The Hungarian Association for Community Development is one of the lead organizations of community work in Hungary. Our Association was founded in 1989 (year of the political transition in CEE) but our actual activities lean back to the ‘70s. It was that decade when learning of community development and CD experiments were started in Hungary.
Since 1989, HACD has permanently been doing fieldwork, participating in adult education and undertaking the tasks of vocation development. Since the late ‘90s, we have also been involved in higher education. Plenty of local and regional organizations have been born with our help, hundreds of people (community workers, community developers and other professionals) have attended our trainings. We have published several books and booklets, our professional review is now published online, four times a year. For the latest two decades, from time to time, we have been invited to participate in the elaboration of national programs or tender calls.
HACD is located in Budapest, capital of Hungary, but we have partner organizations all over the country. We have app. 70 individual and 10 organizational members; the professional network encompassing our organization counts app. 150 community developers and other experts. We always try to work in the field that’s how we have got significant territorial coverage and contact with rural area in all regions of Hungary.
The Association is led by a triumvirate that is supported by a professional coordinator and a financial leader (paid staff). The basic staff is completed by project staffs always according to the current projects (contracted staff). The regular activities of HACD (organization of Summer University, of Community Conference, publication of professional review, contribution to learning resources in higher education, general dialogue with other organizations (both NGOs and governmental) etc.) are planned and implemented by the workgroups organized of our members and external experts on a thematic base (volunteer groups, for the moment we have 8 of them).
Generally, community development is based on values. Our basic values are focused at and we strive to act for an inclusive and sensitive democratic society built of autonomous persons and autonomous communities. However, we are convinced that autonomy is made of responsibility, tolerance, understanding and solidarity.
According to our worldview, the responsible and sustainable well-being of the individuals and the sustainable well-being, integration and autonomy of the communities react and strengthen each other. Democracy for us means the direct participation of the individuals in their own and their communities’ lives (including decision making and taking responsibility).
However, because of the current national context above, at the one hand social investments – like community development – faced new challenges, such as growing fear and mistrust between various social groups have become main causes of social fracture, isolation and polarization. On the other hand, the impact of classical community development way of working has noticeably reduced, as well as making dialogue between local actors in order to assist active participation couldn’t work anymore.
So now, the most important thing to do is strengthening bridging social capital can give citizens a real chance to heal social polarization. We must try to avoid the stagnation of social mobility thus we have to foster the opportunity of people gather together. Having their own experience can help them being resistant to isolation. Accordingly, now we are focusing on developing of bridging social capital and this is what we would like to support through facilitating dialogues, meaningful debates, common actions and cooperation.
Principles and tools
In our definition, community development means the development of communities by themselves. The concept involves a democratic attitude which sees communities as being able to initiate and take part actively in their own development in order to determine directions of improvement. A community worker may join the process, if needed.
Based on this definition, the aim of all processes involved is to create communities and we do it through strengthening (civic) participation. In other words, we focus on how civil society (as a modern medium of commonality), and thus democracy, could be formed quicker. Development is a way of strengthening awareness-raising about participation, and is based on the idea that participation is not only a right, but also a responsibility of citizens.
Related to participation are the concepts of locality and neighborhood, since this is the level where all people can participate in their lives. Locality is a psychical and physical place at the same time. People know each other and there are always common issues to mobilize them. For this reason, we usually work at the local level. As for empowerment, the way we assist people, the main focus is to let people act on their own. “Helping them well” means trying to avoid another dependency.