Working in a “community development” way

Community development is a process where community
members come together to take collective action and
generate solutions to common problems. – Wikipedia

Many community mental health issues cannot be addressed alone. People are complex, so a one-size
approach cannot meet the needs of everyone. The community development (CD) approach brings people
of varying backgrounds, skills and experiences together to address a community issue they all share.
A leadership team is established to plan, organize, implement and evaluate the work.

The CD process is relationship-focused, so time is needed to build authentic and respectful relationships
that create a safe atmosphere for the type of work and learning environment necessary to find common
ground. Listening to community members helps to deeply understand the context regarding the issue
and to co-develop a common vision to address the issue.

The CD process encourages co-designing and co-producing of an action plan and its implementation.
Identifying specific community action items for changes may be one of the most important practices
implemented as well as building on community strengths and leveraging opportunities through the
participation of diverse groups of people.

It is also important to keep a record of what was done and how it was done. Documentation of process,
reflection and evaluation of results from actions undertaken are critical to understand the impact of
changes. It helps to identify learning opportunities and where adaptations may be required. It is also
vital to ensure people are appreciated and successes are celebrated at times throughout the process.

Jean Dalton, Manager, Community Strategies, United Way of the Alberta Capital Region

Visit: Community Mental Health Action Plan: Shared Wisdom for Supporting Mental Health in the Community at

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