Towards a Community Development Workforce Development Plan
Building a Community Development Workforce plan reflecting debates on professionalisation for Community Development
Following the successful Putting Values into Practice: Community Development for Social Change conference that took place in Loughborough in April 2010, FCDL
convened a small working group to take forward the discussion about ‘professionalising’ community development. This involved community development practitioners from Community Development Cymru
(CDC), CDX, the England Standards Board, the Federation for Community Development Learning and the Regional Community Development Networks. This paper was produced by the group in December
The debate about ‘professionalising’ Community Development has been around for a long time but recently has intensified in all the jurisdictions. First LLUK, the Lifelong Learning Sector Skills
Council, and now LSIS has professionalisation on its agenda. There is also a greater sense of urgency that we, the Community Development field, need to come to some agreement on this issue before
‘somebody else decides for us’.
In England, during 2009, the England Standards Board produced a discussion paper and posted responses on its website, CDX had discussions at its regional workshops, FCDL ran a workshop at its 2009
AGM and presented a paper at the 2010 Loughborough conference, and CDF included questions in its Community Workers survey. In Ireland, the All Ireland Group, including CWETN from the North and the
Community Workers’ Co-operative based in the South, has discussed the issue at length. In Wales, Community Development Cymru, several years ago, held a conference on this theme and The Community
Development Action Plan for Wales talks about ‘A professional workforce’. The Wales Assembly Government now has a Community Development Workforce Development Strategy. The situation and systems in
Scotland have always been very different and continue to be, but we still need to establish a stronger dialogue with CD practitioners in Scotland.
Why do we need a Community Development Workforce plan?
During the last three years in different parts of the LLUK jurisdiction areas there have been much debate about professionalisation and Community Development. The debates have not originated because
of a need to gain status for status sake or simply a way to protect jobs or improve terms and conditions. At the heart of the debate is the aim to promote the importance of a profession based on a
value based approach to using skills and knowledge in response to the flexible and changing context of community action and organising. It is about gaining recognition that Community Development
practice needs to be based on the values, processes, skills and knowledge reflected in the Community Development National Occupational Standards (CDNOS).
Any emerging policies or strategies aimed at supporting communities to create, develop and sustain groups reflecting communities of place, interest and identity need to recognise the need to
provide community development support, promote community learning, encourage inclusive models of citizenship while building strong bonds within and across communities.
At the root of the discussions around professionalisation are the increasing concerns that the Community Development workforce is often undervalued and not acknowledged as being an essential
component in promoting and supporting inclusive and participatory ways of working with communities.
Recognition of Community Development as a distinct workforce means the need for investment in appropriate training, pay scales, continual professional development as well as essential networking
across a range of occupations working with community groups and networks. A workforce development strategy for Community Development will encourage collaboration across any practitioners aiming to
support collective community actions based on democracy and inclusion, social justice and equality.
Themes such as citizenship, environmental justice, inclusive health and well-being initiatives to name but a few are areas that Community Development practice adds value to as part of
supporting community led action and learning.
The need to gain recognition and acknowledgement about the value, the quality and the process that Community Development practitioners bring to the process of: supporting, listening to and
encouraging community members to organise and work together in order to identify their own needs and aspirations; take actions to exert influence the decisions that affect their lives; and improve
the quality of their own lives, the communities in which they live and the societies that they are part of.
The principles underpinning the strategy/action plan
Community Development needs to reclaim its ownership of a way of working that has been consistently shown to be effective.
- Community Development needs to celebrate and demonstrate its transformative impact on individuals and communities and on those with a remit to provide services and support to communities.
- Community Development needs to raise its profile so that people / organisations understand what it is and how it works.
- All communities, of place, interest and identity, deserve to have access to good quality community development support by practitioners using the inclusive and participatory ways of working that
are grounded in the values of community development.
- Community Development is a recognised sphere of work with its own ethics and national standards.
- Community Development is clearly about promoting equality and social justice and supporting real changes in communities which tackle issues of marginalisation, discrimination and poverty, and
raises and fulfils aspirations.
- Community Development is an approach which encompasses collective action, community empowerment, building on and sharing the expertise and skills within communities.
