Master of Arts Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS) 603

Community Development (Revision 3)

MAIS 603
**Note: Students in Group Study courses are advised that this syllabus may vary in key details in each instance of the course. Always refer to the Moodle site for the most up-to-date details on texts, assignment structure, and grading.**


Community development is the process of supporting and building communities through purposive action. Its practitioners apply theories and concepts that are related to the structures and participants involved. Building on analytical materials and skills, this course examines the nature of community in its variety of forms; issues and conditions that have an impact on communities; forces at work within communities, as well as those operating from outside; variations in community practice(economic and social development, social planning) and geographical setting; and applications in professional and academic fields as varied as education, literacy, economic development, health, social, and human services. Perspectives on the community that arise from policy setting, cross cultural relations, personal and global involvements, and practice strategies will also be examined as will specific concerns of Indigenous communities.

In this course we explore prospects for a sophisticated understanding of community, and deft interventions in a context of swift, often chaotic realignments. The focus will be local community autonomy, self help, mutual aid, and democratic process. An overriding goal will be the integration of themes, ideas, and practices.

The course introduces concepts and definitions; the historical background and growth of the discipline; case examples that illustrate the use of community development in city neighbourhoods, in rural settings, and in international or global issues; and cases related to fields of work (education, health, human services, etc.) and categories of people (First Nations, women, the poor, the homeless, etc.). Throughout the course we will analyse and critique ideological foundations, theoretical bases in the social sciences, and practices.

Avenues will be open for concentration on uses in professional and adjacent disciplines and among volunteer and private groups.

Course Structure

Master of Arts-Interdisciplinary Studies 603 consists of six parts.

  • Part I Defining Concepts, Examining Foundational Ideas
  • Part II The Four Sets of Practices of Community Development
  • Part III Community Organization (CO), community development (cd), Social Planning (SP), Community Economic Development (CED)
  • Part IV How Do Community Development Practices Become Useful to People?
  • Part V Identifying Case Studies in Community Development
  • Part VI Community Development Practices “On the Ground”

Course Objectives

The course objectives for Community Development are fivefold. The course provides students with the opportunity to

  1. build knowledge of concepts and definitions of community development in a group setting.
  2. study ideological foundations, theoretical bases, and practices.
  3. collaboratively compile case studies of city, rural, and global examples.
  4. identify categories of people who benefit from application of community development capacities.
  5. examine the history of various community development practices.

Student Evaluation

To receive credit for this course, students must participate in the online activities, successfully complete the assignments, and achieve a final mark of at least 60 per cent. Students should be familiar with the Master of Arts—Interdisciplinary Studies grading system. Please note that it is students' responsibility to maintain their program status. Any student who receives a grade of "F" in one course, or a grade of "C" in more than one course, may be required to withdraw from the program.

The following table summarizes the evaluation activities and the credit weights associated with them.

Assignment Weighting
Online participation 30%
Assignment 1: Short essay 30%
Assignment 2: Major paper 40%
Total 100%

Course Materials

The course materials for Master of Arts Interdisciplinary Studies 603 include the items listed below. If you find that any items missing from your course materials package, please contact Course Materials Production division of Athabasca University at (780) 675 6366, or 1 800 788 9041, ext. 6366 (toll free from anywhere within Canada or the United States). You contact Course Materials Production by email ( or by writing in care of Course Materials Production, Tim Byrne Centre, 4001 Hwy 2 South, Athabasca AB T9S 1A4.


  • Campfens, Hubert, ed. Community Development around the World: Practice, Theory, Research, Training. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999. (eText)
  • Elias, Peter Douglas, ed. Northern Aboriginal Communities: Economies and Development. North York, ON: Captus Press Inc., 1995.
  • Rubin, Herbert J., and Irene S. Rubin. Community Organizing and Development. 4th ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2008.
  • Sirolli, Ernesto. Ripples from the Zambezi: Passion, Entrepreneurship and the Rebirth of Local Economies. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers, 1999.

Athabasca University Online Materials

Course Home Page: You will find Course Information (including the Assignment File and other pertinent information) at the top of the course home page. You will also find your Study Guide presented unit by unit online. You will find your assignments and links to submit your work to your professor on the course home page.

Athabasca University Library: Students are encouraged to browse the Library's Web site to review the Library collection of journal databases, electronic journals, and digital reference tools:

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 3, May 1, 2011.