Community decision making
Community development empowers communities to identify their needs, plan action, manage projects and evaluate the results of their activities.
Community development and decision-making
Community decision-making is inherent to community development. Community members make their own decisions; they decide how much outside help they want.
A community may be:
- geographically based, such as a neighbourhood, city, or rural town
- a network of relationships based around a common identity, such as ethnicity, or interest such as sport or music.
For a community to take control of its own development, a group of people must be prepared to work together to pursue their goals. Often these groups are legal entities, such as incorporated societies or charitable trusts. Other initiating groups may be small and loosely structured.
Groups vary in how they make decisions. Some groups, especially smaller ones, prefer non-hierarchical structures and collective decision-making. Formal organisations will have paid staff, including managers, and may also have a governing board. In some communities, such as Māori or Pacific communities, the views of elders may be particularly significant.
How government can support community decision-making
Government agencies often have a role to play in assisting communities to achieve their goals, for instance by:
- funding projects, through small grants or more substantial contracts
- providing information that communities need
- mentoring or training members of community organisations
- facilitating community meetings, if asked.
Benefits of supporting community decision-making
- Decisions are likely to be based on first-hand understanding of the issues.
- Projects are tailored to the needs of the community, so are more likely to succeed.
- Community members are empowered.
- Connections and trust between community members are strengthened, building a solid base for future decision-making.
- Holistic ways of operating can be achieved, by bringing together local people from different sectors such as health, education, and housing.