Collaborative Graduate Program in Community Development

The Collaborative Masters Program in Community Development brings together graduate students and professors from a range of disciplines and professional programs with an interest in community development. 

Community development addresses the economic, social, and physical well-being of communities. The process requires skills in education, planning, policy, organizing, and political action, to name but a few. No single university department or faculty can lay claim to all of these. 

The Collaborative Program in Community Development allows students the opportunity to work with faculty from collaborating departments and to tackle research, policy and practice topics that cross disciplinary boundaries through shared seminars, course study and other collaborative learning environments. While maintaining the subject area focus of their home department (such as social policy, planning, adult education, health), students in the collaborative program have the benefit of learning from the approach of other disciplines and professional programs. 

This collaborative program is a partnership involving six graduate programs in departments across the University of Toronto: 

• Adult Education and Community Development (M.A. and M.Ed.) in the Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education (OISE/UT)

• Counseling Psychology, Field: Counseling and Psychotherapy (M.Ed.) and Counseling and Psychology, MA in the Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development (OISE/UT)

• Program in Planning (M.Sc.(Pl.)) and M.A. in Geography, in the Department of Geography and Planning;

• Masters of Public Health (MPH) in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health

• Masters of Nursing (M.N.) in the Lawrence Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing

• Masters of Social Work (M.S.W.), Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work

Frequently Asked Questions

1.     What is Community Development?

"Community development involves local empowerment though organized groups of people acting collectively to control decisions, projects, programs, and policies that affect them as a community." (Rubin & Rubin, 1986, p.6)

Community development is positive change in the social, economic, organizational, or physical structures of a community that improves both the welfare of community members and the community’s ability to control its future. It entails a variety of citizen-led efforts, carried out within or on behalf of a community, to define problems, develop solutions, and attract the resources necessary to implement activities that address the identified problems. A successful community development process helps the people who participate increase their confidence, co-operation, social responsibility, motivation, sense of purpose, skills, and organizational capacity. 

Community development is a process, not an end in itself. It is the process of organizing, learning, and implementing practices that increase a community’s ability to achieve existing goals and reach toward higher-level goals in the future.

Randy Stoecker (University of Wisconsin) identifies 5 core components of community organizing. He suggests that community organizing:

• is about how people without power get power, both as individuals and as a community

• is also about building relationships, and sometimes this is its primary goal

• begins in a local area, often as small as a neighbourhood

• builds on shared experience - rooted in a place or cultural identity

• when it succeeds, often leads to development activities and/or larger social movements

Civil society organizations and social movements play a major role in promoting, enabling and sustaining social change and community development. Within universities, the study of community development processes and the evolving role of civil society organizations in community change is an area of scholarship shared by several disciplines and professional schools. 

Community development is also a vibrant arena of practice for professionals in public health, nursing, social work, planning, and adult education. In these cases the focus is on the role that the relationship between the state and civil society, and the role that professionals can play in assisting community groups to coalesce around key issues, identify needs, develop internal leadership, mobilize the community, press claims where appropriate, access resources, act strategically, and monitor and evaluate progress.

2.       What is a Collaborative Program?

A collaborative program is intended to provide an additional multidisciplinary experience for students enrolled and completing the requirements in one of a number of participating graduate programs” (OCGS Report of the Working Group on Collaborative Programs, May 2001). 

A collaborative program aims to:

-         provide students with a broader base from which to explore a novel interdisciplinary area or special development that crosses a number of disciplines

-        create common experiences, such as a core course, seminars, and other intellectual activities 

-        assist students with an interest in this field to connect with other professors and graduate students

-        offer an organizational home within the University for students and professors who focus on community development processes within their various disciplines and professions. 

In the process of exploring the theory and practice of community development, the program also builds a community of engaged change-makers among students, faculty and community partners.

Students register in degree programs in their home units. They must meet the home unit’s admission standards and complete its degree requirements, as well as those of the collaborative program. Students may be admitted to collaborative programs either at the time they begin their graduate studies in one of the collaborating departments or faculties, or later during their program.

