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Community Development Worker

Kaiāwhina Whakawhanake Hapori

Alternative titles for this job

Community development workers support people to develop and implement plans to make improvements in their community.

Pay

Community development workers usually earn

$40K-$75K per year

Source: Careers New Zealand research, 2017

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as a community development worker are good due to a shortage of workers with the right skill mix.

Pay

Pay for community development workers varies depending on their experience and where they work.

  • Community development workers usually earn between $40,000 and $75,000 a year. 

 Source: Careers New Zealand research, 2017.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Community development workers may do some or all of the following:

  • develop networks and encourage connections within a community
  • encourage and support people to take leadership of community initiatives
  • work with community members to identify their needs, aspirations and existing assets
  • support community groups to develop realistic long-term plans, and implement them
  • help people work through conflict and overcome barriers
  • support community groups to access funding and set up partnerships with other organisations such as iwi, businesses and district and city councils
  • apply for grants
  • co-ordinate, establish, report on and maintain community projects
  • monitor changes in communities and help community groups to build on successes and learn from failures.

Skills and knowledge

Community development workers need to have:

  • the ability to engage with diverse groups of people 
  • an understanding of approaches that focus on the strengths and assets of people and communities 
  • knowledge of project facilitation and reporting
  • knowledge of applying for grants and report writing
  • an understanding of advocacy, policies and government and community systems
  • knowledge of the specific community they work in and its languages and cultures. 

Working conditions

Community development workers:

  • may work irregular hours, including weekends and evenings
  • work in offices, community centres and marae
  • travel locally to attend meetings.

What's the job really like?

Sue Rei

Sue Rei

Community Development Worker

A vandalised park was a blank slate for Sue to work with

Sue Rei is revelling in her work at the Common Ground project in Taita, where she has a blank slate to realise her vision of empowering a community.

Since she started, the once-battered park now boasts a proud history of community events, a new children’s playground and two carved pou (greeting posts) built for the park by inmates at the local prison.

Sue hasn’t achieved this on her own, nor would she want to.

Helping people to dream their dreams and achieve their goals 

Community development is about helping people in communities to realise their own dreams and navigate any barriers to achieving them. As her inspiring manager used to say, “We’re working to try and do ourselves out of a job.”

For instance, Sue worked with a group of local children to help them decide what they wanted in their playground, then helped them approach the council with their hopes.

Helping groups have the hard conversations for the good of everyone

Community work isn’t for the faint-hearted or those with big egos. “You’ve got to be open to the hard conversations, and facilitate them between factions who may not want to talk to each other” – which is why she refers to herself as a community weaver.

“You’ve got to understand it’s all about relationships, not about you. You’re helping other people engage with each other and build on their hopes. It’s not a ‘We’re here to help you,’ situation, rather you have to be able to see strength in everyone.

“It’s not always comfortable, but everybody’s got something to contribute”.

Entry requirements

To become a community development worker you need to have relevant paid or voluntary work experience in community engagement or development.

Tertiary qualifications in social work or social practice may be useful, particularly with strands in community development or management of non-profit organisations.

Project and event management training and experience is also useful.

The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 means that if you have certain serious convictions, you can’t be employed in a role where you are responsible for, or work alone with, children. 

Secondary education

A tertiary entrance qualification is required to enter further training. Useful subjects include English, maths and accounting. 

Personal requirements

Community development workers need to be:

  • outgoing and positive
  • excellent listeners and communicators
  • highly skilled at both leadership and facilitation
  • able to establish clear professional boundaries between themselves and the community
  • extremely well organised, with good planning skills.

It's important that you don't try and do it all for people. It's wonderful for people to contribute to projects and realise their potential.


Photo: Sue Rei

Sue Rei

Community Development Worker

Useful experience

Useful experience for community development workers includes paid or volunteer roles in:

  • youth work 
  • social work, counselling and local government work
  • community or community development organisations
  • leading a group or organisation.

Find out more about training

Inspiring Communities
exchange@inspiringcommunities.org.nz - inspiringcommunities.org.nz
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

Demand for community development workers is good due to:  

  • the Government's $3.5 million community-led development programme, which includes funding for community development workers
  • positions often being advertised for fixed terms
  • high staff turnover
  • the difficulty of getting staff with the right skill mix
  • increasing awareness of the importance of building communities that can respond to emergencies.

According to the Census, 14,580 community development workers worked in New Zealand in 2018.

Types of employers varied

Community development workers are employed by a wide variety of employers including:

  • social service providers such as Plunket
  • local organisations such as charitable trusts
  • faith-based organisations such as churches
  • city and district councils.

Most community development work is funded by grants of one to five years, and community development workers may have a fixed-term contract for the same term.

Sources

  • Department of Internal Affairs, 'Briefing to the Incoming Minister – Community and Voluntary Sector', October 2014, (www.dia.govt.nz). 
  • Goodhew, J, community and voluntary sector minister, '$3.56m programme to support our communities', (media release), 25 June 2016, (www.beehive.govt.nz).
  • Malcolm, M-J and Courtney, M, associates, Inspiring Communities, Careers New Zealand interview, February 2017.
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
  • Schievink, M, manager, Department of Internal Affairs, Careers New Zealand interview, February 2017.
  • Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
  • Wilson, D, team leader, neighbourhood and community networks, Wellington City Council, Careers New Zealand interview February 2017.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Community development workers may move into team leader or project management roles.

Sue Rei, left, and Sailine Lakai sit at a table looking at photos of community events

Community development workers work with other agencies as well as members of their community

Last updated 4 August 2020