in other countries. Halpern 1995 provides a history of initiatives to address poverty in the United States up through the 20th century. Chaskin, et al. 2001 outlines four areas of community development—leadership development; organizational development; community organizing; and collaboration, partnerships, and organizational networks—as key elements of community development drawn from research on comprehensive community initiatives. Campfens 1997 is a major work on community development that provides deep insight into efforts at community development around the world. Starting with the definitions of “community,” Somerville 2011 brings UK models and methods into focus. Craig, et al. 2011 is a reader than spans sixty years of community development efforts in the United Kingdom and countries across the world. DeFilippis and Saegert 2007 is a collection of critical and important articles that define the field of community development in the United States. Emerging areas of community development include inner-city business development, improving community safety, and efforts to build human capital and social capital through labor markets, youth development, and schools in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Brophy and Shabecoff 2001 is an important contribution as a guide to careers in community development.

Brophy, C., and A. Shabecoff. 2001. A guide to careers in community development . Washington, DC: Island Press.

Provides information about the various and multiple possibilities for careers in community development.

Campfens, H., ed. 1997. Community development around the world: Practice, theory, research , training . Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press.

A seminal work on community development that includes practice, theory, research, and training.

Chaskin, R., P. Brown, S. Venkatesh, and A. Vidal. 2001. Building community capacity . New York: Aldine DeGruyter.

Provides a conceptual framework for community development by outlining four areas of capacity building in comprehensive initiatives.

Craig, G., K. Popple, M. Shaw, and M. Taylor. 2011. The community development reader: History, themes, and issues . Bristol, UK: Policy Press.

Offers a view of international development over the sixty years prior to publication, from best practices and research.

DeFilippis, J., and S. Saegert, eds. 2007. The community development reader . New York: Routledge.

A compilation of major articles that together bring students and scholars up to date on the state of community development in the United States.

Halpern, R. 1995. Rebuilding the inner city: A history of neighborhood initiatives to address poverty in the United States . New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

An excellent historical review of efforts to address poverty through policies and programs in the United States.

Johnson Butterfield, A. K., and Y. Korazim-Korosy. 2007. Interdisciplinary community development: International perspectives . Binghamton, NY: Haworth.

Includes an examination of the concept of interdisciplinarity in community development, with examples from best practices and research from around the world.

Somerville, P. 2011. Understanding community: Politics, policy and practice . Bristol, UK: Policy Press.

Emphasizes the concept of the beloved community within the UK context.

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Peter Walker, Social Work and Community Development, Community Development Journal , Volume 51, Issue 3, July 2016, Pages 452–454, https://doi.org/10.1093/cdj/bsw013

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Social work and community development have always been uneasy bedfellows. On one hand, community development is seen as one of the tools used by social workers working in community settings, and it is recognised as a skilled practice within social work education. On the other hand, community development is a discipline in its own right with its own values, theory and practice history, and/or it is associated with other disciplines that are wide-ranging in scope, from citizen scientists to health settings, Sociology and Geography to name a few.

One of the key points of difference between the discursive positions of social work and community development is the consideration of power and the position of experts. Social work in the neo-liberal and (possibly) post-neo-liberal era has moved to a position of claiming the expert role through legislative powers, mandatory degree and qualification pathways and registration in some locales, whilst community development in contrast tends to focus on the transferral of power to the community and on engaging the expertise already within that community to generate and meet local needs. This difference links to social and cultural capital as conceived by Bourdieu (1986) , who highlighted that capital in all its senses (economic, social and cultural) was a power resource for class conflict and could be used by communities to gain self-determination and enhance participatory governance. As such there are often conflicts between social work and community development in the acknowledgment that community development practice may be, at times, oppositional to social work practice. Community development may not always be bottom-up in process, thus positioning the definition and practice of community development as a site for possible capture by competing forces such as the state and larger organisations that may engage in top-down provision of community engagement for their own ends. So it is into this uneasy relationship that Forde and Lynch enter with their new book ‘ Social Work and Community Development ’.

There are many texts that focus on social work practice, theory and policy and a number of works that do the same within the community development field, but few books attempt to bring together both disciplines into the same discussion, treating them as equal and closely related disciplines with much to offer each other. The great majority of ‘pure’ social work texts tend to highlight micro-practice and theory building from a psychological approach. If they do cover organisational or social policy and community practice and theory, these are relegated to a peripheral position, as an add-on to micro-practice. This book highlights the relationship between the two treating both disciplines as equal and it engages with the ways of working that each discipline can bring to the other. As mentioned earlier community development work is not a subset of social work, but social work texts tend to position it as such. ‘ Social Work and Commun ity Development’ does not fall into this trap instead engaging in a frank and open discussion of their relationship.

The great strength of this work is that Forde and Lynch grapple with these issues throughout. They draw upon multiple examples of this relationship within various places, space, historical and present contexts in a clear analytical manner. The comprehensive content draws links between practice, policy, politics and theoretical approaches. To do this, they outline and critically engage with the relationship between social work and community development. As part of this discussion, Forde and Lynch outline the challenges to social work theory and practice that community development offers by examining structural and radical social work theory and practice to engage with the root causes of oppression and exploring bottom-up methods of empowerment and consciousness-raising to engage in change practice. They argue that critical realism offers a useful way to view social work in the current era seeking a global perspective to explore both new flexible understandings of social work and also new ways of achieving change. The benefit of this book in this discussion is the outlining of the challenges that critical community development practice and theory and creative activism bring to social work and therefore it seems that social workers would benefit most from this work.

The content is very readable and engaging and offers a clear resource for community development and social work practitioners, educators and students to explore critical social work practice, including community engagement in an era of growing economic, geo-political, social and environmental uncertainty. The material covered includes sections on social work theory, connecting principles, values and practice, creative activism, identifying and challenging dominant discourses, the methods and processes of community development, human rights and critical practice. Each chapter finishes with a set of main points and clear and well-constructed questions, case studies and/or practice examples that elicit further points for discussion thus allowing the reader to locate and apply the material within their own particular context. But further, this allows for cross-context discussion and comparison thus equipping readers with alternatives that offer different ways of working than those presented in traditional social work texts. The material is wide ranging and not driven by a bland singular version of practice and policy but engages at the margins to seek new ways of operating.

This book should be included in social work courses that offer community development papers and modules and community development courses that wish to explore their relationship with social work. In addition, those social work courses that do not offer community development models should read this book and challenge themselves to include community development modules or papers to reflect the ever-changing environment within which social work and community development are practiced to make them relevant in the current uncertain era.

I highly recommend this work and will be utilising it in the community development papers we teach.

