Community Development Strategies


Course Summary

It is common for health promoters to be viewed as being in the business of community development, but many do not have formal training in community development. Also, it is not always clear to what extent health promoters are mandated by their employers or funders to become involved in community development activities. This course is designed for health promoters to develop a basic understanding of basic values, principles and methods of community development and how they may be applied within their own work setting. Specific community development applications and methods, such as community asset mapping, will be explored. Appropriate roles of health promoters in collaborating with other organizations to work on broad community issues will be considered, along with factors that contribute to the success of community partnerships and coalitions. The course includes readings, exercises, case studies and resources for further information.  This course will help you to become an informed participant or perhaps even a leader in community development initiatives in your community.

Course Goal

The goal of this course is to increase the capacity of health promoters to engage and empower communities to improve their quality of life, through the application of community development values, concepts and strategies.

Course Objectives

Upon completion of the course, participants will have gained knowledge and skills in the following areas:

  • Community development values, concepts and practice, and how it differs from community outreach and community-based programs
  • Community asset mapping
  • Aligning health services with community priorities and values
  • Success factors in community partnerships and collaborations

Overview of the organization of the course content

The course will be divided into the following three modules, each of which will take about 3 hours to complete.

Module 1.         Concepts, Values and Principles

Module 2.         Strategies and Methods

Module 3.         Community Collaboration

Course Outline

Course Outline - Revised March 10, 2009


(a) Course Summary

(b) Course Goal

(c) Course objectives

(d) Content Overview


Module 1:       Concepts, Values and Principles

Content:       (a) Definition and characteristics of community

                       (b) Definition and history of community development

                       (c) Community Development Values and Principles

            (a) Checklist of community characteristics


1. Describe a community to which you belong. What are its demographic characteristics? What makes it a community?


2. Match a list of common terms used in traditional social services terminology with terms that reflect community development values and principles.


3. Write a paragraph answering the question “Is having a “sense of community” important to you?” and explaining why or why not.


Module 2:       Process, Strategies and Roles

Content:         (a) Ten Steps to Community Development

                         (b) Community Development Strategies

                         (c) Community Development Roles


Tools:             (a)  Community Asset Mapping



1. Read the case study provided and identify the community development methods or strategies used. Discuss how effective they think they were and whether or not there are other strategies or methods that may have been helpful in achieving the goal.


2. Quiz – match activities to strategies


Module 3:  Community Collaboration

Content:         (a) Benefits of Collaboration

                         (b) Types of Collaboratives

                         (c) Collaborative Roles

                         (d) Challenges

                         (e) Factors that contribute to successful collaborations

                          (f) Working effectively across different organizational cultures



Tools:              (a) When to Start a Coalition

                          (b) Collaboration Framework

                          (c) Tips for Improving Coalition Functioning.


Exercise:         Read the scenario provided. Identify the partners that you would hope to engage in reaching the community’s goals. What roles would they play? Think creatively about how others can participate apart from attending planning meetings or providing funding?




Additional Resources

Evaluation Form                                                      

Module One: Concepts, Values and Principles

Most health promoters are not community developers, but in many ways they can facilitate and contribute to community development. Community Development can take place in many different settings and program contexts. In terms of their direct services to clients, health promoters often work with people to help them reach their goals, and provide programs, services and resources that meet community needs. Health promoters also learn from the community and adapt their programs, services, and policies to meet the community needs and interests. Beyond the scope of their specific mandate, health promoters may also partner with other organizations to provide resources and become engaged in community development initiatives that involve broad community collaborations. All of these activities can be viewed as community development practice.[1]

The following overview of the basic concepts, values and principles of community development will provide a general orientation that will enable you to contribute to community development within your organization and participate effectively in collaborative community development initiatives. It may also help you to identify and respond to opportunities for community development activities.



Definition and Characteristics of Communities

The term "community" is used extensively in almost all areas of our lives. It is used in both our common, everyday language and also by professionals, politicians and corporations. We frequently hear about "community care", "community revitalization", "community service" and many other references to community. Yet, while everyone seems to have a fairly common understanding of what is meant by "community" it eludes a clear and comprehensive definition.   

The word "community" is derived from Latin and has been used in the English language since the 14th century.  It refers to both the development of a social grouping and also the nature of the relationship among the members. The term is most often associated with one or more of the following characteristics:

  • common people, as distinguished from those of rank or authority;
  • a relatively small society
  • the people of a district;
  • the quality of holding something in common
  • a sense of common identity and characteristics.

The concept of community was further developed in the 19th century to contrast the dynamics and relationships of residents within a local setting to that of larger and more complex industrial societies. It is related to the terms commune (French) and Gemeinshaft (German), in terms of denoting particular kind of relationships. Relationships within a community were thought to be more direct, holistic and significant than the more formal and abstract relationships with the larger society.[2]

Today, three main types of communities are usually identified:

i)        Geographic communities share physical space, so that residents come into contact with each other by virtue of proximity, rather than intent. However, to be a "real" community, residents must feel a sense of belonging and hold at least some values and symbols in common.  For example, a feature of the natural landscape, such as a river, that is important to many, or a local claim to fame; such as an internationally known theatre company. In geographic communities how power is distributed has a significant impact on how the community develops.

ii)      Communities of interest are sometimes referred to as "communities within communities". Members of these communities choose to associate with each on the basis of a common interest (e.g. model railway club) or shared concerns (e.g. poor air quality). Sometimes communities are formed by self-identified members of a reference group based on characteristics outside of their control, e.g. a disability, ethnic group, or low income, which give them a sense of common identity and shared concerns.

iii)    Virtual communities are groups of people that primarily interact via communication media rather than face to face.[3] If the mechanism is a computer network, it is called an online community. Online communities are "social aggregations that emerge from the Net when people carry on those public discussions long enough, with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships".[4]

An individual can belong to several different communities at the same time; e.g. a faith community, a business community and a neighbourhood community.

Communities can be healthy or unhealthy, with most being somewhere in the middle. In an unhealthy community there may be an environmental disaster, such as the contamination of the water supply, a high level of poverty due to a major industry closing, or entrenched conflict over a divisive community issue. The path to becoming a healthy community starts with broad community engagement, leadership, the development of a shared vision and community goals, effective planning, local government commitment and collaborative use of internal and external resources. [5]

[1] The Working Together Project. (accessed Feb. 23, 2008)

[2] Bakardjieva, Maria. University of Calgary (accessed Jan 11/08)

[3] Wikipedia (accessed Jan 11/08)

[4] (Rheingold, Howard, The Virtual Community (accessed Jan. 11/08)

[5] Michael Stolte. The communities matrix. makingwaves, volume 15, number 2, p. 22



Definition and History of Community Development


i) Definition

There are many definitions of community development but the basic concept was stated by the United Nations in 1948

"Community Development is a process designed to create conditions of economic and social progress for the whole community with its active participation and fullest possible reliance upon the community's initiative."

