The Importance of Relationship-Building in Community Development

About the Author

CED Program Interns & Students

Joy Jackson is a Masters Student of Public Administration and a graduate student assistant working with the Community-Campus Partnership

Prior to coming to UNC, I worked for a community development financial intermediary in New York City that provided financial and technical assistance to local community development corporations (CDCs).  Having the opportunity to work with the Community Campus Partnership (CCP) during my first year as a graduate student in the School of Government has afforded me the opportunity to pursue, what is for me, a new type of community development – rural community development.

While there are many obvious differences between community development in large urban areas and smaller rural communities, there is one irrefutable commonality – the importance of relationships and relationship-building as a means to meeting local goals.

In New York City, the world of community development is relatively small and collaboration is a necessary component of the development process.  The CDCs, financial institutions, government officials/agencies, and others engaged in the work of improving the city’s neighborhoods are a tightly knit group.  These close working relationships help to ensure that all parties involved are kept aware of the changing needs of communities, developments in relevant laws and policies, the availability of resources, progress made towards community goals, and successful projects.  While financial support is central to the development process, the provision of training and other technical assistance is extremely importance.   To help our partner CDCs reach their development goals, my organization provided technical assistance in many operational and programmatic areas, such as financial analysis, asset management, joint ventures, program development and management, etc. None of this assistance is created in a bubble.  All of the trainings were developed to meet needs identified by one or more organization in the city’s ad hoc network of community developers.

Here at UNC, CCP has a mission to connect the resources of the University to economically distressed counties in the State.  Since its launch approximately a year ago, CCP has invested  time and resources to develop the same types of connections with community leaders I observed  between community development partners in NYC. CCP has engaged their pilot communities by participating in and leading community meetings, assisting with local projects, relocating graduate students to the communities for summer internships and more.  All of these activities have helped to build relationships which are necessary to establish open lines of communications and working relationships.   Community-building programs are only as effective as the quality of the relationships it has built with the community it is serving.  The time CCP is spending building relationships is critical to the program becoming an effective and useful resource for North Carolina communities.

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