Bourdieu , P. ( 1986 ) The forms of capital , in J. G. Richardson , ed, Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education , Greenwood Press , New York , pp. 241 – 258 .

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Community Development Approaches, Activities, and Issues

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community development social work essay

  • Manohar Pawar 4  

Part of the book series: Social Work ((SOWO))

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By recognizing the increasing focus on community development projects and programs, this chapter discusses the concept and changing nature of communities and various agents (people and communities, faith-based organizations and charities, government and nongovernment organization, corporates and philanthropies/foundations) engaged in and approaches used for community development activities. Further, in a summary form, the chapter looks at important strategies for and a range of community development activities. Finally, it points out some of the important challenges such as enhancing participation, dealing with top-down approaches, a lack of consultation, incongruence between needs and programs, low uptake of or dependency on services, a lack of coordination, elite capture, and reaching out to rural and remote areas in community development work with a hope that these challenges can be proactively overcome to sustain community development activities.

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Pawar, M. (2020). Community Development Approaches, Activities, and Issues. In: Todd, S., Drolet, J. (eds) Community Practice and Social Development in Social Work. Social Work. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-13-1542-8_14-1

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3 Theories, Approaches, and Frameworks in Community Work

Sama Bassidj, MSW, RSW and Dr. Mahbub Hasan MSW, Ph.D.

  • Why Is Theory Important in Community Work?
  • Systems Theory
  • Anti-Oppressive Practice
  • Cultural Humility and Cultural Safety
  • Indigenous Worldviews


This chapter focuses on theories and why theories are required in community development practice. There are many theories in social work; however, we will discuss four main theories that community workers should integrate into their practice. These theories are Systems Theory, Anti-Oppressive Practice, Cultural Humility and Safety, and Indigenous Worldviews.

1. Why Is Theory Important in Community Work?

Theories help us make sense of the world – and communities – around us. They allow us to explore problems and solutions with evidence and research to support our practice, instead of grasping at straws. This is particularly important as community workers need to be aware of personal assumptions and biases that may interfere with effective community practice.

Theories may also help us avoid doing harm , unintentionally . Good intentions are not enough for community development work. As social service professionals, it is critical for us to be aware of the ways that our work can perpetuate harm and oppression – and intentionally take steps to disrupt harmful systems and practices today. In order for us to avoid repeating harmful mistakes of the past, community work must be grounded in anti-oppressive, anti-racist, and decolonizing practices and relations.

In order for us to explore different theoretical frameworks for working with communities, we must first understand what exactly we mean by community . At the most fundamental level, a community is based on relationships, identity, and a sense of belonging.

How can theories support our practice with diverse communities? What can they offer to community development work?

We will be introducing the following theoretical frameworks for community work:

  • Cultural Humility and Safety
  • Anti Racism 

Note: Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list. Continually evolving our practice, drawing on multiple theories from our toolbox, allows for deeper and broader understanding and engagement with diverse communities.

2. Systems Theory

Like every ecosystem , individuals require ongoing input (e.g. food, energy, relationships) in order to survive – and hopefully thrive. When a system’s needs are not met, we may feel out of balance, which prompts action. Preserving a state of balance (or equilibrium ) is critical for systems to survive.

According to systems theory (Healy, 2005) :

  • Individuals do not live in silos (or isolation).
  • We are constantly interacting with multiple systems (e.g. family, neighbourhood, city, globe) across different levels.
  • Our interactions, whether big or small, have an inevitable ripple effect throughout the entire system.
  • All systems operate in relationships with other systems.

This perspective allows us to develop a holistic view of individuals and communities in our practice.

community development social work essay

Healy (2005) suggests that in addition to your self as the primary system, reflect on some of the following systems you interact with (from smallest to largest):

  • Microsystem – the small immediate systems in your day-to-day life (e.g. family/friends, workplace environment, classrooms, places of worship, etc.)
  • Mesosystem – the network of interactions between your immediate systems (e.g. how your family experience can impact your participation at school)
  • Exosystem – the larger institutions in society that impact your personal systems and networks (e.g. government agencies, economic systems, social policies, etc.)
  • Macrosystem – the intangible influences in society (e.g. ideologies, culture, common beliefs, social relationships and expectations, etc.)

3. Anti-Oppressive Practice

Q – What is the difference between more mainstream approaches and anti-oppressive practice (AOP)? How does AOP help communities understand problems as linked to social inequality?

Part of this section is adapted from:  Canadian Settlement in Action: History and Future  by NorQuest College is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

Oppression can be defined as the experience of widespread, systemic injustice (Deutch, 2011). It is embedded in the underlying assumptions of institutions and rules, and the collective consequences of following those rules. Oppression is often a consequence of unconscious assumptions and biases and the reactions of well-meaning people in ordinary interactions (Khan, 2018).

The following are some of the ways oppression can manifest itself:

community development social work essay

Intersectionality Venn diagram by  SylviaDuckworth is licensed under a  CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Generic license

  Intersectionality is a core concept in the discussion of oppression. Crenshaw (1989) pioneered the term “ intersectionality ” to refer to instances in which individuals simultaneously experience many intersecting forms of oppression. Since individuals don’t exist solely as “woman”, “Black”, or “working class”, among others, these identities intersect in complex ways, and are determined by a set of interlocked social hierarchies.

Video: The urgency of intersectionality | Kimberlé Crenshaw. Ted Talk.

Source: YouTube. https://youtu.be/akOe5-UsQ2o

Therefore, all our oppressions are interconnected and overlapping . Intersectionality rejects the idea of “ranking” social struggles (sometimes referred to as “ Oppression Olympics ”), as this is divisive and unnecessary, undermining solidarity (the willingness of different individuals or communities to work together to achieve common goals).

In an intersectional analysis, a person’s identity is layered, and the presence (or absence) of oppression is context-specific. The same person could feasibly be oppressed in one situation, and the oppressor in another (for example, a Black man who experiences racism in the workplace but is domestically abusive). What is important is to look at the social forces that are at play and to remember that “the personal is always political”.

It would be difficult to discuss the importance of understanding oppression without understanding privilege . Garcia (2018) describes privilege as unearned social benefits or advantages that a person receives by virtue of who they are, not what they have done. Much like oppression, privilege can also be intersectional; however, because privilege is unearned, it is often invisible because those who benefit from it have been conditioned to not even be aware of its existence. Privilege is thus a very important concept because the relationship that community workers have with communities is often a privileged standing, as they have power over the lives of the communities they work with.

Video: What is Privilege ? Source: YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hD5f8GuNuGQ&feature=youtu.be

Among the most important roles that can be played by a community worker is that of an ally – when a person with privilege attempts to work and live in  solidarity  with marginalized peoples and communities. Allies take  responsibility  for their own education on the lived realities of oppressed individuals and communities and are willing to openly acknowledge and discuss their privileges and the biases they produce (Lamont, n.d.).

