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What Are the Different Types of Community Development Theory?

By Osmand Vitez
Updated: May 16, 2024

Community development theory is often a study conducted under economics or a similar social science. Its purpose is to discover how a community unit can best be moved from a lower economic tier to a higher one. A few types of community development theories focus on different approaches, which may focus on child development, public spaces, and general economic prosperity. Other types or approaches may exist, depending on the current conditions of a community. Economists, politicians, citizens, and outside consultants may be sources for starting these development theories.

Child development is a community development theory that starts with a community’s school system or similar networks. Economists look at how a proper school system or other child development programs can help improve the future of a community. Most communities have public school systems funded through taxes paid by citizens. Economists and others look at how a community spends these taxes and the effects of child development, which can go all the way to high schools, until children turn 18, becoming adults. Comparisons to other school systems may be necessary to understand the function of current school development.

Public spaces usually refer to any place in a community that offers free use for all citizens. Other inclusions in this definition can be public hospitals, firehouses, police units, and similar outfits. Community development theory may focus on improving these public spaces in addition to others, such as parks, libraries, and government buildings. In short, any infrastructure that lacks proper development may be included in this theoretical study. Larger cities and municipalities may conduct more studies that include these items when compared to smaller cities or municipalities.

General economic prosperity concerns itself with the livelihood of all citizens in a city. For example, the current income for individuals and households, tax burdens, inflation, and other economic situations may be under examination. Businesses are often necessary to help drive a municipality’s local economy. Community development theory reviews these and other issues to assure those who manage the community’s development will achieve economic success. Many different pieces of information may be necessary in this study to understand how a city or municipality operates financially.

Outside analysis in community development theory is often common by government agencies or academia. These reports help a nation as a whole to understand the effect of economic policy on many different locales. Periodic studies conducted by these groups may be used politically to change or alter current national economic policy.

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Discussion Comments
By clintflint — On Oct 06, 2014

@Mor - I prefer it when community development theory focuses more on increasing education and providing places for youth to hang out and things like that, rather than trying to get rid of crime from the other side of it.

It just seems more like they are hoping to change a community by turning out the people who are there currently and getting more desirable people to take their places, rather than by actually instituting change in the environment and infrastructure.

By Mor — On Oct 05, 2014

@pastanaga - I believe that was the theory they used to reduce crime and poverty in New York City in the late 90's. The police were told to crack down on even the smallest crimes that they might have let slide back when they were concentrating on all the bigger crimes.

In the long term it made the whole community safer, because the response to the smaller things had an effect on the perception of the larger ones.

By pastanaga — On Oct 04, 2014

One of the interesting things a friend told me about this was something she called the "broken window" theory. It was basically that if a community had an obvious indicator that it was not economically wealthy, such as a broken window that wasn't immediately fixed, that it was more likely to gain more and more such indications of neglect, because people would take less pride in it and eventually the community would end up with more crime and a lower economic status.

The opposite side of that was that if a community made a big effort in the short term to "tidy up" then everyone would take more pride in the place and continue to combat those signs of neglect, and that could have further repercussions, such as reducing crime and increasing mean wealth.

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