Course Description

This course examines methods of community development for a diverse democracy. It assesses the ways in which people join together, take initiative, and develop community-based programs, with or without assistance by outside agencies. It analyzes core concepts of community development, steps in the process, and perspectives on future practice in a society which values diversity as an asset.

The course assumes that community members are active participants and competent citizens who mobilize resources and build upon strengths, rather than problems in society or passive recipients of services. Emphasis is placed on increasing involvement of traditionally underrepresented groups in economically disinvested and racially segregated areas.

The course will draw upon best practices and lessons learned from community-based initiatives involving education, environment, health, housing, and neighborhood revitalization, in addition to social work, public health, urban planning, and related fields.

Course Objectives

  • Understand the changing context and core concepts of community development in a diverse democratic society.
  • Recognize alternative concepts of community as pluralist and multicultural units of solution.
  • Develop knowledge of steps in the process, e.g., bringing people together, assessing community conditions, building organizational capacity, making action plans, increasing intergroup dialogue.
  • Critically assess case studies and lessons learned from community-based practice.
  • Identify issues of underrepresented groups in economically disinvested and racially segregated areas.
  • Examine questions of ethics and values arising in the field.

Course Design

Responsibilities include readings, participation in discussions, written assignments, and individual and group exercises related to course objectives. Community collaborators and resource persons will address specific topics in areas of expertise.

Relationship of Course to Curricular Themes

Multiculturalism and Diversity:

Students will identify ways in which community development can address race, ethnicity, class, gender, age, sexual orientation, and other forms of stratification of inequality.

Social Justice and Social Change:

Emphasis is placed on how community development can strengthen social change and social justice through community building in economically disinvested and squirted areas.

Promotion, Prevention, Treatment, and Rehabilitation:

The course will focus on how to prevent social problems and promote healthier communities rather than to take the frequent common curative model approach

Behavioral and Social Science Research:

Relevant research and best practices from diverse social science disciplines and professional fields will contribute to understanding of empirically-based practice.

Course Schedule


May 8-Opening and Orientation

May 15-Core Concepts I

May 22-Core Concepts II

May 29-No Class, Memorial Day

June 5-Steps in the Process, Entering the Community, Making Contacts & Bringing People Together

June 12-Getting to Know the Community I

June 19-Getting to Know the Community II

June 26-Building Organizational Capacity, Making Action Plans

July 3-Building Constituency Support, Increasing Intergroup Dialogue

July 10-Community Project

July 17-Community Project

July 24-Community Presentations, Youth Participation in Neighborhood Development, Closing

Reading List

Core Concepts

Checkoway, B., et al. (2003). Democracy multiplied in an urban neighborhood: Youth Force in the South Bronx. Children, Youth and Environments, 13, 1-19.

Checkoway, B., et al. (2006). Arab Americans Arising: Case Studies of Community-Based Organizations in Three American Cities. Dearborn: Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, pp. 23-37.

Pratt Center for Community Development CDC Oral History Project Studies

Capraro, J.F. (2004). Community organizing + community development = community transformation. Journal of Urban Affairs, 26, 151-161.

Mattesich, P. & Monsey, B. (2001). Community Building: What Makes It Work? A Review of Factors Influencing Successful Community Building. St. Paul: Amherst J. Wilder Foundation.

Grisgby, W.J. (2001). Community Vitality: Some Conceptual Considerations. University Park: Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development.

Murphy, P.W. & Cunningham, J.V. (2003). Organizing for Community-Controlled Development. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, Chapters 3,4.

Chaskin, R.J. (1997). Perspectives on neighborhood and community: A review of the literature. Social Service Review, 71, 521-547.

Morrissey, J. (2000). Indicators of citizen participation: Lessons from learning teams in rural EZ/EC communities. Community Development Journal 35, 59-74.

Steps in the Process

Henderson, P. & Thomas, D.N. (2003). Skills in Neighbourhood Work. London: Allen & Unwin, Table of Contents.

Jones, B. (1990). Neighborhood Planning: A Guide for Citizens and Planners. Chicago: American Planning Association, Chapter 2.