  A thorough understanding of power, privilege, and oppression can help community workers develop an anti-oppressive approach to their practice. Being able to engage in anti-oppressive practice requires community workers to be able to deconstruct and challenge the Great Canadian Myth and expressions of Canadian exceptionalism , and to be able to discuss the often-complicated role played by social service professionals in the perpetuation and execution of harmful government policies towards racialized communities (Clarke, 2016, p. 119). As such, an anti-oppressive approach requires community workers to continually and critically reflect on their work with communities and to challenge the status of “expert” assigned to them.

Anti-oppressive practice is also a strengths-based approach   in that the starting point of a conversation with communities is what they can do, not what they cannot do or are lacking . Strengths-based approaches separate people from their problems and focus more on the circumstances that prevent a person from leading the life they want to lead (Hammond & Zimmerman, 2012, p. 3).

Anti oppression approach addresses the prejudicial and inequitable relations that communities experience (Parada et al. 2011). Anti-oppressive social workers and community workers help communities understand that their problems are linked to social inequality and why they are oppressed and how to fight for change (Baines, 2011). Anti oppression practice addresses root causes of poverty and marginalization and promote collective actions by community.

4. Anti-Racism 

Anti-racism is the active process of identifying and eliminating racism by changing systems, organizational structures, policies and practices and attitudes, so that power is redistributed and shared equitably” (attributed to NAC International Perspectives: Women and Global Solidarity- Source: Calgary Anti-Racism Education ).

In an academic context, anti-racism represents a proactive ideological orientation and mode of engagement aimed at reshaping the societal and community landscape. Given the pervasive nature of racism across various strata and domains of society, it (racism) serves as a mechanism for establishing and perpetuating exclusive hierarchies and domains. Consequently, the imperative for anti-racism education and activism extends comprehensively across all facets of society, rather than being confined solely to the workplace, educational institutions, or specific sectors of individual existence. According to Calgary Anti-Racism Education , Anti-racism theory analyzes/critiques racism and how it operates, which provides us with a basis for taking action to dismantle and eliminate it (Henry & Tator, 2006; Kivel, 1996).  Ontario Anti-Racism Secretariat defines Anti-racism is the practice of identifying, challenging, and changing the values, structures and behaviours that perpetuate systemic racism” (Source: Calgary Anti-Racism Education ). Learn more about Anti Racism here   and listen to following podcast free on Spotify or Apple.

In this episode of Podcasting Social Work,  Dr. Valerie Borum, Professor and Director, School of Social Work, Toronto Metropolitan University, discussed about anti-racism framework, roots of racism, and its impact on communities, and how can we integrate anti-racism framework in social work and community development practice. If you have any questions, please contact us at [email protected]. Podcasting Social Work” by Mahbub Hasan is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Please click on this link: Podcast_Anti-Racism Framework-A discussion with Dr. Valerie Borum for transcriptions of our Anti-racism podcast. or please click on Spotify , Apple to listen this podcast free.

5. Cultural Humility and Cultural Safety

Material in this section is adapted from  Introduction to Human Services  by Nghi D. Thai and Ashlee Lien is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

5.1 Cultural  humility  is the ability to remain open to learning about other cultures while acknowledging one’s own lack of competence and recognizing power dynamics that impact the relationship.

Within cultural humility it is important to:

  • engage in continuous and critical self-reflection
  • recognize the impact of power dynamics on individuals and communities
  • embrace a perspective of “not knowing”
  • commit to lifelong learning

This approach to diversity encourages a curious spirit and the ability to openly engage with others in the process of learning about a different culture. As a result, it is important to address power imbalances and develop meaningful relationships with community members in order to create positive change. A guide to cultural humility is offered by  Culturally Connected.

Video: Cultural Humility, Source: YouTube, https://youtu.be/SaSHLbS1V4w

5.2 Cultural Safety

Culturally unsafe practices involve any actions that diminish, demean, or disempower the cultural identity and well-being of an individual.

According to Population Health Promotion and BC Women’s Hospital :

Culturally unsafe practices involve any actions that diminish, demean, or disempower the cultural identity and well-being of an individual. Creating a culturally safe practice involves working to create a safe space that is sensitive and responsive to a client’s social, political, linguistic, economic, and spiritual realities. Ultimately, adopting a cultural humility perspective is one of the most effective ways to enable cultural safety – one that will help clients feel safe receiving and accessing care.

Indigenous Cultural Safety and Cultural Humility

As a result of Canada’s legacy of colonization with Indigenous Peoples, working towards cultural safety and trust requires humility, dedication, and respectful engagement. Indigenous Cultural Safety is when Indigenous Peoples feel safer in relationships and communities.

According to BC Patient Safety and Quality Council , working towards culturally safe engagement with Indigenous communities requires:

  • Acknowledgement of the history of colonialism in Canada and the impacts of systemic racism.
  • A level of cultural awareness and sensitivity . (e.g. Provide a meaningful land acknowledgement. Get to know Indigenous Peoples from the Land you work and live on. Be a lifelong learner. )
  • Deep humility and an openness to learning . (e.g. Research local cultural practices and protocols. Read the Truth and Reconciliation Recommendations. )
  • Time for relationship building, connection , collaboration, and cultivating trust . ( e.g. Work towards balancing power dynamics. Be mindful of experiences of intergenerational trauma in building relationships. Integrate trauma-informed community practices . )

According to  San’yas Anti-Racism Indigenous Cultural Safety Training Program a commitment to Indigenous Cultural Safety recognizes that:

  • cultural humility aims to build mutual trust and respect and enables cultural safety
  • cultural safety is defined by each individual’s unique experience and social location
  • cultural safety must be understood, embraced, and practiced at all levels of community practice
  • working towards cultural safety is everyone’s responsibility

6. Indigenous Worldviews

Community development practice owes much of its ways of knowing, doing, and being to Indigenous communities worldwide. Indigenous values of interdependence and caring for all are at the heart of this practice.

According to activist and academic Jim Silver (2006), who is non-Indigenous:

The process of people’s healing, of their rebuilding or recreating themselves, is rooted in a revived sense of community and a revitalization of [Indigenous] cultures…The process of reclaiming an [Indigenous] identity takes place, therefore, at an individual, community, organizational, and ultimately political level. This is a process of decolonization that, if it can continue to be rooted in traditional [Indigenous] values of sharing and community, will be the foundation upon which healing and rebuilding are based. (p. 133)

Many Indigenous authors acknowledge one’s identity as intricately connected to community (Carriere, 2008). In fact, family, kinship, and community are viewed as a significant determinant of well-being (Kral, 2003). This community identity is often place-based , connected to the Land and one’s place of origin.

