Why get into community development?
You don’t have to be Mother Teresa to care about the state of your community. Community development work can be done by absolutely anybody. What’s more, the work can no longer be defined by litter picking in the rain or taking your grandma to ASDA to buy soup and tights.
Community development officers are the dynamic individuals that strive to bring about positive change in the UK’s many different communities.
None of us live in a blissful utopian environment. Every community in every corner of the country has room for improvement and would benefit from helpful community development initiatives. However, some communities need development more than others, especially ones which are rife with social problems such as unemployment and high crime rates.
What roles does a community development officer play?
A community development officer is not like Mary Poppins. These guys don’t breeze into troubled communities and sweep everything under the carpet. They are determined, hardworking individuals who work alongside communities to make improvements and initiate change for the benefit of the public.
Community development work takes a lot of planning and a lot of effort. However, with the right amount of determination and endeavour, beneficial schemes can get off the ground, new services can be introduced and useful facilities can be developed.
Community development officers tend to be employed by local councils or NGOs with a vested interest in local communities. Their efforts can help all kinds of social groups and all kinds of citizens, from children and young people, to adults and older people.
The schemes that are implemented by community development workers can improve healthcare and education, help disadvantaged people to find jobs, provide more opportunities for recreational activities or even help failing local businesses to get back on their feet.
What are my roles likely to be?
The professional life of community development officers can be varied, challenging and immensely rewarding.
First and foremost, these guys are required to conduct research into the communities in their catchment area. This will involve going out into communities, meeting the people, conducting social research studies and liaising with other local community groups and service providers. Before they can help solve problems, these guys need to understand the problems affecting the community.
Following this period of research, community development workers have strategic responsibility to devise and plan schemes and initiatives that will address the problems they have encountered. For instance, they might propose to build a new youth centre or offer adult education courses.
Once schemes have been proposed and signed off, they need to be implemented. Community development officers will play an integral role throughout this process, working alongside members of the community and other local service providers to get things kick started.
These roles come with a ton of responsibility. As you progress, you might be in charge of tight budgets and the promotion of new development programmes. You’ll need to encourage community engagement with the schemes. After all, if nobody uses the new services or facilities then all your previous work will have been in vain. If your plans are successful, you’ll get fantastic job satisfaction from helping struggling communities to prosper and you’ll also play a vital role in helping to implement government policies.
These roles are incredibly competitive; it would certainly be a good idea to secure a bunch of relevant work experience and volunteering opportunities before applying for permanent roles. Furthermore, a relevant degree or NVQ in youth work or community development would also give you a helping hand.
So, if you’re keen to make a difference in a career that is hands-on and places you in direct involvement with the people and communities around you, a career in community development could be the one for you!