(quoted in Head, 1979:101)

ii) Brief History of Community Development

Community development practice has arisen from a variety of sources and settings. Its roots can be traced to the social reform movement in Britain and North America in the latter half of the 18thcentury. Community development principles were formulated and applied in third world development efforts following decolonization. In the 50's and 60's CD or community organization, as it came to be called, was used in deprived or underdeveloped urban and rural settings in North America (Smith, 1979: 52). CD was a response to the perceived disintegration of society due to rapid technological change, economic dislocations, disruption in traditional family and community structures and the extension of government and commercial services into personal and family life, with negative impacts on personal effectiveness and community ties (Carey, 1979:20).  CD is eclectic, integrating specialized knowledge from education, public health, economic development and politics. (Head, 1979:101) However, it is also a discipline unto itself, with a body of theory, standards of practice and professional associations. Masters and doctoral programs in community development are usually associated with either a school of social work or rural development.

Values and Principles of Community Development


Community development is sometimes confused with community-based programs, community research and other forms of community interventions. The most significant feature that distinguishes community development from other community work is its values and principles.

Below are a list and a brief definition of the values and principles that are typically embodied in community development programs. Additional information on these terms is available in the glossary section of this course.

  • Democratic: The will of the majority must be carried out, but only after all voices are heard and considered and minority rights are protected.
  • Inclusive: There are many barriers to participation in society; poverty, disability, age, race and ethnicity are some other characteristics that often marginalize people. A healthy community embraces diversity and recognizes that all community members have a right to be heard and participate in processes that affect their lives.
  • Non-authoritarian: Organizational structures are as flat as possible, with all participants being seen as equally important and having equal input.
  • Community self determination: Community members come together to discuss their concerns, assess options and arrive at their own conclusions. They may seek advice from "experts", but consider it along with other sources of information and their own experience and make their own decisions that are right for them.
  • Community Ownership: Communities thrive when they develop their own assets, but also when they "own" their problems and issues. When communities accept that it is "their" problem, then they are more likely to work together to develop a solution, and the solution will be better than one provided solely by an external "expert".
  • Enhance natural capacities and networks: There are sources of strength in every community; for example, informal networks and social support systems, or certain individuals that have particular talents or are able to help others in need. A community developer identifies these existing community assets and works with them. It is important not to duplicate existing structures and functions as that may weaken rather than strengthen the community.
  • Social justice and equity: This is fundamental to community development and is at least implicit in all CD work, if not an explicit goal of a CD program.
  • Universality: Services are available to everyone, without requiring means or needs testing.
  • Service Integration: Often services provided to persons in need are fragmented, so that one service provider doesn't know what other services are available or being used, resulting in gaps, duplications and sometimes conflicting advice or treatments.

    A community development approach would ensure that services are coordinated, that they enhance and strengthen natural community and family supports, that there is effective communication among all involved, and that services are directed by the individual receiving them, to the extent possible.
  • Upstream: The distinction between upstream vs. downstream approaches uses a river as a metaphor for the increasing impact of conditions and events which affect health over time and space, and relates to the point of intervention. For example, if there is a toxic spill upstream, it will affect the quality of the water in the river for everyone living downstream. You can focus either on dealing with the illnesses that are experienced by the downstream people (downstream approach) or you can stop the spill and prevent others from happening in the future (upstream approach).

Tool: Characteristics of a Healthy Community

The following characteristics of a healthy community have been selected from a number of sources[1] as a starting point for identifying the qualities your community possesses that will help it to thrive.  

Read the following list and determine if it applies to your community.  Ask other community members for their opinions and compare them. Are there common perceptions?

Does your community...




1.      Have broad consensus on a vision of a healthy community




2.      Have a community strategic plan in place to achieve that vision?




3.      Provide opportunities for life long learning and skill development?




4.      Encourage members to take on leadership roles?




5.      Have a high degree of cooperation and collaboration among its organizations and institutions?




6.      Have a high level of civic pride?




7.      Consider the well-being rural areas surrounding the municipality in their planning?




8.      Ensure all residents are able to meet their basic needs?




9.      Encourage youth to take an active role?




10.  Plan to protect and enhance all forms of capital; natural, financial, physical infrastructure, human and social?




11.  Have a thriving arts community?




12.  Have an effective communications network, including media, public consultations and access to information?




13.  Welcome newcomers?




14.  Invest in economic development and business retention programs to promote a diverse and vital economy?




15.  Treat each other with respect regardless of differences?




16.  Celebrate its accomplishments?




17.  Have Workplaces that are supportive of individual and family well-being?




18.  A high level of safety perceived by its residents?




19.  Work diligently and creatively towards environmental sustainability?




20.  A strong cultural and spiritual life






[1] Sources include: (a) Darling, David. L, and Gayla Randal. Leadership for Healthy Communities: Characteristics of a Healthy Community. (accessed Jan 11/08); (b) Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition community.htm (c) Community Builders.nsw.



Module 1 Exercises

1.Describe a community to which you belong. What are its demographic characteristics? What makes it a community? 




2.Match the traditional perspectives and approaches to dealing with social problems with the alternative community development approach.


Community Development


participatory evaluation

respond to problems

less services and agencies

charity orientation


more services and agencies


focus on individuals


income support

identify opportunities

high risk




expert evaluation



focus on community/neighbourhood


investment orientation

Click here to view the solution


3. Write a paragraph answering the question “Is having a “sense of community” important to you?” and explaining why or why not.








Yar, Majid:  Community: Past, Present, and Future. Journal of Social Issues Vol, 2, Issue 1. (accessed Jan 10/08)

Boetcher,Sue, Heather Duggan and Nancy White. What is a Virtual Community and Why Would You Ever Need One? (accessed Jan 11/08)

Community Assessment Handbook.  City of Calgary



Module Two : Process Strategies and Roles

Ten Steps to Community Development

10 Steps to Community Development[1]

For the purposes of this course, the general community development process can be synthesized into the following basic steps. However, community development is an organic process, so that while the "steps" are presented in a logical order, in reality they may not follow sequentially and some steps may either be skipped or carried out simultaneously with other steps. Please click on the title of the step to learn more about each step.


Community Development Strategies

There are many different strategies and methods used in community development. Below is a chart of those that are most commonly used. 




1.   Locality Development


  • Improvements in the well-being of local citizens through increased resources, facilities, services, etc., brought about by the active involvement of citizens.
  • Building a community centre
  • Home renovation subsidies

2.   Social Action


  • Seeks a redistribution of power
  • Focus is on a specific issue
  • Advocacy activities; for example;
  • Anti-poverty activists seeking increases to social assistance rates.

3.   Social Planning[5]


  • Rational problem-solving process to address social problems
  • Involves needs assessments, analysis of service delivery mechanisms, systems co-ordination and other technical expertise
  • Involvement of community members in consultation, interpretation of results and service planning
  • Conducting a needs assessment of people who are homeless and using the results to plan a new housing development in needed locations, with appropriate services on-site.

4.   Social Reform


  • Activity by one group on behalf of a relatively disadvantaged group
  • Advocating for community acceptance, supports and services for people that have a mental illness

5.   Community Relations


  • Focus is on increasing social integration
  • Often attempts to improve the social status of minority populations
  • Mediating between community factions
  • Anti-racism programs

6.   Social Capital Formation[6]


  • Focus in on connections among individuals - social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness
  • high social capital = effective schools, governments, lower crime, higher economic equality, greater tolerance
  • includes political engagement, civic and religious organizations, family gatherings, socializing, group recreational activities
  • Creating places and opportunities for community members to gather and network with each other
  • Orientation programs to welcome newcomers
  • Community activities to develop and/neighbourliness.

