What is Community Development? The Theory of Change

Apr 26, 2023 | Education

Community Development is one of six departments at Collingwood Neighbourhood House (CNH), offering a mix of programming to local residents and community members. In this post, they describe the definition of community development and what that means to their team.

Community Development at CNH

We bring neighbours together based on shared interests, common issues and shared identities, as well as across generations and cultures. They identify the issues they want to address or the opportunities they want to explore.

Communities use their assets and shared strengths to make an equitable change. Community Development staff support neighbours to build the capacity to work together to pursue the changes they want to see.

This process leads to an interconnected, equitable, just, and sustainable society with strong, resilient communities at the heart of decision-making.

Community members continue to inform CNH programs, priorities, and initiatives, as well as have the skills, connections, and passions to create and shape initiatives in their communities.

View or download the graphics as a PDF.

Our Definition

Community development is a process where people come together to take action on what’s important to them. Community development helps communities to organize, and to identify the issues they want to address, or the opportunities they want to explore.


  • Celebration and reflecting: We celebrate diverse cultures, histories and expressions through events, projects and campaigns. We reflect, evaluate and learn from our work in order to continue to inform our understanding of community. 
  • Mobilizing and advocating: Responding to community issues with innovation systems thinking, and strategies to address the root causes of inequities. Mobilizing community members to engage politically and socially towards systemic change that supports an equitable and just society.
  • Connecting: We provide low-barrier and accessible opportunities for people to connect with each other, the community, and the land. We foster relationship-building between people and groups who may not usually connect, including intergenerational and intercultural connections. We build and support networks of residents and community partners that work toward positive change in the community.
  • Resources: We provide information and education to community members. Individuals and groups are supported in their learning journey. Sharing of power? Access? using the power and resources we have to support community needs.

Impacts (what are we working toward?)

  • Community leadership: A neighbourhood where community members care for one another and support each other. Community Members, groups, and organizations collaborate by working together to build capacity and are empowered to create changes.
  • Community Health and Resiliency: A neighbourhood where community members care for one another and support each other. Community Members, groups, and organizations collaborate by working together to build capacity, and are empowered to create changes.
  • Equity and justice: A neighbourhood that is committed to ongoing processes of anti-racism, identifying and redistributing power, decolonizing, and advocating for systems change towards an equitable and just society.
  • Belonging: A neighbourhood where everyone belongs, fully participates and shares their unique gifts. A neighbourhood where no one feels isolated and our communities have the resources to experience well-being, joy, and celebration.

Our Principles

  • Community Driven: Drawing on existing assets, strengths and gifts that are already present in the community. Listening in order to support accessible and creative initiatives led by neighbours and Indigenous Peoples where community can connect to each other and the land.
  • Interculturalism and equity: Seek to increase diversity and our understanding of different perspectives and voices. Embed an anti-oppression framework to holistically support and centre those facing marginalization.
  • Centring relationships: Take the long road; Building, and sustaining connections with people takes time, as does creating deeper shifts in the systems. Patience and time are required. Involve different people, interests and sectors, working toward trust and reciprocity.
  • Systems change: Focusing on the root causes of the issues that are important to community members to create sustainable change. Respond to emergent community issues by redistributing knowledge and power; Flexibility based on changing contexts.
  • Building trust: Use processes of reflection, transparent communication, follow-up, ongoing evaluation and feedback loops.

Join Us

The Community Development team at CNH offers a variety of programs, including:

  • Arts, Culture, & Celebrations: Have an arts-based idea or want to join in on existing opportunities? Email arts@cnh.bc.ca.
  • Renfrew-Collingwood Food Justice: Sustainable growing, local food, multicultural food traditions, and healthy eating in the Renfrew-Collingwood neighbourhood. Email foodsecurity@cnh.bc.ca.
  • Neighbourhood Small Grants: Have a great idea for your community? small grants are available to support projects that build community. Email Sheri Parke at sparke01@shaw.ca 
  • Systems Change: Systems Change brings communities together by taking action to solve the root causes of complex social problems. Email systemschange@cnh.bc.ca

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