3.       Who is involved and who is collaborating?

The collaborative program in community development brings together students, faculty and community partners from diverse backgrounds. Each of the collaborating units has an existing focus on community development within its substantive area.

The CPCD was created over a decade ago under the auspices of the Centre for Urban and Community Studies (CUCS) or what is now known as the “Cities Centre”, a vibrant interdisciplinary hub for research and collective action on urban issues.  The home or ‘host’ faculty for the collaborative program has recently moved from the Cities Centre (which reports to the Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design) to the Dalla Lana School of Public Health (DLSPH). The move coincides with the creation of a new ‘hub’ or thematic area of concentration within the DLSPH on “Healthy Cities and Communities” and the University signing on to the NYU-based Center for Urban Studies and Progress (CUSP) along with other participating universities (Carnegie Mellon University, The City University of New York, Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, The University of Toronto and The University of Warwick).

The program is administered by a Steering Committee comprised of a lead faculty member from each participating unit, as described in the table below:

Faculty, Department & Program

Lead Faculty member

Dalla Lana School of Public Health (MPH)

Blake Poland (CPCD Director)

Factor-Iwentash Faculty of Social Work (MSW)

David Hulchanski

Department of Geography & Program in Planning

Sarah Wakefield

Nursing (M.N.)

Geraldine (Jody) Macdonald

Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education, OISE/UT (M.A./M.Ed. in Adult Education and Community Development)

Jack Quarter

Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development, OISE/UT (M.Ed. in Counseling & Psychotherapy; and MA in Counseling & Clinical Psychology)

Suzanne Stewart

4.       What does the program involve?

The Collaborative program provides an interdisciplinary learning experience through a variety of formats:

a.     Community Development Seminar Series

We run seminar series through the academic year on an approximately monthly basis, featuring a mix of in-house and external guests engaged in key aspects or examples of community development research and practice.  The format and content is engaging and interactive.

Some of the topics covered to date include:

·        Rethinking Pedagogy in Changing Times – Community Worker Program Summer Institute, George Brown College, Toronto

·        No Future, No Fear: The Acampada Movement and the Defence of the Spanish Public Health by Carles Muntaner, Professor, Nursing, UofT

·        When Citizens Organize Their Own Participatory Processes: Reflections from Ciudad Viva, Bellavista and Ciclistas Unidos de Chile, by Lake Sagaris, President, Ciudad Viva (Santiago, Chile)

·        Community Resilience in the Face of an Uncertain Future: Understanding an Emerging Landscape of Transition Towns in Canada, by Blake Poland, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, UofT

·        Field Trip to the Toronto Board of Health, by Jody Macdonald, Nursing, UofT

·        The Aboriginal Head Start Program, by Randy Budd & Sandra Black, Epnigishmok Aboriginal Head Start, Toronto

·        Transforming Hamilton: The Neighbourhood Action Community Development Initiative, by David Derbyshire & Judy Kloosterman

·        We Are Together / On est ensemble – A Video and Discussion Session, by Theo Breedon of VSO Canada

·        The Dynamics of Support for Community Development/Organizing in Community Service Agencies, by Bob Luker, Community Worker Program, George Brown College

·        Fostering Community-School Relationships in Toronto’s Model Schools, by Elizabeth Schaeffer (Nelson Mandela Park Public School), Harpreet Ghuman (Firgrove P.S.), Kenneth Slater (Dixon Hall), Yvonne Davis (Jane-Finch On-Track Pre-Employment program), & Jeff Kugler (Centre for Urban Schooling, OISE/UT)

·        I Was Here – A Community-Based Participatory Research and Media Project, by Rebecca Fortin (MHSc candidate, DLSPH/CDCP)

·        Building Food Democracy: Community-Based Research and the "Food Movement," by Sarah Wakefield, Geography, UofT

·        Integrating Indigenous Paradigms of Community-Based Research into the Western Academy, by Suzanne Stewart, OISE/UT

·        From Planning to Engagement: A Brief Overview of the Community Social Planning Council of Toronto, by Richard DeGaetano, SPCT

·        Politics, Communities and Prisons: Participatory Action Research with Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated People in New York, by Josh Price, Department of Human Development, SUNY-Binghamton

