This community development philosophy is not a concept that was developed in a classroom, nor formulated by people foreign to the poor community. These are practical principles evolved from years of living and working among the poor. The founder of CCDA, John Perkins, first developed this philosophy while working among the poor in Mississippi. Over the last forty years, John Perkins and other practitioners of community development have distilled the philosophy into the following key components.
Key Components (click to expand)
By relocating, a person will understand most clearly the real problems facing the poor; and then he or she may begin to look for real solutions. Relocation transforms “you, them, and theirs” to “we, us, and ours.” Effective programs plant and build communities that have a personal stake in the development of their neighborhoods. There is no question that relocation is the linchpin of community development and that all other principles of development draw upon for meaning.
The great challenge in reconciliation is to partner together across all barriers and recognize that the task of loving the poor is shared by everyone, black, white, brown, and yellow; rich and poor; urban and suburban; educated and uneducated.
The primary goal of leadership development is to restore the stabilizing glue and fill the vacuum of moral, spiritual, and economic leadership that is so prevalent in poor communities by developing leaders. This is most effectively done by raising up leaders from the community of need who will remain in the community to live and lead.
Most programs put a major focus on youth development, winning youth as early as kindergarten and then following them all the way through college with educational nurturing. Upon returning from college communities creates opportunities for exercising leadership upon their return to the community.
Developing leaders from the community is a huge priority that requires absolute commitment; the payoff is that our communities will be filled with strong leaders who love their neighbors, and have the skills and abilities to lead organizations, and programs that bring sustainable health to our communities.
Often communities are developed by people outside of the community that bring in resources without taking into account the community itself. Being committed to listening to the community residents, and hearing their dreams, ideas, and thoughts, as the people of the community are the vested treasures of the future.
It is essential for community leaders to help the community focus on maximizing their strengths and abilities to make a difference for their community. The people with the problem have the best solutions and opportunities to solve those problems. Affirming the dignity of individuals and encouraging the engagement of the community brings the best results and invites them to use their own resources and assets to bring about sustainable change.
Oftentimes, programs get passionate and involved in one area of need, and think if they solve this particular problem that all else will be resolved. There is never a simplistic answer to the problems in poor communities. People will say that the problem is spiritual, social, or educational. Of course these are problems, but they are only part of the larger problems. Solving the housing problem does not solve the emotional struggles that a person has. The holistic approach deals with the social, economic, political, cultural, spiritual, emotional, physical, moral, judicial, educational, and familial issues of each person.
Empowering people as community developers meet their needs is an important element. Oftentimes, community development in poor communities creates dependency. This is no better than the federal government welfare program. Charity demeans a person and strips him or her of dignity.
Empowerment avoids doing for people what they can do for themselves. Empowerment is about working with community members instead of working for them. Empowerment affirms a person’s dignity.