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 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. We discuss continued advancements in affordable housing development, social service delivery, and placemaking but also push past the field’s traditional preoccupation with neighborhood-level interventions. Our analysis of various challenges and interventions incorporates multiple issue areas (e.g. housing, land use, transport, workforce and economic development, criminal justice); 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 urban-based economic growth, climate change, and geopolitical conflicts. In highlighting strategic and transformative practices, we examine emerging community development approaches ranging from community-labor partnerships around urban infrastructure-driven regional workforce development programs to the Movement for Black Lives’ local-national-international policy platform for comprehensive police and criminal justice reform, cooperative economics, and political mobilization.

Course objectives are threefold: (1) examine evolving patterns and drivers of urban inequality and poverty; (2) critically analyze community development concepts and strategies; (3) develop community development agendas and skills, including strategic action, continuous learning, and creative innovations, in collaboration with seminar participants.

The course is in a seminar format, built around a speaker series and discussion sessions focusing on applied cases. Course evaluations will be based on three assignments (blog entry, semi-structured interview, and applied research project) and class participation. It has no prerequisites and is open to graduate students across different disciplines.