7.   Capacity Building


Capacity is the participatory leadership, skills, resources, knowledge and tools of individuals in communities and organizations that enable them to address, and have greater control over, conditions and factors that affect their quality of life.


(a) Individual Capacity is the sum of the assets (skills, talents, experience and knowledge) possessed by an individual that will help them succeed and contribute to their community.

(b) Organizational Capacity is the participatory decision-making, program development, planning, research, resources, tools, skills, education & training, knowledge contained within an organization

(c) Community Capacity: the combination of a community's commitment, leadership, resources and skills that can be deployed to build on community strengths and address community problems and opportunities.

(a) The Search Institute[7] has identified the essential development assets for children youth that will enable them to thrive.

(b) organizations can enhance their capacity in many ways, such as professional development activities, involvement of all levels of the organization in planning, and recognizing the unique talents of individuals

(c) Some indicators of high community capacity are inter-agency networking opportunities, collaborations and partnerships to address broad community issues, community pride, local government support for community activities and high quality education,  health and social services.

8.   Asset-Based Community Development


  • Assets are the gifts, skills, resources and abilities of community residents; sometimes physical resources are also included
  • Every community has a unique combination of assets upon which to build its future
  • Starts with identifying assets rather than needs
  • Is internally focused and relationship-driven

Some communities have mapped the location of their community assets (people, businesses, services, buildings, natural features) and used the data to connect people with similar interests, or people in need of help with someone that can provide it. Co-operative businesses and new volunteer groups have been established from community mapping projects.  





Community Development Roles

A community developer may take on a variety of different roles and s/he works with the community. However, in all the roles, the worker always respects the autonomy and self-determination of the community members and does not impose an externally directed agenda upon them. Their work conforms to professional standards and ethics and is comprehensive and systematic in its approach.

Currently, there are few positions that are explicitly named "Community Developer" and it is increasingly more common for managers and employees in a variety of settings to be expected to take a community development approach to their work. There are many opportunities for anyone who is involved with community members to incorporate a community development role into their practice.

In community development literature, the roles commonly ascribed to community development workers are enabler, guide, technical expert and liaison.[8]

Guide: As a guide, the worker helps the community identify their goals and find the means to achieve them.

Enabler: The worker can enable the community in a variety of ways. S/he might facilitate a problem solving process with the community, which could include helping them to articulate dissatisfactions and identify their causes. The worker could also help them to organize and plan their activities and encourage positive interpersonal relationships. The enabler role is most associated with locality development strategies.

Technical Assistant: This "expert" role is most associated with social planning. However, in all forms of community development there is usually some need by the community to access technical support, in areas such as community assessment, media relations, accessing information or project development.

Liaison/Advocate: Depending on the nature of the community and the type of community development initiative it has taken on, there may be a need for the worker to assume a liaison or advocacy role. S/he may be the intermediary between the community and other bodies such as government, institutions or other community factions. The worker may be asked by the community to present their views, access information or negotiate an agreement.


Tool: Mapping Your Community Assets

Community asset mapping is a positive approach to building strong communities, developed by John Kretzmann and John McKnight, of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.  The Community Asset Mapping process outlined by Kretzmann and McKnight in their guidebook Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path Towards Finding and Mobilising a Communit's Assets[1] describes in detail a process to mobilize a community to use its assets to develop a plan to solve its problems and improve residents' quality of life.

Traditional methods of community work tend to focus on a community's deficits; i.e. their needs and problems. Often, one of the first steps of a community worker is to undertake a needs assessment of the community, which usually focusses on issues :such as unemployment, poverty, crime and illiteracy, while ignoring the assets that exist in the community. Working from a "needs" perspective generally leads to external funds and services being sought  to help the community. While these may indeed have positive benefits to community residents, often the result is a fragmented patchwork of services. Many of the services may not be appropriate to the culture and dynamics of that particular community, and do not contribute to building the capacity of the community or empower individuals to be self-sufficient. In a nutshell, "needs-based" assessments tend to lead to community dependence rather than community development.

Kretzmann and McKnight propose that community developers start with a "clear commitment to discovering a community's capacities and assets". (Kretzmann and McKnight 1993, p.1).  The asset-based approach does not remove the need for outside resources, but makes their use more effective by: 

  • starting with what is present in the community
  • concentrating on the agenda-building and problem-solving capacity of the residents
  • stressing local determination, investment, creativity, and control[2]

Each community has assets to be preserved and enhanced. These assets can be used by residents as the foundation from which to build a postive future. Beyond developing a simple inventory, this 'mapping' process is designed to promote connections or relationships between individuals, between individuals and organizations, and between organizations and organizations. Combining community assets creates a synergy that exponentially increases the capacity of the community to meet the needs of its residents. The  information collected through this asset-mapping process may also be used as the foundation for many other processes, such as strategic planning, community mobilization and community economic development.

Community assets include:

  • Skills, knowledge, talents and experience of local residents
  • Community associations, many of which provide benefits far beyond their mandate
  • Businesses
  • Schools, churches, libraries and other institutions that operate within the community
  • Municipal services such as police, fire, parks and recreation services
  • Other social services and community organizations
  • Physical structures; e.g. town square, heritage buildings
  • Natural resources; e.g. river, trees, green space

The first step in community asset mapping is to work with community members to develop a plan for documenting the community's assets.  On the next page you will find some ideas for getting started on an asset-mapping project.


[1] Kretzmann, John P. and John L. McKnight. Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path Towards Finding and Mobilising a Communit's Assets. ACTA Publications, Chicago, IL. 1993.

[2] Social Design Notes (accessed Jan. 11, 2008)


Tool: Mapping Your Community Assests Continued

(a) Mapping Individual Capacity

Different methods can be used for creating an individual capacity inventory. Personal interviews will yield more in-depth information bust is very costly. Other possibilities are

  • Mailing out a survey
  • Dropping off surveys door-to-door
  • Have surveys available at convenient locations for people to pick up and return
  • Telephone calls
  • Meet people in groups[3]

Kretzmann and McKnight's guide provides a template for an individual capacity inventory to identify a wide array of skills and experience of residents which they are able to contribute to the community. It is critical that the capacity inventory is not seen as a study of neighbourhood residents, but as a community development tool.  It should be designed and presented in a way that will encourage residents to view themselves as having valuable assets that they could contribute to the community and to connect people that that can help each other. The plan will also need to identify the human and financial resources required to complete the asset map. Once the plan is in place, an individual capacity assessment is conducted, followed by an inventory of other community assets. Once the assets are identified, they are analyzed to find their "points of connection"[4], forming the basis of a community mobilization process.

(b) Mapping Groups, Organizations and Institutions

The Community Tool Box[5] provides a simple set of guidelines for taking an inventory of all the groups (associations, organizations, and institutions) that exist in the community. One method is to simply make a list. Here are some of their suggestions for getting starting:

1. Get out a pad and start writing. Begin with what you know. Write down anything that comes to mind. You can always correct your list later. You can do this work by yourself; but it might be more useful and fun to work with others. This is also a great project for students or interns.

2. Use other sources of information to add to your list. These can include:

  • The yellow pages are a free, comprehensive, and often excellent source.
  • Town directories, published for your community alone.
  • Lists of businesses, probably available from the chamber of commerce.
  • Lists of organizations - check your library or town hall.
  • The local newspaper, newsletters and other print sources
  • Bulletin boards. Physical bulletin boards, for sure; and also community-calendar type listings that might be found on local cable television.
  • Your friends and colleagues. They may know about other lists available or of groups, organizations, and community assets that are not on anybody else's lists.

