Lisbeth Eriksson is in the Linköping University’s Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning. She studies adult education, community development, folk high schools / folk schools, popular education, and social pedagogy.
Eriksson opens with theories about “community”: a “common value system containing such elements as solidarity, fellowship, and trust” (following Walzer, 1998; Fraser, 2000 ), or collection of variables, such as geography, shared interest, or perceived connection with group or place.
In the 1960s, “community development” had no fewer than 94 definitions. Eriksson sees community development’s emergence in the colonial administrators’ actions, the goals being industrial and economic development. In the 60s U.S., community development’s primary objectives were poverty- and race-related problems. Outside experts were presumed then and often now. Today it’s linked to social work, adult education, and urban planning, and comprises both philosophical approaches and specific modes of action, but there is almost always a prevailing social aspect.
Van der Veen (2003) considers community development to be a type of citizen engagement with three forms, each of which operationalizes education, first as training, or consciousness raising, or service delivery. Van der Veen sees the second as resulting from group discussion. “This form starts with learning and the goal is an active act” (411). Education as training can have either an outside or indigenous leader, but the focus is on action first, which comes from the learning.
Like social pedagogy, community development houses both conservative and radical perspectives. The former holds the community is threatened and best restructured through top-down programs, which often lead to well-intended dependency situations. This view believes consensus is possible and desired. The more radical form is about mobilizing people around conflict, not cooperation, for participation in a better world. This emerged in the 1960s and has since lost primacy in the 21st century to the conservative attitude that privileges cooperation and self-volunteerism. “Participation, a bottom-up perspective…[is] advocated by the process is continuously ‘controlled’ and monitored by the pedagogue” (413). This mild form of control, so-called “funneling” stands with the conservative approach’s preference for adaptation and integration, while the radical view calls for full structural change.