Baskin (2016) shares an example of an Indigenous community program that emphasizes the well-being of the community and family above that of the individual:

[At] Mino-Yaa-Daa (meaning “Healing Together” in the Anishnawbe language), [t]he individual is seen in the context of the family, which is seen in the context of the community… when an individual is harmed, it is believed that this affects all other individuals in that person’s family and community… By coming together in a circle, women learned that they were not alone, and that their situations and feelings were similar to those of other women… [building relationships and a community of empowered women] can only be achieved by individuals coming together in a circle. This kind of community-building cannot happen through individual counselling or therapy (pp. 164-165).

Key Takeaways and Feedback 

We want to learn your key takeaways and feedback on this chapter.

Your participation is highly appreciated. It will help us to enhance the quality of Community Development Practice and connect with you to offer support. To write your feedback, please click on Your Feedback Matters .

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Social Work – Developmental Theory

Human development theories are essential to understanding social work’s numerous forces that affect persons and families. Social workers use various theoretical frameworks to understand and practice because human behavior can be varied and influenced by age, class, culture, disability, ethnicity, family structure, gender, marital status, national origin, race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation. The study examines two fundamental theories of human development, focusing on their assumptions about human behavior and their ability to account for social privilege and oppression. First, Erikson’s Psychosocial Development Theory explains how people confront numerous problems throughout life. The second, Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory, emphasizes how interconnected systems affect human development. These theories’ implicit or explicit recognition of social privilege and oppression will be a crucial focus. We want to reveal how these theories affect social work practice and how practitioners can navigate human behavior with sensitivity to diverse societal realities and a dedication to achieving economic and social equity.

Erikson’s Psychosocial Development Theory

Major assumptions.

Erikson’s Psychosocial Development Theory is a foundational framework for understanding human growth and the changing psychological and social problems people confront. For healthy development, Erikson’s theory states that life is a series of stages, each with a unique psychological crisis. This paradigm defines eight stages from childhood until old life with specific psychological conflicts. The infant’s basic demands for care and security shape their ability to trust the world in the early stages. Later stages, such as autonomy vs guilt and uncertainty in early childhood or personality versus confusion about roles in adolescence, show how contextual factors affect individual development. Erikson believes that resolving psychosocial issues leads to virtues that help people develop a more complete self (Gross, 2020). Failure to overcome these crises may cause psychological discomfort and limit human growth. The hypothesis states that people face psychological challenges throughout their lives.

Influence on Social Oppression and Privilege

While not overtly addressing social privilege and oppression, Erikson’s Psychosocial Development Theory quietly acknowledges that social interactions and connections shape human development. The idea emphasizes the role of the social environment in psychological conflict resolution at each stage. Erikson concentrates on intrapersonal conflicts, although they affect relationships and societal standards. Erikson indirectly acknowledges societal influences, especially during identity and belonging formation (Maree, 2022). For instance, adolescent identity against role confusion requires negotiating societal expectations, cultural norms, and peer influences. Resolving this conflict helps establish a cohesive and pleasing self-identity, whereas struggles can cause confusion and alienation. Social inequality and discrimination shape people’s self-perceptions and locations, but the theory does not directly address them. Each stage has psychosocial obstacles related to social relationships, cultural norms, and societal expectations. Even though Erikson focuses on internal problems, this veiled acknowledgment suggests that social environments affect human development.

Impact on Social Work Practice

Social workers using Erikson’s Psychosocial Development Theory handle individuals’ psychological and emotional needs throughout life. Practitioners can design interventions to support healthy development by acknowledging the role of interpersonal connections and psychosocial conflict resolution. Social workers may stress supportive conditions for research and the healthy creation of identities with adolescents in the identity vs role confusion stage. Erikson’s theory does not address social privilege and oppression, but its application in social work emphasizes the need for trusting relationships and identification and connection (Jones & Waite-Stupiansky, 2022). This helps fulfill customers’ psychosocial requirements in varied cultural and social circumstances.

Ecological Systems Theory (Bronfenbrenner)

Key assumptions.

Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory is a core paradigm in developmental psychology, providing a comprehensive view of the complex interactions that influence human development. The theory holds that people are immersed in nested systems, each with its influence. As the deepest layer, the system includes family, peers, and institutions like schools and jobs. The mesosystem shows how microsystem experiences can affect others (Crawford, 2020). Beyond immediate connections, the exosystem includes indirect external influences like job dynamics on family relationships. The macrosystem’s cultural values, societal norms, and organizational structures influence an individual’s growth. Lastly, the chronosystem acknowledges historical context and how changes over time affect development. The chronosystem gives the ecological systems framework a chronological dimension, whether social changes, technological advances, or personal life events. This idea holds that these interrelated systems’ reciprocal interactions shape human development. Bronfenbrenner’s approach stresses human development’s holistic and contextual aspect, unlike specific theories that focus on internal psychological processes. Ecosystems shape people as they adapt and change. Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory severely impacts social work. This paradigm helps social workers examine the systems affecting a person’s life and recognize that solutions must target individual difficulties and broader social and environmental factors. Practitioners can create more effective and culturally relevant solutions that reflect human growth by understanding the complex interactions within and across these systems.

For its explicit analysis of how systems affect human development, Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory provides a lens for analyzing social privilege and oppression. The theory emphasizes that people are part of a network of interrelated systems that influence each other. Societal institutions and cultural values contribute to privilege and oppression; the macrosystem component addresses these. According to social privilege theory, people’s social status can affect their opportunities and disadvantages. Cultural values in the macrosystem can affect resource, opportunity, and power distribution, affecting privilege (Van Breda, 2018). According to the notion, systemic barriers to resources, rights, and equitable opportunities can lead to oppression. Recognizing that people live in social, economic, and cultural situations reinforces the idea that external causes shape growth. This accords with social work’s focus on systemic variables affecting well-being. Using Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory, social workers can critically assess how society systems help or hinder particular individuals or groups based on race, gender, socioeconomic status, and other diversity variables.

The implementation of Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory in social work treatment has far-reaching consequences on how professionals address assessment as well as intervention. Social workers who use this approach understand that an individual’s development is inherently linked to multiple systems, and treatments must address these complex impacts to be effective.

