Sustainable Community Development

Sustainable community development is a noble goal. Problems occur when the term is misunderstood, or when the meaning is lost. What do we mean when we say we want to participate in sustainable community development? What are the goal posts and how do we know when we have arrived?


Sustainability is less about a philosophy or engagement than it is about simple choices, actions and behaviours

The Problem

Many projects are started around the world with the best of intentions, no one intends to create dependency, or to see a project fail. Still, broken wells are lying uselessly inside communities that could really use a clean water source.

What is the cause of the problem?

The Difference Between Relief and Development

A disaster or perpetual community poverty may both result in poor housing and hungry people, but the methods to deal with those problems are radically different. Relief work or development work will require different tools. Use the wrong tool and we can create bigger problems. The circumstance determines which tool we use.

The problem sometimes will lie in the perception of the need by an outsider. When an outsider to the community arrives they cannot understand the complex interplay of the people of that community. Asking the wrong question can result in more community dependency than if we had never arrived.


Benchmarks of Sustainable Community Development

  1. Local agenda/priority
  2. Local materials
  3. Replicable by community and others
  4. An advantage is earned by the community
  5. Nothing is free
  6. Passes “hit by the bus” test.