What Is Community Development?

Drawing by Meg Lemieur, courtesy of HopePHL

Community development takes a holistic approach to improving the quality of life in underserved communities. Community development organizations are typically private nonprofits that are based in the communities they serve. They provide an array of services including: developing and managing affordable housing, commercial and community spaces; supporting local businesses; providing social services; and advocating for and with their communities. We believe that successful community development:

  • Begins in many different places depending on a community’s history and context.

  • Is rooted in the themes of social justice while remaining culturally, ethnically, and racially relevant.

  • Emphasizes a comprehensive role of place, drawing on all parts of a community, particularly low and moderate-income people and places.

  • Requires long-term commitment.

  • Attracts private investment.

  • Engages local institutions and residents that lead and own local change.

  • Builds and supports the voices of local leaders who understand both the needs and assets in their communities and have the wisdom to create local, regional, state and national policy solutions.

Explore the results of our Grounding Values In Research study to learn about the financial health, programs, production, and services of community development organizations.