21 Community Development Ideas to Implement Now (2022)

Last Updated: May 30, 2022

To introduce this community development ideas section of the website, we are featuring 21 concepts for winning events and initiatives that your neighborhood could initiate right now,

Further down in the page, we also introduce and highlight eight Big Ideas of great importance to community development. Lastly, this page is a doorway to the broadest categories of our visitor-submitted questions and our answers.

Adapt These Community Development Ideas to Your Own Setting

As we transition out of crisis mode in the coronavirus pandemic, it's time to move your community organizations forward. If conditions warrant, by all means resume face-to-face meetings, outdoors when feasible. Zoom calls are not appropriate ways to meet new people and organizations, because too much communication nuance is lost, but video calls can accelerate your internal planning when the participants are used to working together. So don't make excuses; get going.

We certainly haven't linked to all of our relevant pages, but use the search box at the top of the page liberally when you need more information about one of our short paragraphs. If you miss the 21 community development ideas we posted earlier, just contact us to ask for an emailed copy.

21 Community Development Ideas to Implement Now (1)

1. Starta farmer’s market, occurring at least weekly when local produce is in season.You may have a winter market once a month or more often also. If this isoverdone and hackneyed in your town, try a cook’s market, featuring homemadebread, handmade rolling pins, locally made pottery garlic jars, and anythingelse local and fun you can source.

2. Figureout what is distinctive about your city, street, or neighborhood, and thenstrategize about how to afford some street banners. Your utility company mayoffer advice about the best size, shape, and type, and might even offer help inhanging them. Local graphic artists often will donate some of the design work.Seek a small grant or start a crowdfunding campaign to fund their production.

3. Starta tool library for homeowners who may not own all of the tools commonlyrequired to maintain or improve typical homes in your area. It should work likethe public library; people would sign up for free memberships, giving all oftheir contact information, and then be able to borrow tools for a definiteperiod of time. Enlist a nonprofit, community development corporation, government office, or congregation to be thekeeper of the tool library.

4. Fora relatively low-cost water feature, investigate bubbler fountains. You may beable to incorporate an interesting array of local rocks or even metalcraft intothe design. An artist or aspiring high school age artist can help you with thedesign, which does not have to be perfect. In fact, irregularity is a positivefeature of this type of fountain, which is economical to run as well.

5. Organizea walk audit by partnering with police, organizations serving children and theelderly, and retail businesses dependent on street traffic. Plan a route thatwill allow participants to discuss deterrents to walking, such as speedingvehicles, inadequate or missing sidewalks, lack of traffic lights andcrosswalks, challenging grates or culverts, a feeling of lack of safety in theneighborhood, lack of shade and resting places, and bleak surroundings.

6. Preparesome attractive code enforcement process diagrams to explain the “who,” “what,”“when,” and “why” of code enforcement in your city. Try to distribute yourexplainers to every household, either through incorporating them into aneighborhood newsletteror by tying a flyer onto doorknobs. If your cityis cooperative, you may want to provide some statistics about your city’snumber of citations for various types of violations, and number of successfulresolutions of the code violations.

7. Holda Renter’s Eye View tour for your city’s leadership and anyone else who isinterested. Visit the apartments and homes for rent, ask the landlords aboutthe rental market, and then convene afterward to talk about what you havelearned about how the more temporary, more elderly, or poorer prospectiveresidents view your town. Housing condition, rental cost, and involving tenantsin neighborhood issues can be discussed afterward.

8. Reframeyour worst problem into a campaign to be the best neighborhood or town in aspecific characteristic. Enlist people who are talented at marketing or evenstraight advertising to help you figure out how to position the campaign, butthen also find the most blunt, goal-oriented city improvement experts possiblefrom among local universities, nonprofits, nearby planning departments, orplanning consulting firms to give you advice on making the solutions realrather than just perceived.

9. Experimentwith building or expanding a coalition to address one ongoing challenge orproblem. Even the most successful neighborhoods have at least one challenge—toomuch success leading to pricing people out of the neighborhood. Brainstormabout potential new partners, and make a six-month plan to reach out.

