Spotlight on community development history – John Benington

As we celebrate our 65th anniversary year, we are going to put the spotlight on some of the key players who shaped our profession in those early days.

John Benington is Emeritus Professor at Warwick University, UK, where for over 20 years he led Warwick Business School’s research, development and teaching work in the fields of public policy and management, including the setting up of the Institute of Governance and Public Management and the Local Government Research Centre. Born in the then Belgian Congo, where his parents were missionaries, Benington retained a long connection with Africa and was an adviser and trainer with governments (central and local) and NGOs in South Africa, Sierra Leone, and Southern Sudan.

Following studies at Cambridge University, in the early 1970s Benington was appointed Director of the Coventry Community Development Project set up by the Labour government in a deprived part of the city. He became a prolific and influential writer on community development action research and was one of the authors of the many reports linked with the British CDP experiment. In the early 1980s he became Director of Economic Development for the City of Sheffield and was an early proponent in Britain of city-wide community economic development and regeneration strategies, working closely with the radical leader of the Council, David Blunkett. His later influential research and publications focussed upon public value, networked governance, public leadership and community and economic development.

Benington chaired an independent national expert committee looking at the challenges facing community development. Its recommendations included urging the community development sector to gather harder-edged evidence and examples of the impacts and outcomes of its work over the past 50 years, being honest about what has, and has not, worked, and why. The Benington committee concluded that in-depth knowledge of community development was too fragmented. The lack of a clear and coherent national voice was undermining the movement’s ability to share its expertise with those in government, and in the private and voluntary sectors, who wish to contribute to social and economic development.  Benington was awarded the CBE by the Queen for his contribution to public service.

We are keen to hear from members about people who were influential in your countries in helping to shape the community development profession.

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