Community Building: What Makes It Work

A Review of Factors Influencing Successful Community Building

This practical guide shows you what really does (and doesn't) contribute to community building success. It reveals 28 keys to help you build community more effectively. Use it to find out what community characteristics contribute to successful community building, make sure key processes are in place, determine if leaders or organizers have essential qualities, evaluate the likely success of a proposed project or get a struggling effort back on track. Examples, definitions and a bibliography make this report even more valuable.

99 pages. ©1997.
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Reader Reviews for this Book


Review posted October 1, 2022


Extremely useful beginner's guide to community building. It gets straight to the point regarding what to consider when engaging in this activity without all the unnecessary fluff that is typical of other academic like books. Great reference book


Review posted September 7, 2022


This book provides a useful and user-friendly overview of the necessary componenets for community building as a process vital to developing leadership and organizing skills. After 5 years in a new community during which time I have done work building relationships and learning about community needs, I will find this framework helpful as I proceed further with capacity building (my own, and that of others in the community), working towards meaningful collaborations in pursuit of meeting our goals. It would be nice to have an update edition of the book that included current resources.


Review posted February 28, 2022


This books walks you through the basic stages of community building and is easy to follow. I would have like to have had it several years ago at the beginning of my career. A good addition to any nonprofit library.


Review posted November 22, 2021


Great book, and shipping was fast!

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Review posted October 31, 2021


Love how practical and straightforward this book is! I’ve pulled out multiple gems in my community building work that I’ve started to use right away!


Review posted September 11, 2021


Working in a small rural community I tend to assume there is not much we can do for improvement as the community is stuck in their ways. I enjoyed this book as it helped me rethink possibilities.

Kathy Moser

Review posted July 6, 2021


The authors discuss a major challenge of our Information Age is to use all the information available to us. The authors do a good job of synthesizing and helping the reader apply the information already known about common lessons and pitfalls in community building.  The book is a short,  very practical guide to understanding community building efforts looking at Culture, Social structure, Demographic and Political structures. Although the examples are a bit dated, the book was published in 1994, the issues seem relevant  for today. The appendix on definitions was helpful because many times a solution to a problem can be as simple as agreement on common terms.


Review posted June 2, 2021


This has been really helpful in my new role at work as well as helping move forward with a cultural shift we are working on. It's easy to follow, well thought and relatable in the way you can apply the information to a variety of instances.

Monroe Arts Association

Review posted May 13, 2021


This book was extremely informative. A++

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Review posted May 10, 2021


I really enjoyed reading this book and it relates to my work with Head Start learning to build positive communities. Thank you,


Review posted May 7, 2021


Great little book! Easy to follow and can be used as a workbook. Includes factors that make community building successful checklist and questions for community builders. It ends with suggestions and examples. Useful tool for anyone with little time on their hands.


Review posted February 26, 2021


This is a great desk reference for understanding and building community. This is a great introduction to understanding common community building language and how to use the tools within the book.


Review posted November 27, 2020


This book was published in 1997 yet still has a lot of useful information. It is focused on the capacity of a community to solve problems. The authors did a meta analysis and organized capacity building into 3 categories - characteristics of the community, the community building process, and community building organizers. There are a total of 28 characteristics within these 3 categories. The book provides useful questions for community organizers to use to assess their efforts.


Review posted October 12, 2020


Even though this book was published in 1997, there are many relevant practices applicable to community building today - particularly the 'place-based' approach and accounting for complexity and change.

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Review posted August 17, 2020


This is an easy-to-use, practical guide for community building. I found the community assessment questions in Appendix E especially helpful, and thorough.

Bek Hawley

Review posted March 24, 2020


I used this book as inspiration for a public art project, GROWING TOGETHER Silhouette Mural. In spite of and because of the current virus, I hope to move the project forward as a Community Building Project! I found concepts in the book useful.


Review posted December 16, 2019


This is more of a resource for brainstorming and troubleshooting than it is an educational resource. It's worth reading through once, then putting it on the shelf until you're doing some organising or run into some trouble. It's one of the more useful books on this site.


Review posted October 2, 2019


Great resource to have on the shelf for loaning. We studied many portions in our teamwork meeting last month.