- Community Development is an approach that can respond to the increasing complexity of our society and the associated problems that people face in a fast changing world.
- Community Development practitioners can work quickly and effectively with and in communities because of their connections and approach, although community development is a long term educative
process it enables ‘quick wins’ to maintain and increase involvement by communities; community development inputs provide a catalytic role which leads to wide ranging community activity.
- Community Development practitioners are highly skilled, competent and professional in their practice.
- Community Development provides a way of investing in communities, of supporting communities developing their own leadership, of promoting and supporting community well-being.
- Community Development practitioners enable people within communities to increase their political literacy which is a precursor to effective community empowerment and engagement in ‘the Big
Society’ or other concepts/initiatives.
- Community Development practitioners act as a bridge between agencies and communities, providing connections within and between communities, localities, community groups, statutory bodies.
- Community Development practitioners provide informal education, encouraging people to learn from each other, and encouraging people to raise their aspirations in education and employment.
- Community Development practitioners have a key role in promoting a community development approach by other agencies and professionals.
- Community Development is a skilled way of working, at least equivalent to youth work and social work; our aspiration is for community development practitioners who provide paid support to
communities to be able to demonstrate practice equivalent to degree level of knowledge and understanding in community development and be able to demonstrate their practice against the key areas in
Developing the action plan
1. Celebrating and promoting Community Development and its impact
- Collate case studies of CD practice.
- Publicise work of CD practitioners.
- Short briefing papers on the history of CD, who is involved, aimed at employers, public bodies, officials, policy makers, funders.
- Promoting the CDNOS and how to use them.
- Demonstrate the centrality of CD to all kinds of policies and communities, and at a range of different levels.
- Demonstrate the transferability of skills and knowledge across sectors and areas of work.
- Promoting the value of informal learning.
2. Ensuring a highly skilled and qualified Community Development workforce
a) Actions aimed at employers and employing bodies
- all employers of CD practitioners should provide their staff with opportunities to measure their existing skills and knowledge against the requirements of the NOS (a skills scan, or snap shot
type document would be needed).
- all new employees without a relevant qualification in CD would be expected to receive support to achieve the award in CD at an appropriate level within 6 months of starting their post.
- all employers who require a degree level qualification for CD posts should require a degree in a relevant CD subject.
- employers should link with Recognition schemes to provide opportunities for existing staff to demonstrate their expertise at an appropriate level.
- all employers should provide CPD opportunities to their CD workforce.
- that an induction to CD encompasses the wide range of CD activity including informal education, advocacy, campaigning, lobbying as well as self help and service provision.
b) Actions aimed at awarding bodies and qualification providers
- to ensure that the newly developing units are combined to form CD qualifications in line with the overall CD qualifications framework document and the revised CD learning and Qualifications
- to ensure that there are progression opportunities within the qualifications that are developed.
c) Actions aimed at the field/ practitioners
- produce a matrix which links the range of roles where CD is involved/ undertaken and map these to the particular requirements of the CDNOS for that kind of role (based upon the Recognition
- produce guidance on appropriate qualifications and career prospects in CD for IAG agencies.
- develop political literacy support programmes to enable CD practitioners to do this effectively.
- develop packages to support the development of reflective practice skills.
- explore the idea of a code of practice or register or code of conduct/signing up to values and principles and debate how to involve communities in that
- promoting progression into and between workforce and community.
d) Actions aimed at other bodies
- ensuring that the people delivering the CD programmes have appropriate qualifications and background in CD – developing an improved ‘training the trainers’ programme that integrates CD values
- organising joint training across sectors and professions.
- exploring areas of funding for qualifications and learning; including Recognition; and funded opportunities for community activists to develop their CD knowledge, understanding and skills.
The development of this framework complements the work to find accessible ways to support people using Community Development National Occupational
Standards (CDNOS) and the framework for Community Development Learning and Qualifications. Each of these strands aims to support practitioners, their employers, policy
makers and funders to understand the important role and process offered to communities when the occupations of Community Development practitioners are sustained as part of the ongoing support for
communities and community groups and members across contexts and jurisdictions.