3. To expand your list further, check the Community Capacity Inventory[6], provided by the Community Tool Box.

4. Learn more about each organization you have identified. You can inquire about available staffing, space, equipment, expertise, and willingness to help and get involved in a variety of ways. This will take more time but may be well worth it. For some possible questions you can ask, see Questions to ask while capacity mapping.  

5. Refine and revise your list. You can put it on a computer, if you haven't done so already. You can also break your list down in several different ways: alphabetically, geographically, by type of function, by size, by public/private membership or governance, or however you want.

(c) Creating a Map

"Mapping" involves identifying relationships, whether to the geographic landscape, to other organizations or to other community features. Maps are good visual aids: when you can see the data right in front of you, your understanding and insight is often increased. There are several ways to go about mapping community assets:

One mapping method is to find a large street map of your community, with few other markings. (Your local Planning Department may help here.) Then just mark with a dot, or tag, or push-pin (maybe color-coded by type) the geographic location of the groups and organizations you have found. The patterns that emerge may surprise you. You may see, for example, that certain locations have different numbers or types of associations. Those areas where few associations exist may be good targets for community development later on.

This type of mapping can also be done by computer, with an appropriate software program. These programs are more sophisticated than paper-and-pushpin mapping, as you can create "overlays," visually placing one category of map over another, for a more comprehensive view of the community.  

You can also just diagram your resources in a way that clearly show the linkages among different categories of assets.

(d) Using community assets

While there is value just in raising awareness of what exists in your community, the real value of asset mapping is realized when these assets are put to work for the benefit of the community. Some ideas from the Community Tool Box are:

  • You can publish the assets identified and make them available to all community members. In doing so, you will stimulate public asset knowledge and use. It may also attract new businesses and other opportunities to your community, thus using existing assets to create new ones.
  • You can use your knowledge of assets to tackle a new community project -- because now you may have more resources to work on that project than you originally thought.
  • You can find new ways to bring groups and organizations together, to learn about each other's assets -- and perhaps to work collaboratively on projects such as the one above.
  • You can publicize these assets, and attract new businesses and other opportunities to your community. In both this example, and the ones just above, (This is what makes community work exciting!)
  • You can set up structured programs for asset exchange, which can range from individual skill swaps to institutional cost-sharing.
  • You can establish a process by which community assets keep getting reviewed, perhaps on a regular basis.

Community Building Resources in Edmonton have reported the following examples of activities that have emerged from their Community Capacity Building and Asset Mapping© efforts:

  • a church beginning a community kitchen
  • a church started an employment program for refugees
  • a group developing a network of Walking Trails
  • a group developing a baby-sitting registry for new parents
  • a group working on community gardens
  • a Capacity Study team member was able to provide connections to a bookkeeper and a carpenter who were willing to provide their services either for free or inexpensively
  • a community group celebrating their history gathered 400 community citizens, conducted historical walks and bus tours in the community
  • businesses developing a Community Resource booklet[7]

While Kretzmann and McKnight propose conducting a full community asset map, many have found using a scaled-down approach to mapping particular types of assets to be helpful.  For example, in 2003 the Youth Community Asset Mapping initiative in Vancouver completed a mapping project focussed only on parks from a youth perspective. A core group of 13 youth was trained to facilitate workshops with youth in their communities, in which they mapped and evaluated their local park. The results of the workshops were compiled into 5 park maps and 1 ideal park map. The youth then presented the results of their park mapping to the Parks Board of Vancouver and engaged in discussions with the community on how to improve the park spaces for children and youth of the community.[8]

(e) Community Asset Mapping and Health Organizations

Health organizations may find themselves involved in an asset-mapping exercise initiated by another organization or community collaborative, or it may begin its own process, focussed on a specific area of interest. For example, many health organizations view their partnerships with other organizations as significant assets.  By mapping your organization's current partnerships, it is possible to identify ways of strengthening existing relationships as well as areas in which new partnerships would be beneficial. Here is one way of creating a visual partnership map.   

  • Invite a diverse group of stakeholders to participate in this exercise
  • Brainstorm all the partnerships, both formal and informal, that your organization currently has; name the specific organizations, not just the general category; e.g. "North London Kiwanis Club", not "service clubs".
  • Record them on a flipchart in a circle around the name of your organization. You could differentiate between formal (written agreement) and informal partnerships by having an inner and outer circle
  • Identify the type of partnership (e.g. funder, member, information-sharing)
  • Identify the assets shared by the partners; indicate with arrows on the map whether the sharing is unilateral or bi-lateral
  • Review the map and consider

(a) whether there may be additional resources that could be shared

(b) other ways in which the partnerships could be strengthened

(c) whether there are other community groups, organizations or institutions with which partnerhips may be beneficial.

  • Using the map as a point of reference, develop and implement a partnership strategy.

[3] Community Tool Box:; accessed Mar.15, 2008

[4] Kretzmann, John P. and John L. McKnight. Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path Towards Finding and Mobilising a Communit's Assets. ACTA Publications, Chicago, IL. 1993, p. 347.

[5] Community Tool Box:; accessed Mar.15, 2008

[6] Community Tool Box:

[7] Community Building Resources; accessed March 15, 2008

[8] Youth Community Asset Mapping Report.; accessed March 15, 2008

Exercise 1: 10 Steps to Community Development

In this exercise you are asked to envision yourself working in a situation where you are invited to participate in a community development initiative. Use your imagination to fill in the details of the actions you take and their results.

You may choose to print this page and complete the answers. Please click "Printer Friendly Version" at the bottom of the page.


You are the manager of a small health organization which has been established in a strip mall within a new suburban community. During its development, little thought was given to the needs of the residents once they moved in. There are no grocery stores or department stores within a 5 mile radius. There is a small stretch of green space along the river but no other parkland or playgrounds. There is an elementary school, surrounded by pavement but no playground equipment is in place. There is no pool, skating arena, public transportation or other community facilities. This is a mixed housing development, including smaller detached houses, townhouses, several three-story walk ups and an apartment building. Housing prices are lower in this community because of its proximity to a major highway and industries. Many of the residents are families with lower incomes who have moved to this location because of its relative affordability. Residents are from a variety of ethno-cultural groups but are scattered and do not have any facilities for gathering or worshipping together.

You have been approached by another worker in the area to work with her to help create a more supportive environment that will meet more of the residents' needs and develop positive social networks. You have just taken the OHCC Online Community Development Course and are excited at the prospect of putting the "10 Steps to Community Development" to into action.


Step 1.  Learn about the community

What are some of the ways you can learn about the community, on your own, before embarking on a community development initiative


Resources Required













Step 2. Listen to community members

(a)  How can you connect informally with community members?




(b)  How will you introduce yourself?




(c) What questions will you ask?



Step 3:  Bring people together to develop a shared vision

(a) Who will you invite?



(b) Where will you hold the visioning session?



(c) What outcomes do you hope to achieve at the gathering?



Step 4: Assess community assets and resources, needs and issues

Briefly describe two methods you might use to assess the community's assets, resources, needs and/or issues.

Type of Assessment


Description of Activity














Step 5: Help community members to recognize and articulate areas of concern and their causes.