·        Climate Change and Social Inequalities: Implications for Community Organizers, by Mike Balkwill, Environmental Justice Organizing Initiative (EnJOI)

·        Street Health Report 2007: Community-Based Research for Social Change, by Erika Khandor & Kate Mason (Street Health)

·        Community Organizing on Housing, Health and Urban Development Issues in Toronto: The Work of ACORN, by James Wardlaw, Head Organizer, ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now)

b.     Course Requirements

In addition to the CDCP seminar series, students are required to complete a core course in community development. The UCS 1000, Community Development: Theory and Practice course is designed to provide an overview of the theory and practice of community development, including an historical review, an examination of contemporary issues and debates, theories of social change, methodological considerations, and examples of current CD initiatives. Key concepts explored include the important definitions of communities, globalization and neoliberalism, differences in the types and styles of participation, the role of voluntary associations, minority groups and community leadership.  

Students are also required to complete two courses from amongst a list of CPCD-approved electives, one of which must be taken outside of the home department. Click here for the 2013-14 list of approved electives.

The required core course, UCS 1000, is offered on Tuesday evenings in the winter term: January to April, 2014 and will be delivered by Professor Hulchanski (Social Work).

5.       What are the program requirements?

Participation in Non-credit coordinating Seminar on Community Development:  Students are required to participate in a non-credit coordinating seminar on community development. This includes speakers, seminars, and workshops that explore a range of topics and issues. Sessions are planned throughout the year on an approximately monthly basis, and scheduled at varying days of the week and times of day in order to maximize student attendance.  Students are asked to attend as many seminars as their schedule allows, and to list which ones they attended on the program completion request form

Core Course: Students are required to complete a core half course in community development, UCS 1000, Community Development: Theory and Practice.

Two Additional Half Courses: Two additional half-courses chosen from amongst a list of approved electives; at least one of which must be external to the student’s home department/faculty. The list of approved electives is updated each year.

Thesis/Major Research Project or Practicum Placement: Where required by the home graduate degree program, students completing a thesis or major research paper or field placement must include meaningful community development content. Ideally this should be pre-approved and nominally supervised by the lead CPCD faculty member from that student’s home department.

Program length: While students are encouraged to take part in the program during both years of study (where applicable), there is the option to join in the second year of their program of study as long as all other requirements are completed.

6.       What is the Application Process?

Applications will be received up to the Program's enrollment limit, which may occur prior to the due date for applications.  Application requirements are described below.

1. Prior to applying for admission to the Community Development Collaborative Program, students must be accepted by and registered in a Masters program in one of the participating graduate units at the University of Toronto (see text box in item 3 above).

2. Applicants send the following to the Program Committee of the Collaborative Program in Community Development:

       I.          a copy of the letter accepting you into one of the participating graduate units;

      II.          a résumé or curriculum vitae;

     III.          a letter explaining how your program of study, your specific interests, and your career goals relate to community development (i.e., why do you want to enroll in the Collaborative Program in Community Development). Maximum length: 500 words. Include reference to any relevant experience (volunteer, work, education, e.g., previous related courses).

Electronic submissions are preferred and should be sent to with "CDCP Application" in the subject line.

Application Deadline: for 2013-2014 the deadline for applications is September 20.

An initial program orientation meeting will convene students in late September to introduce everyone to the program.

Collaborative programs are administered under the auspices of the School of Graduate Studies. Applicants apply after they have been accepted by one of the participating graduate units in the Collaborative Program. 

7.       Do I receive an extra credit for the program?

Students in the collaborative program will receive recognition of their specialization on their transcript, providing a helpful credential for their future careers.

The Community Development Collaborative Program is not a degree program. It does not admit students to the University of Toronto. You must first be accepted into one of the participating graduate units. Students accepted into other master’s degree programs are not eligible.

8.       What are the deadlines?

September 20th for the 2013-2014 academic year.

9.       Who do I contact for more information?

Blake Poland, PhD
Director, Collaborative Program in Community Development
Associate Professor, Dalla Lana School of Public Health
155 College Street, 6th Floor
Toronto, ON  M57 3M7