An Integrative Approach to Community Development

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Humanity is currently experiencing the greatest sociocultural shift in its history (Wallerstein, as cited in Huitt, 2013).  This shift began with the inauguration of the industrial age in the 18th and 19th centuries and has accelerated with the widespread utilization of digital technology beginning in the latter half of the 20th century.  This transition to a completely different social, cultural, and economic context on a global scale will continue for at least another 100 to 200 years.  As is demonstrated on the chart, change is now occurring at an exponential rate.  This means there will be as much change in the first twenty-five years of the 21st century as there was in all of the twentieth century (Kurzweil, as cited in Huitt, 2007).  There are essentially three alternatives for dealing with this change:

  1. yearn for a previous era and complain about its demise.
  2. try to adapt as best one can and hope that one can survive.
  3. work to make changes now to create a sociocultural milieu that will lead to higher levels of sustainable wellbeing for future generations.

Age of Transition Graphic

The materials on this website advocate the third alternative.  Humanity, for the first time in its history, has the opportunity to create a global sociocultural environment that can enhance the development of potential for all of human beings.   In the context of individual development, Bronfenbrenner (1979) described this as a developmental ecology;  in the context of an institution, Rutter et al. (1979) described this as an ethos.  While there are competing narratives for exactly what a sustainable developmental ecology would look like (Grassie, 2008), nevertheless tremendous progress has been made in the twentieth century in reducing poverty (Rosling, 2007, 2011) and enhancing economic opportunities (Diamandis, 2012).  Unfortunately, the use of resources to produce this abundance is not sustainable (Grant, 2010).  Additionally, just as there are opportunities and energies for enhancing the development of human potential, there are also forces at work that destroy opportunities for developing that same potential (Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, 2009).  A paraphrase of a statement attributed to Edmund Burke's ("All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing") might be apropos today: "All that is necessary for opportunities for all humanity not to increase is for good people to do nothing."

The strategy adopted by this website is to develop the knowledge and skills of a cadre of community development volunteers and professionals to facilitate the widespread implementation of what works in community development.  A fundamental principle of this approach is that community development occurs at multiple levels--from the individual through social institutions such as family, school, work organizations, and government to the entire community which, in turn, is a unit within a larger state, nation, international region, or global sociocultural and environmental context.  On an even grander scale, the earth is one small part of a larger cosmic context that has been developing over billions of years (Abrams & Primack as cited in Huitt, 2012).

The focus of this website is the development and delivery of university-level courses designed to provide introductory content for individuals desiring to engage in multi-level community development.  A relatively unique characteristic of these courses is that primary source content material is drawn from disparate sources such science, history, philosophy, the arts, and religion with course learning activities designed to engage learners in considering knowledge from these sources in an integrative manner and then put that knowledge into practice.  This is an essential attribute of becoming information literate (American Libraries Association, 2000).  Another unique quality is that each course includes learning activities that guide participants to put this integrated knowledge into action as part of a community development through service learning experience; action designed to be of service to oneself and others is a key component of service learning (Hoops, 2011). 

There are five basic concepts that form the foundation for this work:

  1. Information fluency -- there are a wide variety of media through which information can be transmitted.  Community development volunteers and professionals must be able to access information and create knowledge from these media and assess the credibility of the information offered.

  2. Information sources -- there are a variety of different sources of information (e.g., science, history, philosophy, the arts, and religion).  Community development volunteers need to be able to use multiple sources to create a knowledge base for themselves that can guide their actions, including communicating and working with community members that may have different views than their own.

  3. Knowledge creation -- knowledge is created by the individual.  Until it is understood and integrated into one's personal knowledge base it has little relevance to guide collecting and organizing additional information and taking action.

  4. Service learning -- the most efficient and effective way to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to engage in community development is through service learning.  This is a central feature of all courses.

  5. Multiple levels of community development -- individuals are embedded with social institutions such as family, schools, and other institutions, which are, in turn, embedded in neighborhoods and communities.  Communities are embedded in states or provinces, nations, international regions, and the entire globe.  Finally, the globe is embedded in a solar system and the entire cosmos.  Integrating knowledge and activity across the multiple levels in central to a systems approach to community development.  Without this recognition work at one level is not sustainable because of conflicts with levels above and below it.

The first course, An Integrative Approach: An Introduction, provides an overview of the framework used for course development with a focus on the relationship of service learning to different levels of community development for how different sources of information can be used in the generation, acquisition, processing, and communication of knowledge.  The primary methods for validating knowledge from each source (science → empirical date; history → original records; philosophy → reason; the arts → authentic personal expression; religion → tradition or scripture) are considered along with issues of the origins of reality, principles for putting knowledge into action, and an overview of the human development approach to multi-level community development.

