Community development and social justice are two study tracks that more and more people are becoming interested in. This is also increasing the demand for an understanding of exactly what those two issues are. According to Peter Benedict St Andrews, the easiest way to understand it, is that social justice takes a global perspective, whereas community development has a more local perspective. However, this is a very simplistic view and Peter feels a greater explanation is required.
Peter Benedict St Andrews on Community Development and Social Justice Programs
Educational programs that focus on both the issues tend to have been created in an effort to bring the theoretical and moral study of what social justice is together, while also considering its practical applications, aiming to change certain communities. When studying social justice, people inevitably start to take action and that action can be properly supported by using proven to be effective community development strategies. Hence, it could be said that social justice is about understanding why action is necessary, while community development is about understanding how that action should be taken.
Community development is, at its heart, a type of social justice as well. Regardless of a person’s spiritual belief, we all agree that poverty is unjust, that war is a bad thing, and that the powerless are being oppressed. Often, it is students who become involved in issues that are referred to as “social justice”. This includes things such as:
- How to eliminate hunger and poverty.
- How to stop wars.
- How to welcome refugees.
- How to empower women.
Meanwhile, on a community level, these people try to liberate people from their constraints. They want to create an inclusive economy, in which everybody has equal opportunities to contribute, to be educated, to receive health care, and to live in secure housing.
Community development also looks at systems, however. It looks at the way in which policies have to change so that they can become sustainable. Those who wish to change the housing system must first understand housing production and housing policies. Those who want to ensure communities can have more access to healthy food, must first understand the politics and economics of food production. According to Peter, what matters is that people find a way to use big systems in such a way that they can be applied to a small place. That is precisely what community development is about.
IT could be said that, if real and sustainable change is to be brought about, people have to understand both social justice and community development. This is why it is now common for universities to combine the two, and to not require students to specialize in either of the two tracks until their final semester, if at all. In this way, they are able to truly blend the global and the local, as well as the theoretical and the practical. At the end of the day, that is what is needed to truly change the world for the better.