Review posted July 30, 2019


This was a very useful book. I found it interesting and helpful in defining what community is and how we can work together to leverage resources. It was easy to read and understand.


Review posted November 27, 2018


This book provided me with a lot of extremely valuable questions to have my downtown organization ask ourselves to help refocus our mission and for us to be more successful! Absolutely recommend


Review posted October 9, 2018


This is a short an interesting read on community building. Oodles of information in a brief book. Very useful and recommended.


Review posted June 26, 2018


Super helpful book!!!


Review posted February 17, 2018


Excellent book if you are new to community organization. My best take away is this sentence "Participants need to feel a sense of accomplishment and need to see some concrete results, or they will likely lose enthusiasm". It's so important to remember we lead, we don't direct. Good book to keep close by, not on the book shelf.


Review posted January 15, 2018


This book is a review of literature that the authors were able to find on the topic of community development prior to the publication of this work. Their aim was to identify all of the the relevant published scholarly work to answer the question: what makes an effective community development effort? About 500 articles were selected after many months of research and the few chapters that are included present the information that they learned in both long form and in a shorter bullet point format. It is a short text, but I feel confident that the authors created a reliable piece of work and it offers some insightful suggestions for those looking to gain new tactics or improve existing strategies to develop the communities they are working in. The literature used to compile this resource might be dated at this point since it was published over 10 years ago. Overall, I recommend this concise and well-researched book.


Review posted January 8, 2018


Great book for anyone looking to create a long-lasting and efficient community group. I used this book in my nonprofit, and it has helped inform us on strategies and practices to engage more people and better serve our community.


Review posted December 7, 2017


It is a great book that is interesting to read and share with others.


Review posted November 28, 2017


When I opened this book, I groaned. It just looked difficult and tedious. I set it aside. When I opened it again, I started reading, and found a wealth of information on how to build community. The first section is pretty tedious, all about how they gathered the info. If you are a data nerd, enjoy. Otherwise, apply faith and skip to the good stuff.

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Review posted August 13, 2017


Great manual and glossary of all that goes into community building. If you are looking for a "what is needed to be successful" in community building this book will guide you as it is a meta analysis of most available research on the subject.


Review posted August 7, 2017


This book is a useful way for communities to start thinking about social capital and capacity building. It has a detailed list from case studies of the most successful communities who worked together at identifying what their issues were and how to address them as a whole. I recommend you get a copy if you want to have some good ideas about where to start your community building efforts. Great book!

Josephy Center

Review posted May 25, 2017


This book is a great resource to motivate community building and partnering.


Review posted October 4, 2016


This is a very practical and easy to use guide. I can pick and choose information to put directly into practice.


Review posted September 5, 2016


This book nicely covers the basics of what makes a healthy and engaged community. It presents classic terms and strategies in a well laid out fashion. This can definitely help young or new leaders as they work to engage community members.


Review posted April 16, 2016


Very well organized! Great examples and focus areas. This will be a book I'll be putting in the hands of community leaders.


Review posted March 3, 2016


I was disappointed with this book because its title led me to believe that this book would answer questions about how to build a viable community. Instead it provides questions to ask for building a community. It does have some key points for anyone wishing to bring together various organizations for the purpose of community building.


Review posted February 17, 2016


In breaking down the book into steps needed, it was simplified a bit too much. Other than that, it was useful for my audience.


Review posted February 17, 2016


This book was not what I expected it to be. I was looking for more stories and less a workbook on how to build community.


Review posted January 3, 2016


Concise yet complete. An excellent resource for community building -- enough to inspire and educate, but without unnecessary fluff.


Review posted December 11, 2015


Community Building: What Makes It Work helped us start a plan for what we need to have in place before continuing our major project, and how to involve the entire community.


Review posted October 14, 2015


A useful book to have for anyone interested in starting a community building component into their organization- or maybe to re-energize themselves.


Review posted July 22, 2015


This quick read provides a very handy way to prospectively evaluate a community building program's chances of success. Alternatively, it can also help teams understand the possible reasons why a community building program is not succeeding. The in-depth discussion of each factor and how it contributes to community building will be a helpful guide in our attempts to build community capacity. I would love an updated version.