The second course, Big History, provides an opportunity to explore the concept of Big History using materials from multiple sources as well as the science presented in the Big History Project.  Information from a variety of sources of knowledge are used to discuss change for each of the nine thresholds identified by Christian (2003, 2009).  These thresholds start with the beginning of the known universe 13.7 billion years ago and include the four major eras of human history: hunter/gatherer, horticulture and agriculture, industry, and the current  digital/information threshold.  This understanding of the history of the known universe provides a foundation for understanding the levels of community development addressed in other courses.

The third course focuses on individual or personal development.  The focus of this course are the domains of human development identified in the Brilliant Star framework (Huitt, 2011a&b).  The advocacy is that, while these domains can be considered separately, human beings operate holistically and this must be considered in any learning and development activity.

The fourth course focuses on marriage and the family as the smallest unit of social interaction and society.  The topics include issues of types of families as well as the founding, maintenance, and dissolution of families in a twenty-first century context.

The fifth course focuses on education and schooling.  Education is considered as any guided learning activity, including informal and non-formal, as well as formal education or schooling.  Issues related to the education of children, pre-youth, youth and emerging adults, and adults are discussed as well as the impact of home, school, and community connections on the schooling of children and youth. 

The sixth course focuses on organizations and leadership.  Topics in this course include the structure and function of organizations and issues such as leadership, entrepreneurship, and the wellness and sustainability of organizations.

The seventh course focuses on neighborhoods and local communities.  Issues considered in this course include indicators presented in the OECD Better Life Index ( such as health, housing, safety and security, civic engagement, and the wellness and life satisfaction of community members.

The eighth course focuses on culture and society, which today includes both national and international regions as well as the entire globe.  Topics include a reprise of the discussion of human nature and additional issues such as human rights, gender, race and ethnicity, and peace and conflict resolution.  The concept of cosmic citizenship is also discussed.

The goals and objectives of individual learning and development, which are the focus of the learning activities in these courses, include elements from each of the domains of the Brilliant Star framework.  While each goal or objective would not be addressed in each course, it is the intent of the program to provide opportunities for learners to develop holistically through involvement in the entire set of courses.

It is intended that additional courses will be developed that will address adult education where the intent is not to earn college credit.  There will also be individual lessons that can be used at the K-12 level demonstrating how the integrated knowledge into action concept can be used in the education of children and youth.


American Libraries Association. (2000). Information literacy competency standards for higher education. Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL). Retrieved from

Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Christian, D. (2003). World history in context. Journal of World History, 14(4), 437-458.

Christian, D. (2009). Contingency, pattern, and the S-curve in human history. World History Connected, 6(3). Retrieved from

Diamandis, P (2012). Abundance is our future. Presentation at TED conference . Retrieved from

Grant, L. (2010). Sustainability: From excess to aesthetics. Behavior and Social Issues, 19, 5-45. Retrieved from

Grassie, W. (2008). Entangled narratives: Competing visions of the good life (rev.). The Sri Lanka Journal of the Humanities, XXXIV (1&2). Retrieved from

Hoops, J. (2011). Developing an ethic of tension: Negotiating service learning and critical pedagogy ethical tensions. The Journal for Civic Commitment, 16. Retrieved from

Huitt, W. (2007). Success in the Conceptual Age: Another paradigm shift. Paper delivered at the 32nd Annual Meeting of the Georgia Educational Research Association, Savannah, GA, October 26. Retrieved  from

Huitt, W. (2011a, July). Honoring human nobility: The Brilliant Star framework. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved from

Huitt, W. (2011b, July). A holistic view of education and schooling: Guiding students to develop capacities, acquire virtues, and provide service. Revision of paper presented at the 12th Annual International Conference sponsored by the Athens Institute for Education and Research (ATINER), May 24-27, Athens, Greece. Retrieved from

Huitt, W. (2012). Citizenship. Cosmic-Citizenship. Erlangen, Germany: Educational Psychology Interactive. Retrieved from

Huitt, W. (2013). Developing curriculum for global citizenship: What should be learned and why? Revision of paper presented at the Alliance for International Education World Conference, Doha, Qatar, October 22. Retrieved from

Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. (2009). Current decade rates as worst in 50 years. Pew Research Center Publications. Retrieved from

Rosling, H. (2007). New insights on poverty. Presentation at TED  conference. Retrieved from

Rosling, H. (2011. The magic washing machine. Presentation at TED  conference. Retrieved from

Rutter, M., Maughan, B., Mortimore, P.,Ouston, J., & Smith, A.. (1979). Fifteen thousand hours: Secondary and their effects on children. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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All materials on this website [] are, unless otherwise stated, the property of William G. Huitt. Copyright and other intellectual property laws protect these materials. Reproduction or retransmission of the materials, in whole or in part, in any manner, without the prior written consent of the copyright holder, is a violation of copyright law.

Developed by: W. Huitt
Last Revised: August 2014