Many issues and needs were raised at the community visioning session, along with several suggestions of possible sources of financial and in-kind resources. Five residents and several service providers indicated they would be interested in helping to work towards improvements in their community.

Your task is to follow up with those that indicated an interest in being involved and help them to process the results of the community visioning session. You will explore with them the areas of concern that were voiced, in more depth than was possible at the visioning session, and examine their root causes. You have decided to tackle this task by organizing a meeting.


(a) Who will you invite?



(b) How will you invite them?



(d) When and where will you hold the meeting?



(e) What do you hope will be the outcome of the meeting?



Step 6:  Establish a "vehicle for change"

In order for the community change effort to be effective, there needs to be some organizational structure and processes in place. In this case, at an initial meeting, those that indicated an interest in working together to improve the community decided to form a community coalition, made up of both organizations and residents.

(a) In addition to community residents, what (if any) organizations do you think should be recruited to join the coalition?




(b) What are some of the governing principles you think the coalition should adopt?  (e.g. How are decisions made? Who can speak on behalf of the coalition? How are coalition members informed of meetings and actions taken on behalf of the coalition?)




Step 7: Develop an action plan

For the purposes of this exercise, imagine that the coalition has selected a particular goal to pursue (for example, developing a welcoming and supportive community for newcomers to Canada, or establishing a park and playground within their community) Use the action planning chart below to identify what needs to be done, when, who should do it and what resources will be required.

Community Action Plan






Resources Required
































Step 8: Implement action plan

It is likely that funds will be required to implement the action plan.

(a) What are the risks, from a community development point of view, in accessing external funding and developing close working relationships with funding sources? How can the risks be lessened?




(c) Are there local funding sources that could be tapped?



Step 9:  Evaluate results of actions

The community coalition has worked hard with its many partners and supporters to meet their goal. How will you evaluate whether your project has been successful?


(a) What are your criteria for success?



(b) Who will be involved in the evaluation process?



(c) Using simple procedures, how will you assess the degree of success of your initiative?



(d) How will you assess the process of the initiative; i.e. how well the coalition functioned?



Step 10: Reflect and regroup

(a) What activities will help the group to "wrap up" the project?



(b) Are there any "spin off" benefits or unintended outcomes of the project? (use your imagination)



(c) How will you assess whether there is interest or energy for tackling another area of concern from the list developed at the community visioning session?



Exercise 2: Quiz

Match the community development activity with the corresponding community development strategy. Some activities may incorporate more than one strategy.


A.    Locality Development

B.    Social Action

C.    Social Planning

D.    Social Reform

E.    Community Relations

F.     Social Capital Formation

G.    Capacity Building

H.    Asset-Based Community Development


1.      The number of shelter beds Occupied is tracked on a nightly basis and the data compiled and analyzed by an inter-agency committee to aid in their service planning and coordination efforts.


2.      A multicultural festival is held annually in a multicultural neighbourhood.


3.      A youth centre provides youth with cameras and asks them to take pictures of their community, then display them with explanations about what they liked and didn't like about their community.

4.      On the recommendation of the local residents' council, the school board assists in organizing and staffing after school programs for children.


5.      A community meeting is arranged in an attempt to mediate between residents who are in favour of a new industry coming to town and those who are opposed to it.


6.      An inter-organizational "coffee time" is held once a month to promote information sharing and networking.


7.      A committee of senior citizens is formed to lobby the municipal housing corporation to develop a geared-to-income seniors' apartment complex in their community.


8.      An annual BBQ is held by the community centre to encourage residents to meet and interact with each other.


9.      Calls to the community information centre are tracked by topic and the data is used to enhance the library's resources in the areas of greatest interest.


10.  The community council invites City staff to attend a meeting and explain to residents who they should get in touch with at City Hall to report problems and tips on how to get issues dealt with effectively.


11.  A media campaign is launched to promote employment of persons with disabilities.


12.  The neighbourhood association sends out welcome letters to people that move into the area and invite them to join the neighbourhood association.


13.  A neighbourhood committee is formed to raise funds and work with the City to convert a brownfield into a park.


14.  The library partners with the federal government to provide access to a computerized "job bank" and also provides computer training programs to enable residents to use them.


15.  A community resource centre partners with several ethno-cultural organizations to develop a multi-lingual questionnaire conducted with residents in their own language to find out what experiences, skills and knowledge they had and if they were willing to share them.


16.  Neighbourhood residents write letters to the Library Board asking them to reconsider their decision to close their branch library.


17.  A series of workshops is held to build awareness of the structural basis of racism and oppression in our society.


18.  A community volunteer awards event is held to celebrate volunteerism and recognize extraordinary contributions.


19.   A group of concerned parents get together with school personnel to discuss and make recommendations to the school board regarding concerns about air quality within the school.


20.  A community forum involving residents, local government and community organizations is held to identify shared concerns and interests, develop a community strategic plan, determine the potential for sharing existing resources and explore opportunities for collaboration on projects and initiatives.


Click here to view the answers



[1] Adapted from Community Development, an OMAFRA Information Sheet: 1986

[2]City of Calgary. Community Assessment Handbook. (accessed Jan. 12. 08)

[3]Bartle, Phil. Empowering Communities. (accessed Jan 11, 2008)

[4]Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition. From the Ground Up. 2002 p. 85

[5]Rothman, Jack, in Three Models of Community Organization Practice, their Mixing and Phasing" in Cox, F.M., et al Strategies of Community Organization. (3rd ed.) 1979. Itasca, Ill., F.E. Peacock Publishing; p. 25-45.

[6]Robert Putnam. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. Simon & Schuster, N.Y., 2000

[7]The Search Institute. 40 Developmental Assets.

[8]Ross, Murray G. Community Organization. (2nd ed), 1967. Harper and Row, New York; p. 214-221.


Community Empowerment Training Modules by Phil Bartle, Ph.D.

Kretzman J. R and McKnight J. L Building Communities From the Inside Out – A Path Toward Finding and Mobilising a Community’s Assets: The Asset Based Community Institute, Chicago.1993.

Kenyon, P. Asset Based Community Development (ABCD), Bank of IDEAS (Initiatives for the Development of Enterprising Action and Strategies). Kalamunda WA, Accessed May 22, 2006.

Cox, Erlich. Rothman and Tropman (eds.) Strategies of Community Organization.  Peacock Pub., Itaska, Illinois.1979.

Robert Putnam. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. Simon & Schuster, N.Y. 2000.  

Tamarack: An Institute for Community Engagement – Learning Centre. (accessed Jan 11/08)

Kenneth Pigg; “Community informatics and community development”  in Community Development: Journal of the Community Development Society: Special Issue on Community Informatics and Community Development: 36:1, 2005

Behrat Mehra: “library and information science (lis) and community development: the use of information and communication technology (ict) towards a social equity agenda” in Community Development: Journal of the Community Development Society: Special Issue on Community Informatics and Community Development: 36:1, 2005

The Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition. From the Ground Up: An Organizing Handbook for Healthy Communities. 2002.

The Search Institute.  Developmental Assets. Accessed March 5, 2006.


Module Three : Community Collaboration

Benefits of Collaboration

In almost any kind of community initiative, finding other groups and organizations with similar interests, that are willing to work with you on common issues or projects, is strategically advantageous.