In terms of assessment, social workers who use the concept of ecological systems examine the client’s microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem, and chronosystem. The extensive assessment enables those who practice to identify the many aspects that influence an individual’s life, such as parental ties, community dynamics, societal frameworks, cultural values, and historical impacts. This comprehensive understanding serves as a firm platform for personalizing solutions that address not only individual needs but also the larger environmental factors that shape those needs. Furthermore, ecological systems theory-informed social workers become social justice activists. Recognizing that societal institutions and cultural beliefs can contribute to economic advantage or oppression, practitioners work to remove oppressive systems while promoting inclusivity and equitable opportunity. Such representation may include collaborating with communities, organizations, and policymakers to challenge biased behaviors, influence policy changes, and develop environments that promote the well-being of all people.

By intervening at numerous levels, social workers link their efforts with the interconnectedness of Bronfenbrenner’s concept. They may work directly with individuals to address personal issues, collaborate with families to create support networks, partner with community organizations to improve resources and push for institutional reforms to remove barriers to social justice. The technique represents a dedication to an integrated, ecological perspective that acknowledges the complexities of human development as well as the need to build habitats that promote individual and community well-being. The emphasis on comprehensive evaluation, multi-level intervention, and social justice advocacy demonstrates ecological systems theory’s effect on social work practice. Such an approach provides social workers with a sophisticated understanding of the linked systems that shape people’s lives, empowering them to contribute to good change at all levels of influence (Van Breda, 2018).

Social workers can better understand and address human behavior and development by studying Erikson’s Psychosocial Development Theory and Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory. Erikson’s approach emphasizes internal struggles and their impact on identity and belonging but also indirectly accepts social aspects. In contrast, Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems approach openly analyzes how varied systems affect human development and how societal structures and cultural values perpetuate social privilege or oppression. Both theories emphasize how human experiences are linked to social and environmental settings. These frameworks let social workers assess and intervene at several levels, providing a comprehensive approach that considers internal and environmental factors. Social workers may better promote social justice, challenge oppressive structures, and create inclusive environments that benefit diverse persons and communities by acknowledging the impact of society on individual development. The combined application of these theories enhances the social work toolkit, helping practitioners navigate human growth more sensitively and effectively.

Crawford, M. (2020). Ecological Systems theory: Exploring the theoretical framework’s development as Bronfenbrenner conceived.  J Pub Health Issue Pract ,  4 (2), 170.

Gross, Y. (2020). Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development.  The Wiley Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences: Models and Theories , pp. 179–184.

Jones, E., & Waite-Stupiansky, S. (2022). The Erikson’s Psychosocial Developmental Theory. In  Theories of Early Childhood Education  (pp. 34–49). Routledge.

Maree, J. G. (2022). The psychosocial development theory of Erik Erikson: a critical overview.  The Influence of Theorists and Pioneers on Early Childhood Education , pp. 119–133.

Van Breda, A. D. (2018). A critical review of resilience theory and its relevance for social work.  Social Work ,  54 (1), 1-18.

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The Impact of Transit-Oriented Development on Social Capital

community development social work essay


This paper focuses on the ability of Transit Oriented Development (TOD) to improve social capital and interactions within a community. The expectation is that TOD has a positive impact on the lifestyle and activities of individuals who reside, work, and frequent these locations, and that this can include increases in social capital. Using data from a survey of transit station locations in New Jersey, the authors examine how proximity to the station and various built environment variables are associated with different measures of social capital, derived from responses to survey questions. These questions inquire about respondents’ perceptions of their neighborhood as a place to live, sense of community, knowing their neighbors, trust, and whether their community is a good place to raise a child. The authors also include a question on volunteering in the community. These questions reflect various domains of social capital as established in the literature. Results generally do not support the hypothesis that social capital is associated with transit station proximity and TOD. Features of the built environment, proxied by population and employment density, are also not associated with increased social capital, and in some cases have a negative association. While there are some limited positive associations with some of the social capital variables, one of the strongest indicators is living in a detached family home.


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Robert B. Noland is a professor at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy and serves as the director of the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center. He received his Ph.D. in Energy Management and Environmental Policy from the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to joining Rutgers University, he was Reader in Transport and Environmental Policy at Imperial College London, a policy analyst at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and he also conducted postdoctoral research in the Economics Department at the University of California, Irvine. The focus of Dr. Noland’s research is the impact of transport planning and policy on both economic and environmental outcomes. Work on economic effects has included examining behavioral reactions to changes in reliability, associations with the built environment, and trip-chaining behavior. Environmental work includes impacts on safety, climate, health, and other factors associated with overall quality of life. Active research areas include developing methods to evaluate the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions associated with building transport projects; evaluating the economic impacts of transit-oriented development; analysis of walking behavior and links to other travel behavior and the built environment; analysis of traffic and pedestrian safety using spatial analysis techniques; and assessment of the economic effects of transport investments, in particular those associated with agglomeration externalities. Dr. Noland’s research has been cited throughout the world in debates over transport infrastructure planning and environmental assessment of new infrastructure. He is currently Associate Editor of Transportation Research-D (Transport and Environment) and the International Journal of Sustainable Transportation and is former Chair of the Transportation Research Board Special Task Force on Climate Change and Energy.


Orin Puniello is a Senior Project Manager with Ketchum Global Research & Analytics and is responsible for the design and execution of predictive analytic modeling. Prior to joining Ketchum in September 2015, he was the Assistant Director for Research at the Bloustein Center for Survey Research (BCSR) at Rutgers University. At BCSR, he was responsible for the design, analysis, and day-to-day management of survey projects in areas including transportation, economics, and social policy. During his time at BCSR, Orin directed seven federal- or state-funded projects. He is experienced in the design and execution of complex sampling strategies for household and firm surveys. Orin is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Planning and Public Policy with a concentration in survey research and transportation policy at Rutgers University. He received a Masters of Public Policy (M.P.P.) from the Bloustein School at Rutgers University in 2008 and a B.A. in history and political science from Rutgers University in 2004.


Stephanie DiPetrillo is Senior Research Specialist at the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center, Rutgers University. She has more than ten years of experience in transportation and urban planning research. Her current work combines quantitative and qualitative techniques and examines connections between transportation and land use, principally transit, community transportation, and transit-oriented development (TOD). Increasingly her work has examined ways to improve access to transit by all users, including people with disabilities. Past works include: MNTRC supported publications Exploring Transportation, Employment, Housing, and Location Issues for New Jersey Veterans with Disability (12-28) and Measuring Benefits of Transit Oriented Development (12-18); A Strategy for Getting People with Disabilities to Work: Supporting NJ County Transportation and Connecting to Jobs by Connecting to Transit funded by the NJ Department of Human Services; Eliminating Barriers to TOD, Economic Development Benefits of New Transit Service: RiverLINE, and The Impact of Demographic Changes in Transit Patterns in New Jersey funded by the NJ Department of Transportation Research Bureau; and An Evaluation of Property Values in New Jersey Transit Villages funded by the New Jersey Association of Realtors Governmental Research Foundation. She is the editor of the online publication NJTOD.org, home to the Transit-Friendly Development Newsletter sponsored by NJ Transit, and is an advisor to The TOD Line, an online newsletter of TOD in New York and Connecticut. She has taught at Hofstra University, Rutgers University, and the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT).


