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Within the global context of unpredictability and changing scenarios, with their constant flows of information and opportunity and emerging reliance on knowledge and brain power, small and poor rural or urban communities must develop strategies and programmes of their own development.

Traditionally, development has taken place through the replacement of natural resources by man-made assets. The process of replacement involves, in many cases, the replacement of resources that were accessible to local community use, by man-made assets that are private and not accessible to the people.

Given that natural assets appreciate over time and man-made assets depreciate, the traditional process of development has not increased but instead decreased the asset value of communities, resulting in accelerating erosion of their asset base and that of future generations. Similarly, the increase in land value, long regarded as the yardstick for development often resulted in the escallation of land prices beyond the capacity of the community, ultimately leading to marginalization on the community.

The challenge that communities face therefore, is not simply to earn a living at a continuing level of mere subsistence, but, to attain meaningful transformation towards higher standards of living and a better quality of life. This approach guarantees a healthy environment for the generations of tomorrow.

Learning Objectives:

On completing this Unit, you will be able to:

1. Place the value of different categories of resources (capital) in perspective within the context of today's world.

2. Understand notions of development and the processes that go with them.

3. Identify skills that are required to foster the development process

4. Identify components of the process and their role.

5. Formulate a concept for a system of development and suggest ways of approaching it.


This Unit has three sessions:

Session 1.1: Introduction to Community Development
Session 1.2: Nature of Sustainable Development
Session 1.3: Environmental Impact Assessment

Session I.1 introduces the concept of community development and examines the nature of the process to improve persons at the grassroots in a global scenario of change and development.



Planning for Sustainable Development in the Caribbean

Edited by Asad Mohammed and Dennis Pantin


Port of Spain - Trinidad - 1994

"Perspectives on Sustainable Development" - Angela Cropper



It used to be that land represented wealth. It was material and solid, it represented power, and one either had it, or did not have it. There was a clear distinction between those who possessed it and those who did not. One could see it, touch it and feel it. It was capital which one knew where it was, it was usually permanent, not to be removed. One could leave it for extended periods of time and return to find that its value has increased several folds.

The industrial revolution changed the nature of capital. It began with the substitution of machinery and equipment in the production process being the most critical form of capital. Industrial capital, however, remained material and finite. When one bought into a company, or bankers sought to secure a loan, they demanded hard assets and tangible collateral. The relationship between the owners and their capital began to change putting distance between owners and physical plants that housed the assets. Not everyone with a share in the company ever saw or touched the machinery on which their wealth was based. Wealth in companies was represented by bonds or stock certificate.
 Can you think of any other feature used by individuals and businesses that would be considered as valuable assets?

As the production process became more sophisticated, automated and eventually computerised, the nature of wealth and capital underwent further change. Although, traditional investors still regard hard assets as critical, investors in the fastest growing, most advanced sectors rely on radically different factors to back their investments.

Today's investors make their decision to invest in a particular organisation based on the collective innovative capacity and creativity of managemant and workforce. Emerging trends are away from public relations, advertising and sales promotion towards customer determined quality, taste and choice. It is therefore the product that will sell itself. The quality of the contents becomes more important than the label on the packaging.

This is a significant departure from the finite and static character inherent in the traditional definition of capital. Firstly, the emerging emphasis is on forms of capital that are non-depreciating. In a dynamic context, knowledge, information and brain-power can be used and reused, applied to different situations at the same time, and oftentimes create, maintain and increase knowledge and information as they are used. Secondly, the carriers, users and manipulators of knowledge and information are human beings that apply it to produce and bring about change.

In the traditional sense of knowledge is power, it was knowledge that was capital. Professionals guarded their knowledge zealously, regarding it as their capital in a static sense, by protecting and selling it. In a dynamic sense, it is the ability to expand, shape, interpret it, creatively applying it to new situations and taking it to new heights that makes the professional of the future. As information becomes more accessible, there is no problem to share information since creativity and the ability to develop it further will ensure competitiveness.

Our capital is in our heads! It is manifested in our ability to think and to be creative. These attributes describe the whole individual, a total person, the knowledge worker of the future who is flexible, receptive and welcoming to new ideas and actively pursuing their discovery. The full human potential of mind, talent, interests, skills and experience is recognised and related to service, production, productivity and commitment to quality and community.

 What is Community Development?

Community Development is a process through which communities strive to improve the quality of life for their members. In doing so, community members undertake various activities that combine natural resources, brain power, knowledge and information, skills and man-made tools, organisations, facilities and systems to identify opportunities, and create plans to satisfy needs through the creation of products and services for delivery to persons who require them.

All the necessary resources, expertise and authority will not reside within the community. Members must therefore be equipped to access additional knowledge, information and expertise as required. Assistance is readily available through various government agencies and parliamentary representatives who it must be assumed, put people first! Other assistance is available through Non-Government Organisations whose mission is to assist development. Yet, other help is obtainable from volunteers and ultimately, may be purchased from various service providers.

Communities traditionally seek to satisfy their needs as they see them. They lobby for roads, water, electricity, schools and health care. Then they lobby to maintain these items and so the cycle continues. Agrarian communities fight for assistance to grow crops year after year without ever weaning the habit to seek handout needed to fund succeeding years' efforts. Schools are established but suffer decreasing ability to maintain plant and develop better systems of learning. Finally, lack of progress and opportunity causes a drift from rural to urban areas thereby creating a loss to the affected community of more affluent human resources to areas already saturated with persons that the society can barely support. Emerging approaches encourage communities to undertake development themselves. Instead of replacing natural, human and cultural resources, communities must identify and build on what they have and utilise it through proper resource management. This requires knowledge and understanding of ecosystems, their linkages and support systems, social structures and cultural heritage.