10. Amplifyyour social media presence, either by increasing your number of posts or yournumber of platforms. It isn’t as difficult as you think, if board members inyour neighborhood association or business association is challenged to come upwith a new idea, fact, or photo every week. Some posts can be recycled after afew weeks or months. Then just find a teenager, college student, or othervolunteer who is talented at actually creating the posts. Be sure to write apolicy about who posts, how posts are approved, and guidelines about topics,stances, or tone.

11. Ifyou have problematic large houses or small empty buildings such as lodges ofnow disbanded fraternal organizations, investigate how rehabbing thosebuildings could lead to your neighborhood or town becoming a weddingdestination or other special event space.

12. Inventor incentivize others to create at least one coworking space in your area. Someof you will have a coffee shop that serves as a de facto coworking space, butwe bet that there is no formal networking among those people who frequent aparticular java spot. Coworking goes beyond just a possible place to work awayfrom home and away from a formal office; it requires sharing of facilities andusually of ideas and services as well. Such spaces attract community-mindedentrepreneurs and ultimately tend to make them more successful in business too

13. Comeup with a way to emphasize your neighborhood or district boundaries, or toannounce the entrance to your neighborhood along other edges such as streams,rivers, or highways.

14. Experimentwith changes in parking fees to see what happens. If local businesses strictlyforbid their employers to park on the street, for instance, can you afford tode-commission those parking meters and offer free parking? If you have payparking lots or garages, does decreasing the cost contribute to more patronagefor local businesses, or does it matter? If parking is scarce, does increasingthe cost help to create more parking space availability, and if so, what is theimpact of this change on consumer support for your local businesses?

15. Ifyou have even one coffee shop, folk music place, bar that occasionally offerslive music, or night club in your area, see if you can organize an open micnight that other businesses in your district will promote. More often than youthink, the business owner will be receptive to this idea because it may attractnew customers and shake up the routine a bit so that the regulars come morefrequently. We suggest trying it for four weeks in a row to see if it will createa positive spillover effect for other businesses and a buzz for your community.Notice if it grows from week to week. If not, move on to another idea.

16. Ifyou are in an area where there are more vacant residential or business spacesthan you think is necessary to allow a healthy range of choice for newcomers,put together a vacant property initiative. Focus attention on the opportunitiesrepresented by your vacancies by organizing coffees or tours for real estateagents and influential people in the community. Put eye-catching banners anddisplays in vacant storefronts, and make sure vacant houses are immaculatelygroomed and show some color from inexpensive flowering plants. If financing isa problem, include local bankers. If your problem is chronic and extreme inscale, your first agenda item might be attempting to pass a vacant propertyregistration law.

17. Focuson finding a way to provide summer jobs for local youth. Your county or stategovernment might help with the costs. We suggest a summer job continuum with alow amount of daily or weekly hours for the youngest people allowed by yourstate law to work, and then increasing both the number of hours permitted andthe hourly wage as youth age increases. If these jobs can offer an introductionto careers with local employers, so much the better.

18. Launcha serious dialogue about possible forms of accessory dwelling units thatmay be acceptable in your neighborhood. If you are doing this without help ofyour city government at first, you can borrow the technique of what is called avisual preference survey. To do this, find accessory dwelling units in your owntown or another nearby that have been built already and do not seem extremelyout of character in their current location. Then do a survey of your ownresidents to find out which building types would be most acceptable in yourneighborhood.

19. Initiatea project of making your residents aware of the costs of car ownership. Despitethe efforts of automobile associations and the federal government to advisepeople of the true cost of driving a mile, most people resist the notion of lookingat the long-range cost of automobile ownership. Find some good data for yourstate, and keep pumping out information, charts, and graphs of those costs. Thepurpose is not to make people feel guilty for driving, but rather to encourageserious planning for walking, bicycling, scooter sharing, and transit use tolighten impacts on the environment and create more vitality and personal safetyon the street.