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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, how to write a great community service essay.

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College Admissions , Extracurriculars


Are you applying to a college or a scholarship that requires a community service essay? Do you know how to write an essay that will impress readers and clearly show the impact your work had on yourself and others?

Read on to learn step-by-step instructions for writing a great community service essay that will help you stand out and be memorable.

What Is a Community Service Essay? Why Do You Need One?

A community service essay is an essay that describes the volunteer work you did and the impact it had on you and your community. Community service essays can vary widely depending on specific requirements listed in the application, but, in general, they describe the work you did, why you found the work important, and how it benefited people around you.

Community service essays are typically needed for two reasons:

#1: To Apply to College

  • Some colleges require students to write community service essays as part of their application or to be eligible for certain scholarships.
  • You may also choose to highlight your community service work in your personal statement.

#2: To Apply for Scholarships

  • Some scholarships are specifically awarded to students with exceptional community service experiences, and many use community service essays to help choose scholarship recipients.
  • Green Mountain College offers one of the most famous of these scholarships. Their "Make a Difference Scholarship" offers full tuition, room, and board to students who have demonstrated a significant, positive impact through their community service

Getting Started With Your Essay

In the following sections, I'll go over each step of how to plan and write your essay. I'll also include sample excerpts for you to look through so you can get a better idea of what readers are looking for when they review your essay.

Step 1: Know the Essay Requirements

Before your start writing a single word, you should be familiar with the essay prompt. Each college or scholarship will have different requirements for their essay, so make sure you read these carefully and understand them.

Specific things to pay attention to include:

  • Length requirement
  • Application deadline
  • The main purpose or focus of the essay
  • If the essay should follow a specific structure

Below are three real community service essay prompts. Read through them and notice how much they vary in terms of length, detail, and what information the writer should include.

From the Equitable Excellence Scholarship:

"Describe your outstanding achievement in depth and provide the specific planning, training, goals, and steps taken to make the accomplishment successful. Include details about your role and highlight leadership you provided. Your essay must be a minimum of 350 words but not more than 600 words."

From the Laura W. Bush Traveling Scholarship:

"Essay (up to 500 words, double spaced) explaining your interest in being considered for the award and how your proposed project reflects or is related to both UNESCO's mandate and U.S. interests in promoting peace by sharing advances in education, science, culture, and communications."

From the LULAC National Scholarship Fund:

"Please type or print an essay of 300 words (maximum) on how your academic studies will contribute to your personal & professional goals. In addition, please discuss any community service or extracurricular activities you have been involved in that relate to your goals."


Step 2: Brainstorm Ideas

Even after you understand what the essay should be about, it can still be difficult to begin writing. Answer the following questions to help brainstorm essay ideas. You may be able to incorporate your answers into your essay.

  • What community service activity that you've participated in has meant the most to you?
  • What is your favorite memory from performing community service?
  • Why did you decide to begin community service?
  • What made you decide to volunteer where you did?
  • How has your community service changed you?
  • How has your community service helped others?
  • How has your community service affected your plans for the future?

You don't need to answer all the questions, but if you find you have a lot of ideas for one of two of them, those may be things you want to include in your essay.

Writing Your Essay

How you structure your essay will depend on the requirements of the scholarship or school you are applying to. You may give an overview of all the work you did as a volunteer, or highlight a particularly memorable experience. You may focus on your personal growth or how your community benefited.

Regardless of the specific structure requested, follow the guidelines below to make sure your community service essay is memorable and clearly shows the impact of your work.

Samples of mediocre and excellent essays are included below to give you a better idea of how you should draft your own essay.

Step 1: Hook Your Reader In

You want the person reading your essay to be interested, so your first sentence should hook them in and entice them to read more. A good way to do this is to start in the middle of the action. Your first sentence could describe you helping build a house, releasing a rescued animal back to the wild, watching a student you tutored read a book on their own, or something else that quickly gets the reader interested. This will help set your essay apart and make it more memorable.

Compare these two opening sentences:

"I have volunteered at the Wishbone Pet Shelter for three years."

"The moment I saw the starving, mud-splattered puppy brought into the shelter with its tail between its legs, I knew I'd do whatever I could to save it."

The first sentence is a very general, bland statement. The majority of community service essays probably begin a lot like it, but it gives the reader little information and does nothing to draw them in. On the other hand, the second sentence begins immediately with action and helps persuade the reader to keep reading so they can learn what happened to the dog.

Step 2: Discuss the Work You Did

Once you've hooked your reader in with your first sentence, tell them about your community service experiences. State where you work, when you began working, how much time you've spent there, and what your main duties include. This will help the reader quickly put the rest of the essay in context and understand the basics of your community service work.


Not including basic details about your community service could leave your reader confused.

Step 3: Include Specific Details

It's the details of your community service that make your experience unique and memorable, so go into the specifics of what you did.

For example, don't just say you volunteered at a nursing home; talk about reading Mrs. Johnson her favorite book, watching Mr. Scott win at bingo, and seeing the residents play games with their grandchildren at the family day you organized. Try to include specific activities, moments, and people in your essay. Having details like these let the readers really understand what work you did and how it differs from other volunteer experiences.

Compare these two passages:

"For my volunteer work, I tutored children at a local elementary school. I helped them improve their math skills and become more confident students."

"As a volunteer at York Elementary School, I worked one-on-one with second and third graders who struggled with their math skills, particularly addition, subtraction, and fractions. As part of my work, I would create practice problems and quizzes and try to connect math to the students' interests. One of my favorite memories was when Sara, a student I had been working with for several weeks, told me that she enjoyed the math problems I had created about a girl buying and selling horses so much that she asked to help me create math problems for other students."

The first passage only gives basic information about the work done by the volunteer; there is very little detail included, and no evidence is given to support her claims. How did she help students improve their math skills? How did she know they were becoming more confident?

The second passage is much more detailed. It recounts a specific story and explains more fully what kind of work the volunteer did, as well as a specific instance of a student becoming more confident with her math skills. Providing more detail in your essay helps support your claims as well as make your essay more memorable and unique.

Step 4: Show Your Personality

It would be very hard to get a scholarship or place at a school if none of your readers felt like they knew much about you after finishing your essay, so make sure that your essay shows your personality. The way to do this is to state your personal strengths, then provide examples to support your claims. Take some time to think about which parts of your personality you would like your essay to highlight, then write about specific examples to show this.

