Esperança

What Is Sustainable Community Development?

No matter where we live in the world, we all have one thing in common - we all want our community to be sustainable and thrive.

You may have heard the term "sustainable community" before, but what does it mean? How can a community in which people live, work, and play, sustain all of its wonderful qualities in both the short and long term? How can we help make communities all around the world places that people want to spend their lives and watch their children grow?

This is a big question today. As the world population grows and everyone is faced with ongoing and new challenges, we all want to see the world become a better place and stay that way. This goal can be accomplished through continuous sustainable community development.

What is sustainable community development? Well, the definition of that term is both simple and complicated. However, it's something we can all work on together to achieve global goals that benefit everyone in the communities where they live. 

Read on to learn more. 

What Is a Sustainable Community?

In our lives, studies, or travels, at some point, we have all come across a community that is not at all sustainable. 

Communities without access to healthcare, civil rights, education, social welfare, and opportunities for their residents are examples of this. Even if these communities are surviving at present, it is clear and obvious to residents and to outside observers that they are not thriving. When we investigate these types of communities, it seems their futures are grim. They are just getting by from day to day, and feelings of hopelessness within them are often pervasive. 

On the other hand, a sustainable community is the opposite. 

The majority of people living in a sustainable community seem happy, motivated, and positive - not just on the surface, but deep down as well. A sustainable community has a prosperous economy and the people are actively involved in activities that help the community to grow and advance. The environment is healthy, and as a result, the people are too. People are proud to live there, and a clear and positive future for the generations that will follow is evident.

Through sustainable community development, we can help the community described first to turn into the somewhat utopian type of community described second. It may seem like an insurmountable task. But, armed with the right information, drive, and organization, it is something that is possible, indeed. 

What Does a Sustainable Community Look Like?

In 1995, the Institute for Sustainable Communities created a list of elements that should be present for a community to be considered sustainable. Of course, it's challenging to meet every criterion, but it's not impossible. However, it will take time for any developing community to reach all of its sustainability goals. Further, once they are met, they continue to require maintenance on an ongoing basis to stay met.

The Institute's sustainable community criteria can be organized into four categories.

Leadership, Civic Engagement, and Responsibility

Fair and participatory civic engagement is a cornerstone of sustainable communities. Residents should have access to public information. They should have respect for different ideas and viewpoints. They must have the ability to participate in decision-making about the things that will affect their lives. Everyone - men, women, and children - should all be encouraged to participate and should feel responsible for making the community a better place. Political stability is crucial.

Economic Security

The economy of a local community should be strong. It should not be heavily affected by tumultuous changes within or outside of that community. The sale of resources should be invested back into the community. The vast majority of businesses should be locally owned and operated. A sustainable community has employment opportunities for all of its citizens, and people have access to education and job training to grow and learn.

Ecological Integrity 

By now, we all know how important sustainability is when it comes to the natural world. Sustainable communities must protect the environment in order to thrive in the long term. Basic human needs must be met, including access to clean air, clean water, and uncontaminated food sources.

Biological diversity needs to be supported and fostered. Natural resources must be conserved for future generations. Waste should be removed from the community in a healthy way. And, management of renewable resources is necessary to ensure they will continue to stay that way.

Social Well-Being

All of the criteria listed above are vital, but none of that matters if the residents of the community do not experience social well-being overall. The people should have access to a reliable food supply, adequate health services, and education.

They should not fear crime or aggression from their neighbors or from outside influences, and everyone should feel like he or she belongs.

Public and historic spaces must be valued, and artistic efforts should flourish as well.

A sustainable community should be healthy, adaptable, and welcoming to the people who live there.

Most of all, a sustainable community should feel like home.

How Can We Move Forward With Sustainable Community Development?

Sustainable community development can help communities of all sizes and shapes around the globe to reach these goals.

Everyone wants to live in a sustainable community. Also, everyone wants to know that their community will be sustainable for many decades or even centuries to come. It is through sustainable community development that we can look to the future. We can make sure it is even better than it is today for the generations that follow ours.

There are a number of ways to achieve these goals.

First, we must recognize that all communities around the world are interdependent. We are all linked with one another and the long-term well-being of all communities everywhere depends on each and every one of them working towards sustainability. If we want to see economic prosperity, freedom, beauty, education, and protected ecosystems everywhere, we must first focus on ourselves. However, in doing so, we can encourage communities everywhere to follow suit. A ripple effect will help the concept of sustainable communities to grow and expand.

Second, we much instill in all the fact that we are the stewards of our own communities. We must always be working to improve our environment, economies, educational and employment opportunities, and the overall happiness of the people living in any community.

It is an ongoing process, and everyone must lend a hand and play a part. It is this shared understanding of responsibility that will keep our communities vibrant and always growing.

Conservation of our natural world is also crucial; without a healthy environment, sustainability on a large and consistent scale is impossible. We all must work together to protect our natural resources and to make the decisions necessary so they can provide for us now and in the future. 

Finally, we must set clear and measurable goals to support these communities. It's impossible to know when progress is made without goals in place and without record-keeping to ensure an ongoing upward trajectory. 

All of the above is necessary to make progress in sustainable community development.

Fortunately, none of the above is anywhere near impossible. We can and should all work together to achieve our sustainable community goals. Together, we can ensure a better future for us all.

Learn More About Sustainable Communities

At Esperança, fostering and encouraging the concept of healthy, sustainable communities around the globe is our mission. In Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Mozambique, and Nicaragua, we help communities to access and achieve all of the above.

It is important for all global organizations working in developing countries to keep these sustainable development goals in mind. Often times, work is done that cannot be maintained by the community once the organization leaves. At Esperança, a key part of our mission is empowering local leaders and providing education to ensure the sustainability of every water system, housing project, agricultural training and more.

To learn more about the work we do, check out Our Stories on our blog. We hope that you will find them inspiring. If you feel driven to get involved, please do. This work is so important, and we would love to have you lend a hand. We can't wait to hear from you.

Elena Burr