What does a community development officer do?

Being a Community Development Officer is one of the most rewarding career choices in South Africa. But not many people know exactly what a Community Development Officer does, what the job entails, or how to start a career in this field.

What exactly is community development?
Community development is when members of a community come together to take collective action to solve certain social, health, economic, or environmental issues that the community faces.
Community development is often, however, facilitated by certain people or organisations that help organise projects and help communities achieve successful outcomes.

In South Africa, there are numerous community development organisations that do this kind of work, including governmental, international, and non-profit organisations (NPOs).

What is the role of a Community Development Officer?
As a Community Development Officer, you will generally work for a government department, NPO, or similar organisation.
Your responsibilities may include some, or all, of the following:

Helping to identify projects and developing frameworks for them.
Consulting, and making arrangements with, the community to implement projects.
Planning, organising, and executing certain projects or activities.
Leading a team of volunteers and/or employees in carrying out projects.
Responding to general and media enquiries related to projects.
Working with community leaders and project participants.
Writing reports on projects, activities, and programmes.
Reporting to project stakeholders and funders.

But these are just job descriptions. On a fundamental level, you will be working closely with amazing people each day. Some days you might be in the office doing admin work, while on other days you will be out in the community, meeting local people and sharing experiences with them. More than anything, however, you will be in an occupation that will allow you to do real good in South Africa, and to improve people’s lives.

How do you become a community development officer?
To do this job, you need:

Excellent organisational skills.
Problem solving skills.
Strong communication and interpersonal skills.
The ability to multi-task.

You also need the right training for the job. A Community Development Officer is not just a volunteer — he or she is a highly trained professional.

What career prospects do you have?
A career in community development can lead to many amazing things. You can end up working for international organisations, governmental departments, research institutions, or even the United Nations. You can also specialise in fields such as:

Child development
Youth work
HIV/AIDS management
Social work
Community health

But what’s more, being a Community Development Officer will teach you many transferable skills that will help you if you want to become a respected professional in a number of different industries. These skills include:

Organisational skills
Leadership skills
Project management skills
Planning skills
Financial management skills
Business planning skills

But in whatever direction you end up going, working as a Community Development Officer is one of the most rewarding professions you can go into. This is a career in which you can make a real and lasting difference, not only in the lives of individual people, but also in South African society as a whole.

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