  • If you want to show that you're a motivated leader, describe a time when you organized an event or supervised other volunteers.
  • If you want to show your teamwork skills, write about a time you helped a group of people work together better.
  • If you want to show that you're a compassionate animal lover, write about taking care of neglected shelter animals and helping each of them find homes.

Step 5: State What You Accomplished

After you have described your community service and given specific examples of your work, you want to begin to wrap your essay up by stating your accomplishments. What was the impact of your community service? Did you build a house for a family to move into? Help students improve their reading skills? Clean up a local park? Make sure the impact of your work is clear; don't be worried about bragging here.

If you can include specific numbers, that will also strengthen your essay. Saying "I delivered meals to 24 home-bound senior citizens" is a stronger example than just saying "I delivered meals to lots of senior citizens."

Also be sure to explain why your work matters. Why is what you did important? Did it provide more parks for kids to play in? Help students get better grades? Give people medical care who would otherwise not have gotten it? This is an important part of your essay, so make sure to go into enough detail that your readers will know exactly what you accomplished and how it helped your community.

"My biggest accomplishment during my community service was helping to organize a family event at the retirement home. The children and grandchildren of many residents attended, and they all enjoyed playing games and watching movies together."

"The community service accomplishment that I'm most proud of is the work I did to help organize the First Annual Family Fun Day at the retirement home. My job was to design and organize fun activities that senior citizens and their younger relatives could enjoy. The event lasted eight hours and included ten different games, two performances, and a movie screening with popcorn. Almost 200 residents and family members attended throughout the day. This event was important because it provided an opportunity for senior citizens to connect with their family members in a way they aren't often able to. It also made the retirement home seem more fun and enjoyable to children, and we have seen an increase in the number of kids coming to visit their grandparents since the event."

The second passage is stronger for a variety of reasons. First, it goes into much more detail about the work the volunteer did. The first passage only states that she helped "organize a family event." That really doesn't tell readers much about her work or what her responsibilities were. The second passage is much clearer; her job was to "design and organize fun activities."

The second passage also explains the event in more depth. A family day can be many things; remember that your readers are likely not familiar with what you're talking about, so details help them get a clearer picture.

Lastly, the second passage makes the importance of the event clear: it helped residents connect with younger family members, and it helped retirement homes seem less intimidating to children, so now some residents see their grand kids more often.

Step 6: Discuss What You Learned

One of the final things to include in your essay should be the impact that your community service had on you. You can discuss skills you learned, such as carpentry, public speaking, animal care, or another skill.

You can also talk about how you changed personally. Are you more patient now? More understanding of others? Do you have a better idea of the type of career you want? Go into depth about this, but be honest. Don't say your community service changed your life if it didn't because trite statements won't impress readers.

In order to support your statements, provide more examples. If you say you're more patient now, how do you know this? Do you get less frustrated while playing with your younger siblings? Are you more willing to help group partners who are struggling with their part of the work? You've probably noticed by now that including specific examples and details is one of the best ways to create a strong and believable essay .

"As a result of my community service, I learned a lot about building houses and became a more mature person."

"As a result of my community service, I gained hands-on experience in construction. I learned how to read blueprints, use a hammer and nails, and begin constructing the foundation of a two-bedroom house. Working on the house could be challenging at times, but it taught me to appreciate the value of hard work and be more willing to pitch in when I see someone needs help. My dad has just started building a shed in our backyard, and I offered to help him with it because I know from my community service how much work it is. I also appreciate my own house more, and I know how lucky I am to have a roof over my head."

The second passage is more impressive and memorable because it describes the skills the writer learned in more detail and recounts a specific story that supports her claim that her community service changed her and made her more helpful.

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Step 7: Finish Strong

Just as you started your essay in a way that would grab readers' attention, you want to finish your essay on a strong note as well. A good way to end your essay is to state again the impact your work had on you, your community, or both. Reiterate how you changed as a result of your community service, why you found the work important, or how it helped others.

Compare these two concluding statements:

"In conclusion, I learned a lot from my community service at my local museum, and I hope to keep volunteering and learning more about history."

"To conclude, volunteering at my city's American History Museum has been a great experience. By leading tours and participating in special events, I became better at public speaking and am now more comfortable starting conversations with people. In return, I was able to get more community members interested in history and our local museum. My interest in history has deepened, and I look forward to studying the subject in college and hopefully continuing my volunteer work at my university's own museum."

The second passage takes each point made in the first passage and expands upon it. In a few sentences, the second passage is able to clearly convey what work the volunteer did, how she changed, and how her volunteer work benefited her community.

The author of the second passage also ends her essay discussing her future and how she'd like to continue her community service, which is a good way to wrap things up because it shows your readers that you are committed to community service for the long-term.

What's Next?

Are you applying to a community service scholarship or thinking about it? We have a complete list of all the community service scholarships available to help get your search started!

Do you need a community service letter as well? We have a step-by-step guide that will tell you how to get a great reference letter from your community service supervisor.

Thinking about doing community service abroad? Before you sign up, read our guide on some of the hazards of international volunteer trips and how to know if it's the right choice for you.

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points?   We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download them for free now:

Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.

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Community benefits agreements

Before a major development project breaks ground in an urban setting, local stakeholders have an interest in shaping the project's impacts and opportunities. People living in low-income urban neighborhoods are often subject to the negative impacts of large urban development projects but have only limited access to the new economic opportunities that such projects provide. This dynamic occurs in part because community representatives don't have a meaningful seat at the table during the key stages of project development.  A community benefits agreement (CBA) is an economic empowerment mechanism by which stakeholder organizations can negotiate directly with developers for the benefits most important to them – shaping urban development projects to improve lives for local residents, most frequently communities of color.

A CBA is a legally enforceable contract between a coalition of community-based organizations and the developer of a proposed project. In exchange for the coalition's public support of the project in the approval process, the developer agrees to contribute benefits to the local community if the project moves forward.  In this way, the coalition has a hand in shaping the project, while the developer builds community support and strengthens local partnerships. The result is a smoother approvals process for the developer and a better project for the community.

Community benefits set forth in a CBA can cover a range of issues prioritized by the community coalition, such as affordable housing, local and targeted hiring, living wage requirements, open space, and so forth. CBA terms are enforceable by coalition organizations directly against the developers, providing these organizations with a level of certainty that traditional planning processes cannot provide.  When CBAs work well, this inclusive process – and reliable legal mechanism – can help deliver concrete economic and social benefits to affected communities.

