News Features

Developing Thriving Communities Through CECD

K-State Engagement E-News, September 2007 (PDF)

Building thriving communities

Everyone seems to agree that it is important to have healthy, thriving communities. But when we begin to discuss just what that means, people will often describe very different perspectives of what a thriving community should look like. It is because of these differences that communities vary in their design, composition, and priorities. Expectations of the community also change through time. For example, the Dodge City, Kan. of the late 1800s was a very different community from the Dodge City, Kan. of the early 21st century. Given these changes over time and variances in community emphasis, nearly all community development practitioners will agree that fundamentally, every community has similar basic requirements for long term health and sustainability. Generally speaking, the following elements for sustainable communities are listed below.

Environmental Requirements

Natural resource requirements: A sustainable community needs a healthy natural environment. The quantity and quality of natural resources is a foundation to sustain the local population.

Built resource elements: Desirable communities require adequate infrastructure. This may include buildings, streets, housing, water systems, communication infrastructure, and waste removal. The definition of "required infrastructure" continues to change as our quality of life expectations change.

"People" Requirements

Human elements: A sustainable community should support the health of its residents. This means making certain there are opportunities for residents to meet mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health needs and have access to health care.

Social elements: Community members have opportunities for interaction, involvement, and social services. Sustainable social strength also involves maintaining collaborative working relationships across the community to address common goals.

Cultural elements: People need an opportunity for self expression. Cultural expression may include the arts, cultural traditions, celebrations, or historical representation.

Economic Requirements

Economic requirements: Individuals in communities should have opportunities to earn, save, invest, and acquire goods and services.

What makes a community thrive, however, is often a degree of how well a community expands on these basic elements. While the basic elements of a community are generally agreed upon by practitioners, the degree to which each area is fulfilled is more subjective. The degree of investment in quality of life criteria will vary from community to community. For example; one community may find greater identity in its historical architecture or events; while a second might build on its physical location or a local natural resource; while a third may identify itself most through the arts or cultural identity.

In order to help build healthy, sustainable communities in Kansas, the Center for Engagement and Community Development has developed a resource listing for each of these areas of community investment. To discover resources to enrich your community, visit www.ksu.edu/cecd/communitydev/

Resources:
Sustainable Indicators
North Central Regional Center for Rural Development