Associate Professor of Sociology and Urban Planning at MIT, Briggs is currently on public service leave as the Associate Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. His work focuses on social capital and community building, and he is well known for his “quality-of-life” planning approach to neighborhood revitalization.
In this brief article, Briggs explains the inception, definitions, and tensions of community building as a vein of contemporary social reform. Within this, he focuses on “its dual agenda – changing political dynamics (empowerment) and changing social outcomes” (36). The emergence: flattening, top-down programs were replaced by programs requiring coordinated efforts, then those with attention to community assets and “community capacity” (Chaskin et al. 2001). The dilemmas: issues of efficiency (sheer scale of programs), power (and who has it), and performance and accountability (how success is measured and who measures it). These phenomena are often in conflict (bureaucracy and democracy) and nearly always complex and in flux (success measurements). Briggs is doubtless a staunch community development advocate and regards understanding the dual agenda component to creating/implementing successful programs.