Resources on Community Development

Community development is a cornerstone of reconciliation.  This page serves as a library of resources for community development practitioners working in Indigenous communities. Simply click on the title of the resource to follow the link. As the IRG comes across resources for community development, they will be posted here. Know of a great resource? Please let us know!


What is Community Development?

The foundational value and belief of community development is that people can improve their community by working together, building consensus on priorities and actions, building on community assets, and developing individual and community capacity. In summary, community development is dependent on the combined capacities of the community’s individuals, public service, and governance. Community development happens from within. Partners such as governments, non-government organizations, and private companies can support the capacity of community individuals, leaders, and organizations.

By supporting capacity, communities can advance their own defined sense of success, based on their assets, including Indigenous knowledge and culture. For partners, strengthened knowledge and competencies for effectively partnering with communities (including cultural competence) is a necessary element for success. IRG’s Indigenous Cultural Competence Course was designed with community development principles at the centre, in order to support and maintain effective relationships with Indigenous communities.

Community Resources

Tools by and for Indigenous Communities

Community development skills are best learned through experience. The Aboriginal Leadership Initiative known locally as Ahp-Cii-Uk, was developed in partnership by the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, the Governments of Canada and British Columbia, and private corporations. The initiative supports First Nations and partners to build trust, relationships, and capacity. The handbook supports communities in using consensus-based decision making, building capacity, and forming partnerships to “Go the Right Way” for their community. The approach respects and embraces local culture. Applying lessons learned from the Ahp-cii-uk Initiative, it provides advice on community engagement, as well as project planning, design, implementation, governance, budget, and evaluation.  Ahp-cii-uk – “ Going the Right Way”: A Handbook for Creating Lasting Change in First Nations Communities, 2011

Community health may mean something different for each community. Good health governance is one of the most important factors for a healthy community. Beyond Programs: Improving First Nations Control Through Health Governance, 2012, prepared by Kishk Anaquot Health Research, provides advice on how to strengthen, improve, or create health governance (i.e., regional boards or local health committees). It was prepared in the spirit of promoting greater First Nations’ control and freedom to influence health outcomes. Topics include community involvement, developing health committees or boards, creating health governance structures, and relationship building between First Nations as well as with other partners. The report includes a discussion of best practices for health governance organizations.

Community-led and defined planning processes drive community development. First Nations in British Columbia and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) have been collaborating on the Comprehensive Community Planning (CCP) process since 2004. CCP is an ongoing process that enables a community to plan its development in a way that meets its needs and aspirations in all aspects of community life. It can include but is not limited to areas such as governance, land & resources, health, infrastructure development, culture, social, education, and economy. The Comprehensive Community Planning Handbook, 2013 breaks down comprehensive community planning into manageable stages for communities ready to undertake the planning process. Those stages are: Pre-Planning; Planning; Implementation; Monitoring and Evaluation.  You will find step-by-step descriptions of the entire process and read about lessons learned by BC First Nations who have tested various approaches to community planning. The Handbook includes practical tools to encourage community involvement and develop the plan based on community vision and goals. The final section includes funding, educational and planning resources to support the development and implementation of your community's plan.

To view some additional best practices on CCP, see this report from New Relationship Trust: Gaining Momentum: Sharing 96 Best Practices of First Nations Comprehensive Community Planning, 2017

How communities define and measure success over time is an important part of community development. It helps communities understand where they are and where they want to go. The Measuring Wellness: An Indicator Development Guide for First Nations, 2015 developed for the First Nations of British Columbia, provides an approach to determining what wellness means in your community and provides steps and tools for the development of indicators of wellness, indicators that will show progress towards your community’s vision and overall health. It presents community wellness as a balance between physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

Planning and reporting are important community development skills to develop and describe your community’s aspirations and progress. The 7 Cs: A First Nations’ Guide to Planning and Reporting Standards, British Columbia First Nations’ Data Governance Initiative, 2016 takes a community-driven and nation-based approach to planning and reporting standards. It captures some of the key learnings of First Nations communities that are leading the way in planning and reporting in British Columbia. It also aims to bring forward emerging standards associated with planning and reporting in First Nations communities.