20. Takethe time to get your organizational structure right. Tinkering with how yourcommittees are organized or what your bylaws say often is consideredunrewarding work in neighborhoods; after all, the activists like to makesomething happen. However, if you can give this task a catchy name, giveyourselves deadlines for finishing the work, and make a very convincing case asto why this is important, the most restless souls will at least be silentlysupportive, even if they themselves are not excited about doing this work. Thepayoffs in organizational effectiveness are worth the effort.

21. Selecta committee to talk through a possible neighborhood revitalization strategy ifyour neighborhood is struggling. Many times neighborhoods just think they haveto improve every condition all at once, which leads to frustration, burnout,and lack of focus. The starting point for this discussion can be our page aboutactually choosing a revitalization strategy.

Now for the BIG Community Development Ideas

Many of you site visitors work in communities of color in the U.S. and other countries. Our important page about racial equity and community development describes seven topical areas where local action and activities can propel racial justice, without waiting for state, provincial, or national programs. At the end, the article raises the question of whether equality is really enough. This is appropriate reading for each of you, as you ponder the way forward amid worldwide discussion of the treatment of black people.

The purpose of community development page explores a subject that is usually raised by people who are newcomers to community work or who don't understand the dynamics of neighborhoods. Well, we all fall into that latter category, so you may want to read our thoughts about the reasons we do all of this.

After understanding the purpose of community development work, people often want to concentrate on just a couple of principles of community development. We settled on three, which we then illustrate with stories of specific places in the U.S. This page is especially helpful to enthusiastic new volunteers without much background in neighborhood work, but we also believe that most of our target audience will learn something new and intriguing by thinking about our examples.

Next we also wrote an introduction to an international community developmentperspective. That page gives a bit of the history of thought about this field in the U.S., explains a bit of the background of international aid and development initiatives, and invites further exploration. There are many similarities across the world, but also there are vocabulary and perspective differences that we need to respect.

Appropriately enough, international development discussion leads naturally to a discussion of environmental sustainability topics. The first big idea for you in this arena is something called regenerative design. In this emerging field, it is not enough to just do not harm to the environment, since it is possible to design landscapes, buildings, and processes in such a way as to actually heal pre-existing degradation of the earth.

Environmental justice refers to equal distribution of potential environmental hazards and potential environmental amenities, regardless of economic status, race, or ethnic or religious identities of neighborhoods. Often the least desirable heavy industries, facilities such as landfills or sewage lagoons, or transportation hubs are placed in minority communities or historically lower income neighborhoods. Explore the significance and self-fulfilling prophecy of these tendencies.

Lastly, we talk about two universal topics. Climate change planning should be of interest and concern to every single community on earth, from the simplest village where everyone depends on rainwater to the most complex societies where economic and social welfare is nonetheless dependent upon and related to climate. Although somewhat harder to see in good times, the link between public health and community development also is of universal concern and requires societal-level action and sacrifice to achieve success.

Starting The Community Development Storytelling

Here you can brag about your terrific bigcommunity development ideas or small victories such as community improvement programs andevents, successful community projects, plans that can be implemented, improving urban design, redevelopment that works, and how development around the world differs from the U.S. where we are. Your examples and details of what went well and what was a disaster willhelp others.

To check out visitor tips and photos or submit your own, clickon any specific category below. The page that opens will show aform where you can comment, ask questions, and post up to four photos. If none of the categories seem to fit, go ahead and use the form on any of these pages, and we will find an appropriate page for you. When accepted, your submission results in a standalone web page you can share on your own social media too. Sharing community development ideas through storytelling really accelerates your own learning and inspires others.

You can comment on published community developmentideas too. At the bottom of each of the three pages below, you will see links to the already-published pages.

Understand that everything that visitors submit in this section ismoderated and edited to tighten it up. We want to keep this a livelyspace so that it will be a practical community development ideasresource for you. Let the storytelling begin!

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