Community Development: Past, Present, and Future

This course provides a critical overview of conceptual and applied approaches to community development. It examines evolving patterns and drivers of urban inequality and poverty and corresponding urban policy and planning responses—with a primary focus on the US but in comparative world-historical perspective. We trace the historical evolution of community development from the Progressive Era through the New Deal and Great Society to the rationalization of the Community Development Corporation model in the 1980s and the more recent adoption of sustainability principles. Our analysis of various challenges and interventions incorporates multiple units of analysis (i.e. individual, household, group, community) and territorial scales (i.e. neighborhood, local, metropolitan, national, supranational); key actors and institutions across levels of government and different sectors; and contemporary global trends such as world urbanization, urban-based economic growth, climate change, and geopolitical conflicts. In highlighting continuous learning, adaptation, and transformative practice, we discuss recent advancements in affordable housing development, social service delivery, and placemaking. But we also push past the field’s traditional preoccupation with neighborhood-level interventions to examine emerging community development practices ranging from community-labor partnerships around urban infrastructure-driven workforce and community development (encompassing neighborhood, local, regional, and national scales) to the Movement for Black Lives’ local-national-international policy platform for comprehensive police and criminal justice reform, cooperative economics, and political mobilization.