  • Coalitions of community-based organizations and other stakeholders build sufficient political leverage to shape terms of development in their communities; they then negotiate a CBA directly with project developers, providing public support to projects that will deliver a strong slate of community benefits.  
  • Developers directly negotiate a CBA with community coalitions, gaining support for their project and building local partnerships that will benefit the project over time.  
  • Elected officials and city staff keep lines of communication open to ensure consistency with the city's policy goals. 

Strong Coalitions.  The CBAs that deliver the strongest slate of community benefits are negotiated by a credible, unified coalition of grassroots community organizations that can leverage a sophisticated campaign, including organizing capacity, media engagement, policy research, and legal capacity.  Community/labor coalitions have been particularly effective. 

Role of Government. CBAs supplement the existing processes by which a public entity shapes a large urban development project.  City staff and elected officials can show inclusive leadership by (i) ensuring transparency around project development, (ii) indicating to developers the importance of broad community support during the project approval phase, and (iii) allowing space for CBA negotiations, without trying to control them. 

Resistance to concept .  City staff and elected officials may be resistant to CBAs, because they are either unaware of how CBAs operate, or are threatened by what they perceive to be a release of control over project development.

Misuse of CBAs .  Developers, and city staff that are in strong support of a proposed project, may misuse the CBA concept:

  • They may characterize the Development Agreement or a portion of it as a CBA – even though it is not negotiated by, and will not be enforceable by, community representatives.
  • They may arrange for and release to the public a "CBA" between the developer and a friendly local body, such as the local chamber of commerce, that will not actually press the developer for changes to the project.

Each of these methods is an attempt to occupy space that might otherwise be filled by a robust, community-driven CBA effort.

Importance of sufficient community leverage .  Without demonstrable public pressure and legal leverage, sufficient to shape dynamics of project approvals, developers may lack incentive to negotiate. 

No CBA can involve all stakeholders.  Certain segments of a community may be unable or unwilling to participate in a CBA negotiation process; no one should take a CBA effort as channeling or capturing every community opinion or priority.

Enforcement .  Projects can take a decade or more to come to fruition.  Community coalitions may lack long-term capacity to monitor CBAs and enforce CBA terms against successors to the developer. 

CBAs function best for large development projects in urban areas, where there is a broad-based community coalition, and the developer desires community support to obtain public subsidies and/or approval of a proposed project.  Community representatives are in a stronger position to negotiate if the city shares the community coalition's policy goals and encourages the creation of a CBA. 

  • Staples/L.A. Live CBA, Los Angeles, CA .  In 2001, the Los Angeles Staples Center CBA set the precedent for what is considered a successful CBA, with community benefits commitments conservatively valued at $150 million – about double the amount of the promised city subsidy for the project.  The community coalition that negotiated the CBA consisted of more than 20 organizations.  The CBA contains commitments relating to a broad range of issues, including affordable housing, parks and open space, local hiring, and living wages.   
  • Nashville MLS Soccer, Nashville, TN .  In 2018, Nashville-based community coalition Stand Up Nashville negotiated a CBA to accompany a proposed soccer stadium.  The CBA contained requirements for living wage jobs, first-source hiring, affordable housing, a child-care center, and other community benefits.  Nashville Mayor David Briley penned an open letter to the city expressing his support of the project in large part because it would have a CBA attached.  Then, Stand Up Nashville joined the developer in a letter to Metro Council urging approval of controversial rezoning legislation necessary for the project to proceed.   
  • Facebook, East Palo Alto, CA : In 2016, Facebook entered into a CBA with a community coalition with regard to a major office expansion. The CBA requires Facebook to provide nearly $20 million toward a fund to be used for affordable housing in the region. This fund was soon leveraged to include approximately $60 million of additional funds, to be expended on the same terms.  The CBA also provides funding support for other issues of community concern, including legal support for tenants and policy advocacy campaigns. 

In addition to PolicyLink resources listed on the right, see below for the text of CBAs currently in effect as well as additional materials.

Text of CBAs Currently in Effect:

  • Nashville MLS Soccer, Nashville, TN (2018)
  • Facebook Campus Expansion CBA (Menlo Park, CA – 2016)
  • Warm Springs CBA (Fremont, CA – 2015)
  • Lorenzo CBA (Los Angeles, CA – 2011)
  • Bayview/Hunters' Point CBA (San Francisco, CA – 2008)
  • Dearborn Street CBA (Seattle, WA – 2008)
  • Ballpark Village CBA (San Diego, CA – 2005)
  • Los Angeles International Airport CBA and related Cooperation Agreement ("LAX CBA"; Los Angeles, CA – 2005)
  • Hollywood and Vine CBA (Los Angeles, CA – 2004)
  • Marlton Square CBA (Los Angeles, CA – 2003)
  • Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment District CBA and related Cooperation Agreement ("Staples CBA"; Los Angeles, CA – 2001)
  • SunQuest CBA (Los Angeles, CA – 2001)
  • NoHo Commons CBA (Los Angeles, CA – 2001)

Additional Materials:

  • Community Benefits Toolkit , Partnership for Working Families.
  • Do Community Benefits Agreements Benefit Communities? Edward De Barbieri. Cardozo Law Review, Vol. 37, June 2016; Brooklyn Law School, Legal Studies Paper No. 462 (2016).
  • Community Benefits Agreements; Making Development Projects Accountable, Julian Gross, with Greg LeRoy and Madeline Janis-Aparicio (2005).
  • Community Benefits Agreements . Julian Gross. Chapter in Building Healthy Communities: A Guide to Community Economic Development for Advocates, Lawyers, and Policymakers; a publication of the Forum on Affordable Housing & Community Development of the American Bar Association (2009).

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What's in a "Latinx?": Considerations When Utilizing Pan-ethnic Identifiers of Latinidad

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People of Latin American origin use many different terms to self-identify their ethnicity. To date, there are very few scholarly articles that have investigated the growing use (and potential outcomes) of the term “Latinx.” Over the past decade, this pan-ethnic identifier has been wholly ascribed to a group of people who do not all identify with it. The dearth of empirical understanding on this topic is especially concerning given its significant implications on one’s positive identity development and overall psychosocial functioning. This conceptual essay is meant to introduce readers to the role that U.S. colleges and universities played in the promulgation of the word “Latinx.” It also aims to stimulate discussion amongst readers who may question how “Latinx” came to be the pan-ethnic identifier for this community as well as those who may question whether they should adopt or reject the label. To address the aforementioned inquiries, this composition includes a brief history of the most commonly used pan-ethnic terms for the Latin American diaspora. The implications of ascribing gender-inclusive vs. gender-neutral labels on positive identity development, as well as recommendations and best practices for social work researchers, practitioners, and other stakeholders, are also discussed.

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