How We Imagine Community Change Matters!


When he asked 40 directors of U.S. community development corporation directors to explain how they accomplish social change, Noah Dorius discovered that their concern was behaviourial change: a transformation in what low-income people do, and in what institutions do to assist them.

Yet to determine how much social change has occurred, practitioners don't measure behaviour, they measure a poor community's economic appearance. Quantitative measures (e.g., property values, business starts, unemployment rates) predominate for evaluating what is a qualitative process.

He recommends choosing measures of social change that reflect what practitioners consider essential to that process. For example, six themes of local empowerment consistently arose in his interviews:

  • Bringing people together
  • Communicating and decision-making with dignity.
  • Changing attitudes and reduced barriers.
  • Recognition of common goals and the creation of a vision
  • Greater individual and community self-confidence
  • The achievement of economic self-sufficiency

Were objectives and measures built into community development programs and projects to reflect behaviourial changes like these, practitioners could determine which strategies are more effective and therefore enjoy greater credibility (and more resources).

Dorius, Noah
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