The Malta Community Development Association is still in its first years of operation, reaching its second anniversary next March.
Community development in Malta is still a small niche in the social field, but it is growing rapidly with the introduction of new community services and a Masters in Community Action and Development offered at the University of Malta. But, first of all, what is community development? and what does it correspond to?
According to the International Association for Community Development (IACD), “Community development is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes participatory democracy, sustainable development, rights, economic opportunity, equality and social justice, through the organization, education and empowerment of people within their communities, whether of locality, identity or interest, in urban and rural settings.
In simpler terms, community development workers work closely with diverse groups of people and support them in realizing their potential. This process becomes much more complex if you consider that most of the time, various obstacles stand in the way of this achievement.
The role of the community development worker starts with getting to know the community they are working with; and to do this, he/she maps key information regarding the community by making contact and getting to know the members of the community. In order to be effective in our role, we are deeply involved in understanding the history of the community and what made it what it is today. This involves learning about the historical, social, economic and environmental aspects that have influenced the community. During this process, our greatest allies are the empathy and openness that will allow us to immerse ourselves in the community. Once this step is taken, our work will shift to creating initiatives with the community; but this is something I will address in the future!
For now we are proud that the Malta Community Development Association has been introduced and we have managed to bring together a group of community development practitioners who have decided to bring together other like-minded people and learn practices together while supporting each other. Over the past few months, we have focused primarily on promoting the community development approach through webinars and social media. This promotion also had the impact of introducing theoretical concepts to field agents who had been part of community service delivery entities but lacked such training. In addition to this, we also aim to establish community development as a profession and as a career path within local social service providers.
We are also very proud to say that one of our milestones for 2021 was becoming a member of the International Association for Community Development (IACD). With this membership, we look forward to learning more and transferring that knowledge to our local context. Another goal we look forward to working on in 2022 is to put community development practitioners on an equal footing with other social professions by introducing a professional mandate for community development workers. We hope that this year will be filled with activities, events and achievements for our association.
This article/blog/commentary aims to present the role of community development and will present themes of community development with particular emphasis on the local context.