Understanding Communities and Their Dynamics

Understanding Communities and Their Dynamics, level one of the Foundations of Practice in Community Development program, provides an introduction to the seven core competencies that focuses on the ability to understand community of place, the nature of public issues, the dynamics and interdependencies of the various segments of the community, and the basics of community development work. Open to all individuals working in a community context this course is offered as an entry level course in community development. No prior knowledge or experience is required.

Dates and Times

Weekly webinars will take place on Wednesdays from 3:00pm -4:30pm (Eastern) beginning September 12 and concluding October 24, 2018. 


[Note: The class topics are firm but the exact order of the topics may change]

1.  Introduction to Community  (Steve Jeanetta, University of Missouri Extension)

Want to know more about the principles of doing good community development work? Here is the starting line. Covering the dynamics of community life, this introduction helps you discover some of the key characteristics of a community that can facilitate (or impede) the development of effective community-improvement programs.

2.  Community Demographics (Don Albrecht, Western Rural Development Center)

Doing quality community development work is pretty difficult if you lack a sound understanding of the current and emerging features of your community and its population. What are the population, economic, and social conditions and trends in your community? This session will provide you with valuable guidelines on ways to create useful data-based profiles of your community.

3. Community Situational Analysis (Michael Dougherty, West Virginia University)

Every community has challenges that impede its ability to become stronger and more vibrant. But, taking the time to truly understand the mix of issues impacting the well-being of a community is crucial. Learn how to engage community members and groups in a systematic, step-by-step process for uncovering high priority issues and taking action.

4. Community Economics (Dave Shideler, Oklahoma State University)

Money comes and goes, but knowing who is bringing it in, how it is being invested, and how it is leaving the community is important to supporting a vibrant economy. Learn about the many facets of a community’s economic complexion in this session.

5. Mapping Community Assets (Stacey McCullough, University of Arkansas Extension)

Sound community development work depends on helping citizens understand that every community has something that can be described as an asset. Too often communities spend so much time focused on the resources that they lack that they fail to appreciate the opportunities and advantages they do have. This session will introduce participants to asset mapping and introduce how this tool can help in a community development context.


6. Community Power Dynamics (Dan Kahl, University of Kentucky)

Knowing the visible and “behind the scenes” leaders in a community is crucial to any effort by a group to promote and advance key community development activities. Find out about the important layers of leadership in your community and a straightforward manner for identifying the various leadership roles that individuals play.

7. Community Development Process (Deborah Tootle, Iowa State University Extension)

Several approaches can facilitate the ability of communities to get things done. Learn about some valuable tools and procedures – both past and present – that can offer a valuable roadmap on how to pursue good community development work.

About this course

This course makes use of the latest in distance learning technology. The class consists of seven, 90-minute presentations and discussion on fundamental community development topics. These webinar presentations are offered in real time. Each of the presentations will be recorded and the recordings will be available on the course website along with supplemental resources.

The course website hosts a threaded discussion that provides participants the opportunity to share experiences, get to know each other, ask questions, and engage in deeper conversation.
In order to maximize your learning experience, you should have access to a computer with an Internet connection (preferably a high-speed connection that does not rely on a wireless connection). All audio will be provided via VOIP (voice over internet protocol) so a headset is preferred but a telephone can also used for audio.
The week prior to the start of the course, you will receive an e-mail with detailed instructions on how to access the Zoom classroom.
If you have any questions about this course or would like to discuss connection options, contact either of the course facilitators below:
Mary Peabody – Mary.Peabody@uvm.edu
The North Central Regional Center for Rural Development and the North Central program leaders implemented Understanding Communities and Their Dynamics using distance education technology in Fall 2005. Beginning with the Fall 2009 training, the program became a national effort, offered jointly by all four Regional Rural Development Centers as a professional development opportunity for Extension professionals who work in a community context. Since 2011 the course has been offered through the following eXtension learning networks – Entrepreneurs and Their Communities and Enhancing Rural Capacity. 
REGISTRATION: A special early registration fee is available for $75 through August 31. Registration increases to $100 on September 1, 2016. To register go to https://catalog.extension.org/product?catalog=UnderstandComm