By: Gregory S. Taylor
Community development is a key program in county Extension education. To be successful in this program area, county agents and their supervisors need to be able to recognize and define what is (and what is not) encompassed in community and economic development. A related issue is to be able to identify, categorize and distinguish among the many specific educational thrusts possible for community and economic development programs.
There are many possible definitions for both community development and economic development. To give Extension faculty a practical definition to use for local programming, a definitional construct (Fig. 1) for community development has been devised. This definition was formulated to be generally accepted from an academic perspective and at the same time be understandable and useful to county Extension agents and their supervisors.
The figure outlines three primary types of resources available in a community:
- Economic resources—businesses, jobs, etc.
- Human resources—the skills and other contributions of the people living in the community
- Physical, natural and cultural resources—the resources of the natural environment as well as those that are man-made, such as streets and hospitals
Extension educational programs could be created in a community to develop resources in one or more of these categories.
In addition, many community development programs often overlap two or more resource categories. For example, a new playground would not only be an addition to a community’s physical, natural and cultural resources, but when put into use for recreation, it would also be an enhancement for the area’s families, or human resources. These types of multiple-resource community development issues are shown in the sections divided by dashed lines in Figure 1.
The dashed lines indicate that the focuses for any specific issue are not rigid. For example, in a specific county, entrepreneurship could have more of an environmental focus than a people focus, but in all cases it will likely involve both to a greater or lesser extent. The critical point is that this definitional construct can help agents associate community issues with outcome-oriented (goals/objectives) programming.
Examples of possible goals and objectives for each resource and focus area are listed in Table 1. Once a community’s issues have been defined and goals set, Extension faculty may use Table 2 to identify possible resources for help in reaching those community development goals.
From this perspective, in Extension educational programming, human resources and their development are a constant. The differences occur in emphasis and focus on the other resources in various combinations for community development. These differences reflect the various issues and different programming possibilities. Therefore, goals and objectives are not specified in this area in Table 1.
An example of an issue that could be addressed in a community development program is the economy (jobs, income). A goal for addressing the issue could be to increase the number of high-quality jobs in a community. A locally practical way to achieve this goal may be to retain and expand existing businesses.
And, as Table 2 indicates, there are Extension educational resources (such as The Business Retention and Expansion Handbook) that can be employed to help reach the goal. However, as is indicated in Figure 1, other strategies could also be used to achieve the goal, including workforce development, entrepreneurship or ecotourism programming. Goals and strategies can also be adapted to, and consistent with, the agency strategic plan.
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