In order to initiate and attain these goals, communities must develop improved processes of dialogue and communication. These require skills of bringing people together, engaging them in meaningful discussion of topics that are of interest to them individualy and from a community point of view. Finally, these talks must lead to decision-making and action.

The quality of this dialogue, the range of options they uncover and the ultimate decision made is determined by:

the relevance of the data collected,

the accuracy of the analysis,

the objectivity of the evaluation,

the effectiveness of the interpertation and presentation of the information, and

the process of consensus building, decision-making and feedback.

Throughout the decision-making process, consideration is given to the potential impact of the various options available from the community, its members and the environment. Any development activity has positive or negative, direct or indirect, immediate or future, impact on the community. Anticipating and quantifying the potential impact of the development is an essential part of the process.

Having identified and chosen the projects and programmes from the group of alternatives, to be undertaken for their own development, communities then determine their needs for additional expertise and support. The team chosen will seek to turn the vision into the reality of an operation with the capacity to produce the products or services that are targetted. The team decides on the technology to be applied, the organisational arrangements including staffing and training required, nature, and source of funding.

Productivity often makes the difference between surplus and deficit. It brings together five main considerations

efficient use of technology in its broadest sense,

minimisation of inputs, more for less,

reduction of waste

stimulation of human energy, and,

the effective coupling of processes that are able to achieve extraordinary outcomes. Collectiveity, this is the key to competitive advantage.

Organisational considerations is a major determinant of conditions at the workplace and relationships with the other organisations, communities and countries. The principle of networking provides access to resources of various inputs, expertise, knowledge and information. It builds interdependencies and inter-relationships that are by there very nature the foundations on which the sucess of the community is possible through the collaborative and cooperative spirit.

Environmental considerations focus on understanding the nature of the local and global natural and human ecosystems, their importance individually and one to the other. This study provides knowledge and understanding of the context within which development is expected to happen. Of particular interest in the man-made component of the total environment and how it supports or impedes the process of development.

Finally, the question of how to make the transition from underdevelopment, or, from prevailing forms of development, to the proposed sustainable development process is approached not in absolute terms but in terms of a new way that applies the principles as a new way of life.

 What is Sustainable Development?

Several attempts have been made to define sustainable development. Definitions vary from writer to writer, but some are as follows:

Sustainable Development means improving the quality of life, while living within the carrying capacity of supporting ecosystems". - [Caring for the Earth: A Strategy for Sustainable Living, IUCN, UNEP, WWF, 1991]

The Brundtland Commission introduced the concept of a "Sustainable Society" as one "that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs". And more recently, in Beyond the Limits, the authors point out that: a sustainable society .... requires an emphasis on sufficiency, equity, and quality of life, rather than productivity, and more than technology; it also requires maturity, compassion and wisdom".

The realities of the present world forces us to attempt a more all embracing definition ..... The creation of a knowledge intensive society in which well developed minds use effective communication systems to optimise social and economic opportunities through ready access to and efficient transfer of information, minimizing the need for movement for education or training, business or pleasure, optimising condition of home, workplace and community, establishing positive linkages and functioning of local to global eco-systems both natural and human. - Everald Gowie-EduTech.

The term sustainable development has evolved to encompass ethical and social aspects of human society and not just concerns about the physical and environmental limits to economic activity. Angela Cropper in a theme paper, "Perspectives on Sustainable Development", stated under the scope of the term sustainable development:

"The Concept of Sustainable Development has come to encompass much more than understanding and respecting the limits to local and global natural resources and ecosystems, while meeting material needs of societies; it encompasses more than the concerns for environmental carrying capacity, It also encompasses a whole range of things, which were not previously taken as imperatives or objectives of development. "

"In addition, the improvement of quality life through provision of adequate food, health care, education, shelter, employment, opportunities for recreation and renewal of spiritual values (what might be said to be the traditional objectives of development), and concerns about environmental sustainability. Sustainable development encompasses and emphasises:

. community participation in policy making and management of resources

. more equitable access in the use and enjoyment of resources available; be they of the community, a country or the world as a whole.

. equity between generations and the elimination of poverty, where it exists, and, respect for minority rights and accommodation of diversity of cultures.

. gender equity in opportunity, value, recognition and reward and interdependence among groups within society, among countries.

· significance of individual country actions for the rest of the world, and, global issues, which are not the responsibility of anyone, but all countries

· change of emphasis from growth to access and distribution, and from productivity to equity

. importance of involving civil society in policy formulation and in planning and management of resources. "

"As part of the clarification process we should emphasise what sustainable development is not:

* Satisfying the needs of society (traditional development) in ways that are sensitive to the environment is not equal to sustainable development.

* Carrying on business as usual while minimizing impacts on the environment is not equal to sustainable development.

* Optimising output, while recognising physical limits is not equal to sustainable development

* Business as usual in economics, in politics, in social organisation, in international relations is not conducive to sustainable development.

The point is that the concept of sustainable development has inescapable and profound implications for how we govern ourselves, do business and make personal decisions. It raises fundamental questions about how social, economic and political decisions are taken, and about their implications for sustaining both resource base which yield goods and services for humanity, as well as, how to achieve and maintain an acceptable quality of life for all, now and in the future."

UWI-U1S1: What is Community Development?