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Community Development

Also known as Intercultural Community Work, ICW is SIL's approach to community development with vernacular literacy as its foundation.

Community development (CD) is the process of helping a community strengthen itself and develop towards its full potential.  As facilitators, we work in partnership with local people and organizations to meet identified needs. We believe that literacy is a key component of sustainable development.

Purpose, Projects, Process

PURPOSE: SIL’s purpose in CD is holistic people-centered development (e.g. spiritual, physical, social, economic, intellectual).

PROJECTS: Since language is a major tool that people use in meeting their needs, SIL’s approach to CD is based on language. In many communities we assist in the design of a suitable alphabet and a body of useful literature, as well as training aimed at the spread of reading skills and practices. Thus, literacy projects are foundational development projects wherever SIL partners with communities. Responding to the specific needs of a community result in other kinds of projects, such as health education, agricultural improvement, and income generation.

PROCESS: The process in CD is crucial to the project outcome. We seek to follow a process that builds people up as they work together toward a common goal.

Ten principles

Over the years, ten principles have been formulated in SIL as a definition of a healthy process of CD.

  1. Start where the people are.
  2. Build relationships; then introduce new ideas, showing how they meet identified needs.
  3. Keep projects simple.
  4. Involve as many community people as possible in all activities from the start.
  5. Train people close to their home communities.
  6. Train in locally acceptable ways (e.g. methods, facilities).
  7. Train trainers who can train others.
  8. Involve local leadership.
  9. Cooperate with governments.
  10. Encourage interdependent relationships vs. dependent or totally independent relationships.

For the full version of these principles with a brief discussion of their use in SIL fieldwork, see A process to guide decision making for development activities in language programs, by Larry Yost and Hugh Tracy.

Qualifications and opportunities

The qualifications for a CD specialist in SIL and opportunities for service are discussed in a separate document.

Selected articles

Other resources on the Web