Essentially, community development workers help communities to help themselves. This profession is all about working alongside members of troubled communities, inspiring them, supporting them, and offering them guidance and opportunities for initiating social change and making improvements to their own community.
Community development workers act as a bridge between marginalised communities and government authorities at local, regional and national levels. They also provide vital assistance in the distribution of funding, the implementation of community projects and monitoring the progress of the communities in their jurisdiction.
Basically, these guys help community members, young and old, to build better lives. If you break into this line of work, you’ll firstly be responsible for understanding the issues affecting deprived areas, assessing the situation and devising ways for counteracting the evident social decline.
Before you implement new community programmes and initiatives, you’ll be evaluating existing schemes, identifying their flaws and highlighting where there’s room for improvement.
Then it’s all about discussing how and where these communities’ needs and aspirations can be met, devising strategies, considering budgetary restrictions and then working with a range of different organisations to prepare and implement projects.
In order for these projects to be successful, you’ll need to build relationships with government organisations, community groups and local businesses that are willing to invest time and money into their local communities.
Once you’ve successfully put your plans into action, it’s all about promoting community schemes to the public and generally getting people involved.
Some community development workers specialise in addressing niche social problems, such as drug abuse, homelessness or unemployment, while others tackle community problems from a generalist perspective.
Whatever kind of community development work you choose to get involved with, you will have a wealth of responsibility and be challenged at every turn.
Salary & benefits
Annual salaries for community development workers in the early stages of their career tend to range between £16,000 and £22,000, while employees with increased levels of experience can earn between £22,000 and £35,000 per annum.
The working hours are normally fairly irregular, given the nature of the job, which usually involves working with a range of different people, in different locations, at different times.
Evening, weekend and holiday work may also be necessary when meeting people that are not available during the working week.
Travelling around is an integral part of the job. Therefore, it may be useful if you have a full driving licence.
Entry into this profession is possible for graduates from all academic backgrounds, although a background in sociology, social work, youth work or other social science subjects may boost your chances.
You can enter without a degree. However, getting into this line of work is rather competitive and not having a degree may put you at a disadvantage.
It’s incredibly important for you to gain prior experience in a relevant field. Therefore, you should get involved with volunteering schemes or other community programmes. Extensive work experience may even be regarded as a prerequisite by many employers.
Many community development workers may have to undergo a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check before they can start work.
Training & progression
The majority of your training will be conducted whilst on the job. After all, there’s no better way to learn than going out there in the community and getting stuck in.
Some community development workers may also wish to expand their horizons and improve their skills by taking formal training courses or studying for further qualifications in community work, youth work or social work.
Experienced personnel should consider obtaining advanced postgraduate qualifications for taking up senior management roles, where policy development, budgeting and operational strategy skills are useful.
As you progress through the managerial ranks, you may eventually become responsible for the strategic direction of community projects across an entire region.