Below is a list of the benefits that can result from collaborating with others:

Synergy: The synergy created from working collaboratively will result in greater accomplishments than each group working on its own could ever hope to achieve. If you work separately, it will fragment the efforts and the resources, possibly leading to less accomplishment.

Community Awareness: Increased participation leads to increased community awareness. By involving a number of organizations, your issue or message can be transmitted to a great many more people, and, through word-of-mouth with their associates, to an exponentially larger pool of people.

Share resources: The sharing of resources and expertise can make daunting tasks more manageable. Also, it may be that you require technical expertise, knowledge or facilities that your own organization cannot provide.

Overcome Obstacles: Obstacles faced by one group may be overcome by another group.
Effective Representation: A partnership, coalition or network has more power to influence policy than a single organization because a larger and broader section of the community is represented.

Avoid Duplication:
Working together can help ensure efforts and services aren’t being unnecessarily duplicated, and that there is an appropriate distribution of resources.

Access to Constituents: Sometimes one partner will have a high degree of organizational capacity for planning and implementing programs, but has not developed a trusting relationship with the community it wishes to serve, such as people with disabilities, aboriginal groups, grass roots community groups or particular ethno-racial communities. They may benefit from partnering with others who serve as a bridge into the community.

Access to funding sources:
There may be grant opportunities for which your organization is not eligible, but one of your partners is. By working as a collaborative these funds can be accessed to support your initiative.

Types of Collaborations

There are many different types of collaborative arrangements, ranging from loose network affiliations to fully collaborative structures with complex and formal relationships. The following is one set of categories used to indicate the nature of the relationship among collaborative members. However, in reality, collaboratives frequently develop a mix of the various attributes outlined in the following descriptions.

(i)  Networks

Members of a network have informal ties to each other and non-hierarchical relationships. There are few expectations of members and no official obligations.  Informal networks may emerge simply due to the clustering of people and activities, but frequently networks are deliberately established to promote the sharing of information, tools and resources among individuals and organizations with similar interests.

Networks have many benefits; they can:

  • enhance communication, co-operation and mutual support among organizations and community members
  • raise the standards and quality of services;
  • encourage the development of new models of service; and
  • provide opportunities to form strategic partnerships.

Networks generally do not carry out work, per se, although members may collaborate on tasks and activities, and so generally require relatively little investment in their development and maintenance. However, successful networks require a certain degree of coordination and management. Communication vehicles must be established and maintained, the network must be promoter to prospective members and members must be engaged.

The Ontario Health Promotion Resource System established a set of indicators of network effectiveness which may have relevance to other types of networks as well. They are:

  • the extent to which the relationships established within the network contribute to the planning and implementation of new programs or activities and take advantage of new opportunities;
  • the extent to which the members actually function as a network; [e.g., share information and resources, use common tools and templates, adopt similar administration and reporting procedures, use each others’ materials, make referrals to each other, link websites and otherwise interact with each other];
  •  the range of services and supports provided by the network as a whole;
  • the strength of the relationships between and among network members
  • the extent to which individual members of the network perceive the benefits of their involvement [1] 

(ii)   Alliances

Alliances involve more formal relationships among organizations and individuals, and usually focused on a particular issue or mission. While it is unlikely that there will be legal obligations in place, there will be clear expectations around task performance, contributions and conduct. Alliances are often formed as a means of influencing policy; either to formulate a strong response to a new policy that is seen as detrimental, or to advocate for the development of a policy.

(iii)   Coalitions

A coalition is formal relationship among more than two organizations and perhaps involving individual members as well, which enables them to work together on a specific issue or project. Quite often the coalition will have its own funds and staff, either allocated from members’ own organizational budgets and human resources, or funded by an external source. 

There are three main types of coalitions [2]: 

  • Grassroots coalitions form in times of crisis to pressure political decision-makers to act. They are usually organized by volunteers and are political, controversial and short-lived.
  •  Professional coalitions may form in time of crisis or as part of a long-term strategy to increase their power and influence. Usually a lead organization is established that contributes significant staff and financial resources.
  • Community-Based coalitions have broad community representation and involve both professionals and volunteers/grassroots leaders. They tend to be focused on positive action to improve conditions in community, worksites, schools or other local institutions. Often one agency takes a lead administrative role and seeks funding to support the coalition and its activities.

(iv)  Partnerships

In business, a partner is someone who shares both the risks and profits of a business venture.  Partnerships between non-profit organizations can be defined in similar terms – it is a relationship in which the organizations share resources and responsibilities to achieve a common objective, as well as any resulting rewards or recognition. Partnerships are formal relationships that are defined through a written agreement or contract. 

The Hamilton Public Library has posted a PowerPoint presentation on their website at
which shows a number of partnerships they have established and gives tips on developing and maintaining successful partnerships. According to the presentation partnership development requires:

  • time            
  • effort       
  • small steps
  • shared success       
  • trust         
  • respect       

(v)    Full Collaboration

When organizations fully collaborate on an initiative, the collaboration takes on its own identity.  In a full collaboration, the new entity will have its own budget, constitution or terms of reference, dedicated human resources and a plan of action. For example, walkON[3] is a community partnership including local Heart Health projects, municipalities, and public health Units formed to promote walkable communities by raising awareness and educating the public. walkON has its own website and produces its materials under the walkON logo. It has its own funding sources separate from those of the collaborating organizations.

Collaborative Roles

There are many different roles that organizations can play in terms of their relationship with each other, such as:

  • Convener: initiates a public discussion of a community issue
  • Catalyst: provides initial leadership and credibility but is committed to a longer-term strategy 
  • Conduit: acts as the “lead” organization in that it manages the necessary contractual and financial obligations that come with receiving grants.  It is important that the conduit not be allowed to dominate the initiatives as a result of taking on this role
  • Funder: provides financial resources, and may also be actively involved in the design and evaluation of the project.  A clear understanding of the scope and limit of their authority is required.
  • Technical Assistance Provider: provides data, technical information, professional opinions or particular skills
  • Capacity-Builder: provides resources and skills training to community members to increase their ability to effect change. Capacity-builders aim to increase skills, knowledge and resources, but also community power and ownership.
  • Partner: shares in risks, responsibility, investment and rewards.
  • Advocate: focuses on changing policy or systems
  • Community Organizer: interested in who is “at the table”; i.e. who is involved and who has decision-making power. The community organizer works to maximize community participation and to ensure that those who are traditionally excluded from decision-making are included as full partners in the process.
  • Facilitator: assists in community problem-solving process by liaising among various players and being a source of fairness, encouragement
  • Evaluator: provides information about how well the collaborative is performing and whether its objectives are being met. [4]


Challenges of Collaboration

While the vision of a collaborative may be very compelling, every day realities may pose considerable challenges and tensions. Before starting or joining a collaborative, it is important to have a clear understanding of the risks, challenges and expectations that are involved. Each organization has to assess the level of risk the collaborative entails to the organization, in terms of finances, reputation, time, energy and other “lost” opportunities, and decide if it is acceptable. You will want to have a clear understanding of the conditions for withdrawing from the collaborative, and be prepared to absorb any failures. What sounds good in theory may not work as well in practice, especially working within community settings where there are many variables beyond your control.