Bopp, M. & Bopp, J. (2001). Recreating the World: A Practical Guide to Building Sustainable Communities. Calgary: Four Worlds Press, Part IV.

World Vision. (2002). Transformational Development & Community Transformation. Federal Way: Author, passim.

Entering the Community

Henderson & Thomas, Chapter 2.

Eng, E. (1988). Extending the unit of practice from the individual to the community. Danish Medical Bulletin, 6, 45-51.

Getting to Know the Community

Marti-Costa, S., & Serrano-Garcia, I. (2001). Needs assessment and community development: An ideological perspective. In J. Tropman, et al., eds. Strategies of Community Intervention. Itasca: F.E. Peacock Publishers, Chapter 14.

Henderson & Thomas, Chapter 3, Appendix.

Hope, A. & Timmel, S. (1995). Training for Transformation: A Handbook for Community Workers. Gweru, Zimbabwe: Mambo Press, Chapters 1-3.

Driskell, D. (2001). Creating Better Cities with Children and Youth. Paris/ London: UNESCO/Earthscan, Chapter 6.

Kretzmann, J. & McKnight, J. (2005). Mapping community capacity. In M. Minkler, ed. Community Organizing and Community Building for Health. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, Chapter 10.

Making Contacts and Bringing People Together

Henderson & Thomas, Chapter 5.

Hope & Tisdale, Chapter 5.

Chambers R. (2002). Participatory Workshops. London: Earthscan, Chapters 5,11-12.

Building Organizational Capacity

Henderson & Thomas, Chapter 6

Hardcastle, D., et al. (2004). Community Practice: Theories and Skills for Social Workers. New York: Oxford University Press, Chapter 10.

Chaskin, R.J., et al. (2001). Building Community Capacity. New York: Aldine De Gruyer, Chapter 2.

Making Action Plans

Henderson & Thomas, Chapter 7.

Hope & Tisdale, Chapter 7.

Driskell, D. (2001). Creating Better Cities with Children and Youth. Paris/ London: UNESCO/Earthscan, Chapter 4.

Murphy, P.W. & Cunningham, J.V. (2003). Organizing for Community-Controlled Development. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, Chapter 8.

Building Constituency Support

Checkoway, B. (1986). Political strategy for social planning. In B. Checkoway, ed. Strategic Approaches to Planning Practice. Lexington: Lexington Books, Chapter 13.

Warren, M.R. (2001). Dry Bones Rattling: Community Building to Revitalize American Democracy. Princeton: Princeton University Press, Chapter 5.

Maurasse, D.J. (2001). Beyond the Campus: How Colleges and Universities Form Partnerships with Their Communities. New York: Routledge, Chapter 4.

Increasing Intergroup Dialogue

Zuniga, X. & Nagda, B.R. (2004). Design considerations in intergroup dialogue. In D. Schoem & S. Hurtado, eds. Intergroup Dialogue: Deliberative Democracy in School, College, Community, and Workplace. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, Chapter 20.

McCoy, M. & McCormick, M.A. Engaging the whole community in dialogue and action: Study circles resource center. In Schoem, Chapter 9.

Youth Participation in Neighborhood Development

Medoff, P. & Sklar, H. (1994). Seeds of Hope: The Fall and Rise of an Urban Neighborhood. Boston: South End Press, Chapter 8.

Checkoway, B. (1998). Involving young people in neighborhood development. Children and Youth Services Review, 20, 765-795.

Frank, K. I. (2006). The potential of youth participation in planning. Journal of Planning Literature, 20: 351-371.


The assignments for the course include memoranda based on the readings and proposal for a community development initiative.


Write a series of memoranda which enable you to critically analyze and refer to the readings, organize your thoughts, and come to class prepared to discuss your approach. Each memorandum should be no more than two typewritten pages, and is due on the dates indicated below.

