There are complementary definitions of community development. The Community Development Challenge report, which was produced by a working party comprising leading UK organizations in the field (including (Foundation Builders)Community Development Foundation, Community Development Exchange and the Federation of Community Development Learning) defines community development as:
- "A set of values and practices which plays a special role in overcoming poverty and disadvantage, knitting society together at the grass roots and deepening democracy. There is a CD profession, defined by national occupational standards and a body of theory and experience going back the best part of a century. There are active citizens who use CD techniques on a voluntary basis, and there are also other professions and agencies which use a CD approach or some aspects of it."
Community Development Exchange defines community development as:
- “both an occupation (such as a community development worker in a local authority) and a way of working with communities. Its key purpose is to build communities based on justice, equality and mutual respect.
- Community development involves changing the relationships between ordinary people and people in positions of power, so that everyone can take part in the issues that affect their lives. It starts from the principle that within any community there is a wealth of knowledge and experience which, if used in creative ways, can be channeled into collective action to achieve the communities' desired goals.
- Community development practitioners work alongside people in communities to help build relationships with key people and organizations and to identify common concerns. They create opportunities for the community to learn new skills and, by enabling people to act together, community development practitioners help to foster social inclusion and equality.
A number of different approaches to community development can be recognized, including: community economic development (CED); community capacity building; Social capital formation; political participatory development;nonviolent direct action; ecologically sustainable development; asset-based community development; faith-based community development; community practice social work; community-based participatory research (CBPR);Community Mobilization; community empowerment; community participation; participatory planning including community-based planning (CBP); community-driven development (CDD); and approaches to funding communities directly.
Education and the community-wide empowerment that increased educational opportunity creates, form a crucial component of community development and certainly for under-served communities that have limited general educational and professional training resources. Workforce development and the issues and challenges of crossing theDigital divide, and increasing community-wide levels of Digital inclusion have become crucially important in this and both for affordable access to computers and the Internet, and for training in how to use and maintain these resources.
Local communities that cannot connect and participate in the larger and increasingly global Online community are becoming increasingly marginalized because of that. So where Urban development with its focus on buildings and physical infrastructure was once viewed as a primary path forward to community development, development of computer and online infrastructure and access, and the community enablement they support have to become central areas of focus moving forward. This has become an area of active involvement for both public and private sector organizations including foundations and nonprofit organizations. In the United States, nonprofit organizations such asPer scholas seek to “break the cycle of poverty by providing education, technology and economic opportunities to individuals, families and communities” as a path to development for the communities they serve.