Probably the biggest challenge in developing and managing a successful collaborative is finding the time and energy to nurture the positive relationships required to function effectively, particularly in times of rapid change or increased pressure on resources. It is often commented that working collaboratively takes longer and is more complex, difficult and sometimes frustrating, but we may also develop superior solutions and have a greater impact.

Factors That Contribute To Successful Collaborations

The Ontario Prevention Clearinghouse (OPC) ( now known as Health Nexus) produced a tip sheet on “Dynamic Partnerships “in 1997 that provides reflections, references and resources about partnerships. It explains that “partnering with other organizations to support a common goal involves “an interdependence of elements along with increasing complexity that requires less competition and more crossing of boundaries and sectors”.

They identified eleven factors that contribute to successful partnerships and collaborations.

1.    People: Organizations do not work together, people do – thus individual characteristics will be a factor in whether the collaborative is successful or not.  Check out the “chemistry” between people and their level of commitment to the collaborative.

2.    Vision: Create a shared vision and common goals that incorporate all of the members’ perspectives and interests, and identifies mutual needs that cannot be met by one organization alone.

3.    Trust:  Take some time to explore your common ground. “Trust is built through mutual respect for each person’s experience, knowledge and contribution. “

4.    Time: Do not give in to the pressure for speed and action.  Getting to know each other in order to developing a solid partnership takes time, as does planning and implementation.

5.    Planning:  Working together effectively requires a great deal of planning. All aspects of the collaborative, including purpose, function, decision-making process, the risks and benefits to each member and anticipated results needs to be considered, agreed upon and committed to (usually by signing a written agreement). Subsequently, every meeting, every workplan, every approach to a prospective member or funder, has to be planned.

6.    Communication: There needs to be a transparent flow of information among members, and mechanisms for ensuring that all members are kept up-to-date on matters relating to the collaborative and have clear means of voicing concerns and suggestions.

7.    Learning Together: Partnerships involve learning about each other, about the issues or needs that are being addressed, and about how to work together effectively.

8.    Decision-Making: It is crucial that how decisions are made is agreed upon right at the start of the partnership and adhered to throughout its duration. Partners should also agree on a problem resolution process.  Agreements regarding the investment of people, time and resources need to be negotiated and clearly understood by all partners.

9.    Leadership: There are many options for leadership; e.g. elect a Chair or Co-Chairs, or establish different roles for different members. It may be formal or informal. Shared leadership can renew energy and increase commitment.

10.    Technology: Electronic communication can enhance and support the work of the partnership by facilitating connections and opportunities for innovation. An assessment of current systems and technical capacities of each of the members is required before effective information and communications systems can be established.

11.    Flexibility: As circumstances change, one or more members may not be able to contribute to the extent originally intended, or may not be able to remain involved at all. The remaining members will have to make adjustments accordingly.


Roberts, J. Alliances, Coalitions and Partnerships; Building Collaborative Organizations. New Society Publishers; 2004.

Torjman, Sherri and Eric Leviten-Reid. Comprehensive Community Initiatives. The Caledon Institute of Social Policy. 2003. March 5, 2006.

Himmelman, Arthur. Collaboration as a Bridge from Social Service to Social Justice. Paper presented at the Healthier Communities Summit in San Diego, April 1995.







Working Effectively Across Different Organizational Cultures

Conflict within collaboratives is often inevitable, due to different organizational values, cultures, levels of experience and degree of expertise among organizations. These differences make it difficult to work in harmony. Despite common concerns, organizations have their own “take” on the problem, and their own set of assumptions and preferred solutions. They may also have different expectations around decision making processes, information flow, time commitments, and how power, authority and responsibility is shared. Collaborating organizations don’t need to have the same culture in order to be successful, but they do need to understand and accommodate differences among them.

Questions that might be useful to ask before committing to the collaborative are:

  • Do partners have similar mandates? Do they overlap? Is there duplication?
  • Is there a conflict of interest among any of the participating organizations or with the aims of the collaborative? For example, is there likely to competition for funds?
  • How are decisions to be made? 
  • How will the work load be shared?
  • What constraints does each of the partners have in terms of costs, political concerns and approval processes?
  • What are the expectations in terms of time commitment; both in terms of the amount of time required for effective participation and whether there needs to be strict adherence to time frames; e.g. meetings stopping and staring on time, critical deadlines for task completion. 
  • Is there an expectation that some work will be handled by volunteers? How are they to be recruited? Who is responsible for their training and supervision? Are participating organizations or individuals expected to perform some work on their own time?

Tool 1: When to Start a Coalition




1. Does the problem affect a broad range of people?



2. Is the problem complex, requiring information and expertise from various sectors of the community?



3. Is there a need for broad public awareness or education to accomplish the goal?



4. Is there a gap in existing services or programs such that no existing organization is clearly mandated to take on this work?



5. Are there other organizations that see this problem as a priority?



6. Are there other organizations that are willing to work together to address the problem?



7. Is this problem best addressed through the joint ownership and responsibility of a number of organizations



8. Are the potential members of the coalition willing to relinquish individual control over the activities and outcomes of the coalition and actively engage in a collective process?



9. Are there potential members of the coalition willing to commit to and abide by democratic decision-making procedures?



10. Are the organizational goals and policies of the potential members in alignment iwth those of the coalition?



11. Are there resources that can be shared or obtained to assist with the work?



12. Is there a true commitment to work together and produce results, irrespective of funder requirements for collaboration?



If you responded “no” to any of the questions above, a coalition might not be an appropriate structure to accomplish your goals. 

(from Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition: From the Ground Up:
An Organizing handbook for Healthy Communities,. 2002)

Tool 2: Collaboration Framework

The following Collaboration Framework[1] compares the purpose, structure and process of different levels of collaboration.






  • Dialogue
  • Common Awareness
  • Information flow
  • Create support base
  • Non-hierarchical
  • Loose, flexible link
  • Roles loosely defined
  • Concern is primary link
  • Low key leadership
  • Low decision-making
  • Information Communication



  • Match needs
  • Provide some co-ordination
  • Limits duplicating services
  • Ensures tasks done


  • Central body of communicators
  • Semi-formal links
  • Roles somewhat defined
  • Links are advisory
  • Develops new resources
  • Joint budget



  • Facilitative leaders
  • Complex decision-making
  • Some conflict
  • Centralized communication (formal)



  • Share resources
  • Co-ordinate activities
  • Address common issues
  • Merge resource base
  • Create something new


  • Central body of decision-makers
  • Roles defined
  • Links formalized
  • New resources
  • Joint budget



  • Autonomous leadership
  • Focus is on issue
  • Group decision-making by task groups
  • Communication frequent and clear




  • Share ideas
  • Willing to pull resources from existing systems
  • Develop commitment
  • Minimum three years


  • All members involved in decision-making
  • Roles and time defined
  • Links formal
  • Written agreement
  • New resources
  • Joint budget



  • Shared leadership
  • Decision-making with all members
  • Communication is prioritized


  • Accomplish shared vision
  • Develop benchmarks
  • Build inter-dependent system
  • Consensus used in shared decision-making
  • Roles, time and evaluation formalized
  • Links are formal and written in work assignments
  • Leadership high
  • Trust level high
  • Productivity high
  • Ideas / decisions equally shared
  • Highly developed communication


[1] The Duffy Group, Partners in Planning; 1997.