The first memorandum should address: What is your definition of community development? What criteria would you use to assess it, and why?
(Due May 15, 10 percent)

The second memorandum should discuss: What are the key factors which facilitate successful community development. (Due May 22, 10 percent)

The third memorandum should compare various versions of community development, and formulate an approach of your own. Specifically, what are the “steps in the process” described by Henderson and Thomas, Jones, Bopp and Bopp, and World Vision. What are the steps in your own approach, and why? (Due June 5, 10 percent)

For the fourth memorandum, form a learning group around a method of community assessment, e.g., interviews, focus groups, asset mapping. Write a group memorandum which refers to relevant readings and addresses: What is the method? What are its features? What are its strengths and weaknesses? What is its potential for the class project? Come to class prepared to teach others about its practice. (Due June 19, 10 percent)


Working in learning groups, prepare a 5-page proposal for a community development initiative in a specific neighborhood, and make a 10-minute presentation to class members and community leaders. More background on this project is below. (Due July 24, 40 percent)


Prepare a final portfolio of your semester’s work, including all assignments and a brief reflexive summary of your experience in the course. (Due July 26)

On-Line Resources

There are various on-line resources relevant for your work in the course, including Comm-Org and Community Tool Box.

Paper Revision Policy

You may revise and resubmit any paper for reevaluation until the last session of the seminar. Papers are due on assigned dates unless prearranged with the instructor. Late papers will be penalized.

Class Participation

Class participation contributes to individual and group learning. It might include involvement in discussions, volunteering, cocurricular activities, group leadership, or other initiatives. (20 percent)

Participation requires presence in class and submission of assignments on scheduled dates unless arranged in advance. Absence from class may result in lowering of your grade.

Class Project

Pastor Harry Grayson of Messias Temple Church in Ypsilanti has asked us to conduct a class project that will gather information and formulate an approach for a community development initiative in a neighborhood area, and present findings and recommendations to community leaders.

Overall, he wants to develop a vision and plan that will promote participation, build capacity, and strengthen development in an area served by the Ypsilanti Community Non-Profit Housing Corporation, bounded approximately by Congress Street, Michigan Avenue, Chidester Street, I-94, and South Hewitt Road.

Pastor Grayson has asked the following questions:

  1. What do people inside and outside the area perceive as its assets and needs?
  2. What kind of community development initiative would people most likely support in the area? What would you recommend?
  3. What are some approaches to community development as a process that might accomplish this purpose? What are the steps in the process?
  4. What are the key elements for successful community development? What are the factors that facilitate and limit work of this type?

Pastor Grayson is asking us to gather information and formulate ideas for consideration. He hopes that we will “look, listen, and learn” as a preliminary step on which to build a potential long-term initiative. The assignment is not to formulate plans or create change, but to gather information and formulate ideas for an initiative which they might undertake. He expects us to make a presentation to him and other community leaders at the end of the semester.

Because of the preliminary sensitive stage, he asks that we communicate and coordinate through me before entering the neighborhood. It might jeopardize the project if we were to make contact without checking with him first.

Pastor Grayson is interested in gathering information about assets and needs, groups and agencies, community leadership, perceptions of people inside and outside the area, etc. Assessment methods might include observations, documents, interviews, focus groups, asset mapping, and a session with young people.

Pastor Grayson is joined by colleagues who share his commitment. They have been impressed by World Vision’s approach to transformational development, which places emphasis on youth development and youth participation.

Proposals should include the following:

  • Project name – name or title of the project
  • Purpose statement – a one sentence description of what will be accomplished as a result of the initiative
  • Project overview – a one-paragraph summary of the project
  • Project goals – impacts to be accomplished
  • Project objectives – key elements necessary for success
  • Rationale – why the project is important and the approach is appropriate
  • Project steps – steps that will accomplish the objectives
  • Elements for successful community development
  • Indicators for measuring success
  • Your own methodology – what you did to come up with the proposal
  • Realistic timeline

The proposal should utilize and refer to specific course readings and class discussions. The presentation should include a visual that illustrates the proposal.



SW 650 Spring/Summer 2006





UM program:

Professional goal:

Childhood community:

Ancestral community:

Community experience:

Interest in course topic:

Something about you that might be useful to the class:

Group whose participation I care about:

Characteristic of the group:

Perfect day:

Do you have a car available for driving to the neighborhood?

In the event that additional scheduling is required, can you meet on the following: Monday, 12-1; Monday, 5-6; Saturday morning; Sunday evening