When communities share information, they can become more effective and efficient by learning from each other. The First Nations in BC Knowledge Network Website is an accessible platform that fosters the sharing of knowledge and facilitates networking amongst First Nations individuals, communities and organizations. It is a hub for First Nations to share ideas, tools, and best practices on many aspects of governance and community development. There are countless resources in the areas of community services, health, economic development, legal, education, governance, operations, traditional knowledge, and land and resources. Many communities have shared their comprehensive community plans and other community resources.  Note: a free registration is required.

Learning from other communities is a great way to explore what could work for your community.  Great resource here: New Relationships Trust – Best Practices Reports. The New Relationship Trust (NRT) is an independent non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening First Nations in BC through capacity building. NRT has worked with First Nations in British Columbia to gather and summarize proven and best practices. The site includes best practices on comprehensive community planning, consultation and accommodation, environmental assessment reports, governance reports, and land use planning reports.

International and Mainstream Resources

International and Mainstream Community Development Tools

The The Community Development Handbook: A Tool to Build Community Capacity, 1999, developed for Human Resources Development Canada, is an introductory guide to community development and capacity building. It is designed primarily for those who have an interest in community development and are looking to learn more. For those who already have a knowledge of community development, the Handbook offers a guide to the process of exploring or initiating community development. The guide includes definitions of basic terms, explanations of community development as a process, and the most common challenges (and solutions) attached to community development.

Community health can be defined in many different ways.  The Community Capacity Building - A Tool for Planning, Building and Reflecting on Community Capacity, 2007 tool, developed by the Alberta and Northwest Territories Region of the Public Health Agency of Canada, can help plan and build community capacity around health. The tool can be used facilitate discussions regarding your community’s current situation and future dreams. There are nine feature areas with corresponding sets of questions to describe community capacity in the areas of participation, leadership, community structures, external supports, funding bodies, asking why, obtaining resources, skills, knowledge, and learning, linking with others, and sense of community. The tool was supported by a literature review and tested by qualitative and quantitative research.

The field of international capacity development may offer insights to help your community assess and plan capacity development. Check out the Capacity Assessment Methodology – User’s Guide, United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Capacity Development Group, 2008. This guide provides an internationally-used approach to capacity development and capacity assessment, including a step-by-step guide to conducting a capacity assessment using UNDP’s capacity assessment framework. Core issues for assessment are institutional arrangements, leadership, knowledge, and accountability. Technical capabilities for assessment are the ability to engage stakeholders, assess the situation and create a vision and mandate, formulate policies and strategies, budget management and implementation, and evaluate. The guide supports practitioners in assessing capacities, identifying desired capacities, and developing a plan to obtain desired capacities.

Economic Development Resources

Community economic development is directly linked to reconciliation and meaningful partnerships. As part of community development, economic development must also be community-led and community driven. Economic development must be inclusive, engaging the whole community in planning activities that reflect their values, ensuring that the community benefits in a holistic and way.

Waubetek Business Development Corporation has resources to support community and economic development officers in drafting business plans, marketing plans, environmental screening, and many other resources.

This Government of Newfoundland and Labrador offers resources for Community Capacity Building and Regional Economic Development, with detailed modules to enhance skills related to economic and community development planning, development, and implementation. It contains modules on strategy and planning (strategic planning, proposal writing, project management, opportunity identification, and opportunity management), relationship building (public participation, conflict management, and group dynamics), organizational skills management (organizational governance, board orientation, meeting management, leadership and motivation, interpersonal communications, communications planning, risk management, and financial management), and co-operative development (basics of co-operatives, and co-operatives and the community development process).

Agreements between resource companies and Indigenous communities can have a huge impact on communities. The capacity to negotiate and implement such agreements is critical to ensuring that resource extraction generates benefits for communities. An Impact and Benefit Agreement (IBA) is a contract made between a community and a company that provides Aboriginal consent or support for a project to proceed.  Check out the IBA Community Toolkit- Negotiation and Implementation of Impact and Benefit Agreements, produced for the Gordon Foundation, is designed for communities engaged in negotiating IBA  agreements with mining companies. The goal of the toolkit is to provide materials, tools, and resources for communities to help them address the process and content issues relevant to negotiating agreements in Canada.