Tool 3: Tips for Improving Coalition Functioning





1. Individual Members

  • members are confident in each others’ skills
  • diversity of ideas/perspectives
  • creativity
  • humour
  • openness to feedback, new ideas and criticism
  • willing to give and take re: time/profile/work/ information/ expertise


  • personal agendas; people who are in it:

–  to enhance image

–  to gain access to resources

–  to sabotage efforts

–  to push a certain idea

–  make them feel good

  • passive-aggressive personalities;
  • different levels of passion - real or perceived
  • undermine decision-process
  • personality conflicts
  • control issues
  • lack of flexibility
  • lack of understanding of health promotion concepts
  • tension between professionals and volunteers


  • look at potential coalition members to evaluate suitability; look for commitment towards outcomes and motivation and believe in the objectives of the coalition
  • terms of reference should include process for conflict resolution; use/increase skills in conflict management
  • get to know others on coalition
  • elect chair with good facilitation skills to manage disruptive members
  • provide skills training; orientation to members
  • create a “space” for community volunteers; differentiate role from professional members; provide time on agenda for their input and feedback.

2. Group Process

  • trust
  • respect
  • shared power
  • shared ownership
  • teamwork
  • team “check-ins”
  • defined roles
  • understand investments and benefits
  • mutual care and concern
  • have fun
  • wealth of resources within the group’ members willing to share resources


  • varying expectations
  • use of jargon, systems that some non-professional members do not understand or are not comfortable with
  • lack of understanding of stages of group development
  • role confusion
  • unequal resources of members
  • lack of respect for others’ viewpoints
  • lack of investment
  • lack of commitment to take on tasks, to work towards outcomes
  • lack of accountability
  • distrust
  • power imbalances
  • racism/sexism
  • resistance to change


  • set terms of reference or agreement that defines roles, investments,  benefits
  • take time to build good group process
  • set “ground rules” for how group members relate to each other
  • share ideas, life, “check-ins”, build in activities that show care and concern
  • let people offer what they can instead of expecting a certain level of participation
  • recognize value of coalition regularly/annually through evaluation and  celebration of accomplishments
  • address issues openly; re-identify goal and objectives, members roles; clarify values, principles, ground rules; if insufficient “common ground”, evaluate whether the group has what it takes to go on – consider disbanding.

3. Leadership

  • understanding of leadership and role of facilitator/chair


  • negative leadership style (e.g. controlling, not allowing input)


  • develop understanding of leadership and role of facilitator/chair
  • ensure all have input
  • work to consensus
  • have annual elections for leadership positions

4. Decision-Making Process

  • everyone has input
  • work towards consensus


  • hasty or inequitable decision-making


  • chair has  good facilitation skills
  • actively seek input from all members (silence is not the same as approval)
  • allow time for discussion; explore reasons for differences of opinion

5. Relationship With Member Organizations’ Senior Management


  • direction given by outside manager who doesn’t know what goes on inside the coalition
  • members not being able to make decisions - have to take it back to  own supervisor/board


  • need to obtain “buy-in” from senior management of member organizations
  • request delegation of authority to staff representative on coalition
  • members sign agreement that states investment, decision-making process, etc.

6. Achieving Objectives

  • accomplishment
  • creating positive change in community
  • good reputation
  • involvement of target group
  • access to resources
  • community buy-in
  • clear focus/purpose


  • lack of direction
  • different agendas
  • lack of resources
  • lack of follow-up
  • lack of evaluation



  • Lack of direction: develop strategic plan involving target population
  • Different agendas – diffuse and change/increase number of members with similar  commitment to group goal
  • Lack of resources:

    - go to agency CEO’s to request resources
    - members identify own resources to see what  they can contribution
    - review potential membership and their resources
  • Lack of follow-up: find out why - may be the person lacks skills/ knowledge/ experience: mentor with someone who is learning; if due to forgetting/ disorganized, provide check list to follow
  • Lack of Evaluation – create evaluation plan

7. Recruitment of New Members

  • new members join coalition to bring in new ideas, perspectives and resources


  • need to find new members due loss of members or to obtain needed skills, experience, access to resources, etc.


  • identify potential benefits of membership
  • plan outreach/communications strategy
  • make use of existing members’ contacts


Additional Resources

A Place at the Table: Participating in Community Building
  (accessed Feb. 23/08)

This website by Kathleen de la Peña McCook, Distinguished University Professor of Library and Information Science, University of South Florida, provides a discussion of comprehensive community collaboration, service integration and the national movement on building community.

Asset Based Community Development Institute
(accessed Feb. 23/08)

The Asset-Based Community Development Institute (ABCD), established in 1995 by the Community Development Program at Northwestern University's Institute for Policy Research, is built upon three decades of community development research by John Kretzmann and John L. McKnight.

Canadian Rural Partnership: Asset Mapping: A handbook  (accessed Feb. 23/08)

Developed by Tony Fuller, Denyse Guy and Carolyn Pletsch, this handbook describes three possible approaches to community asset mapping within rural communities. Within this context,, assets are defined as popularly recognized attributes and advantages of a community. They are considered essential for the maintenance of rural life and vital for the sustainability of the economy, society and environment in rural Canada.


City of Calgary Community Assessment Handbook. Click on City Hall/

Business Units/Community and Neighbourhood Services/Publications, Guides and Directories, then scroll down the left panel and click on Community Assessment Handbook. (accessed Feb. 23/08)

This manual describes the key elements and process for conducting a community assessment from beginning to end. It provides a framework and tools for actively learning about a community's needs and strengths and then setting priorities.   

Community Information and Services for Australians
(click on community development) (accessed Feb. 23/08)

This site contains many links to sources of information on community development, building social capital, sustainable communities, community networking, business and community partnerships. 

Community Empowerment Training Modules by Phil Bartle, Ph.D.
(accessed Feb. 23/08)

These training modules contain basic texts, model forms, short handouts for workshops, and notes for trainers. Each module has a single topic, with different documents in it for different actors or purposes.

Community Tool Box
(accessed Feb. 23/08)

The Community Tool Box is the world's largest resource for free information on essential skills for building healthy communities. It offers over 7,000 pages of practical guidance in creating change and improvement

Assets Network: Assets Library Glossary
(accessed Jan 11/08)

From the Ground Up: An Organizing Handbook for Healthy Communities
(accessed Feb. 23/08)

This handbook was written by staff and volunteers of the Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition as a guide to individuals, groups and coalitions who want to start a Healthy Community initiative in their community. It gives information and tips on getting started, assessing community needs and assets, organizational development, planning, communication, leadership, partnerships, fundraising, evaluation and more. A glossary of terms, samples of forms and documents, and references for further information are also provided.

Tamarack: An Institute for Community Engagement - Learning Centre
. )accessed Feb. 23/08)

The Learning Centre, established in 2003, is designed to create a fluid, creative system of documenting community building activity and delivering this learning to organizations. The centre has a threefold purpose: to broadly disseminate knowledge gathered through research and practical experience; to help communities increase their power through learning; and to generate knowledge about community engagement so as to advance the field.

Wilder Collaboration Factors Inventory (accessed Feb. 23/08)

This inventory was designed as a tool for assessing the factors that influence the success of a collaboration. Twenty such factors have been identified, and you will be provided with summary scores for each of these factors upon completion of the inventory.





Glossary of Terms

Health Promotion and Community Development On-Line Course

Glossary of Terms