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The history of community organization and development is a rich and varied one. The activity emerged at the end of the 19th century and has evolved over many decades leading to the present day when it has resonance in most countries of the world. As we know the evolution of community organization and development reflects the social, economic, cultural and political changes and developments of the different times at the local, national and international level. These substantial wider changes have shaped and contributed to the activity and this new contribution to the literature undertakes the ambitious project of analysing this evolution in some detail. The task is all the more interesting as the author, Steve Clarke, traces the advancement of the activity in both Britain and the United States, although, as Clarke notes, it was not until the 1970s that community development first took real shape in the United Kingdom when the British government was looking for ways of addressing critical social issues such as potential inner city unrest and severe housing problems. Clarke is a Research Fellow at Swansea University, Wales, and has over fifty years’ experience of international community development field work and consultancy, and of teaching community development to health professionals and social workers. He draws on this experience to produce a scholarly, well-researched account that draws on a relevant and wide bibliography. The book commences by providing the background to community development and its relevance to sustainable planning. This first chapter offers a helpful examination of the differences between community organization in the United States, and community development in the United Kingdom. This broad-based chapter is one that should ideally be read by those who want to know more about the roots of the different approaches. A key point raised in this early chapter is that community organization and community development evolved separately in the United States and the United Kingdom with little in the way of collaboration between the two countries. A further, arguably more important, point is that the social, economic and political position of older people in the present day lends itself to the application of community development interventions. The author returns to consider this theme in the last chapter. The next two chapters focus first on the evolution of community development up to 1940, followed by a chapter on community development in the ‘modern era’ which provides an international perspective. In the first of these two chapters, we are given an interesting account of how community organization evolved in the United States including how the government supported its professionalization during World War 1, and the link between the growth of sociology in the United States and the identification of targets for the practice. In the following chapter, Clarke claims ‘there is a marked inability of the various ‘philosophical schools of thought’ to recognize or communicate with each other’ (p. 115). Chapter 4 is titled ‘Community development in the modern era – community development in the UK’ and covers a territory that I am familiar with and have written about in various places (Popple, 2011, 2013, 2015). The contribution here by Clarke offers a further well-documented account of the evolution of community development and provides a focus on in each of the four countries of the United Kingdom. The final chapter offers a conclusion and final analysis of the major themes in each of the previous chapters while further focusing on Wales. For this, the author draws on his research in the country to provide an example of how Welsh national policy and local development can be successfully combined. Overall this is a first-rate wide-ranging account of the history of community development and community organization in the United States and the United Kingdom which is concisely written, appropriately referenced and challenging in its accounts. As mentioned earlier, the author adopts a scholarly approach to the material which further sharpens its value as a book that can be referred to in future research and writing about the activity. On the negative side, the author fails to refer to either the International Association for Community Development (IACD) or the Community Development Society (CDS). The IACD proudly claims to be the only global network for those who work in the community development field. Accredited by the United Nation, the IACD have a website www.iacdglobal.org with full details of its activities. The CDS is a US-based organization with something like 80 percent of its members practising there and a further 20 percent working in 32 different countries. Further information on the CDS can be accessed at www.comm-dev.org. These, in my opinion, are significant omissions and the author might want to consider including mention of the two organizations should he be thinking of a second edition at a later date. Finally and importantly at a time when a major concern is how best to address the issues raised by an aging population, this book offers in the final chapter how community development can with the right resources and commitment, make a valuable contribution to supporting this age group. References Popple , K. ( 2011 ) Rise and fall of the National Community Development Projects, 1968–1978: lessons to learn? in Gilchrist R. , Hodgson T. , Jeffs T. , et al. , eds , Reflecting on the Past: Essays on the History of Youth and Community Work , Russell House Publishing , Lyme Regis , pp. 155 – 164 . Popple , K. ( 2013 ) Reconsidering the 1950s and 1960s: the emergence and establishment of community development in the UK, in Gilchrist R. , Jeffs T. , Spence J. , et al. , eds , Reappraisals: Essays in the History of Youth and Community Work , Russell House Publishing , Lyme Regis , pp. 126 – 141 . Popple , K. ( 2015 ) Analysing Community Work: Theory and Practice , Open University Press , Maidenhead . © Oxford University Press and Community Development Journal. 2018 All rights reserved. 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Community Development Journal – Oxford University Press
Published: Oct 1, 2018
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