Enrolling the Private Sector in Community Development: Magic Bullet or Sleight of Hand?

11 Sep 2017

The role of the private sector in international development is growing, supported by new and evolving official programmes, financing, partnerships and narratives. This article examines the place of the private sector in ‘community development’ in the global South. It situates corporate community development (CCD) conceptually in long-standing debates within critical development studies to consider the distinct roles that corporations are playing and how they are responding to the challenges and contradictions entailed within ‘community development’. Drawing on field-based research across three different contexts and sectors for CCD in Fiji, Papua New Guinea and South Africa, the article suggests that caution is required in assuming that corporations can succeed where governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and international development organizations have so often met with complex challenges and intractable difficulties. We argue that four specific problems confront CCD: (a) the problematic ways in which ‘communities’ are defined, delineated and constructed; (b) the disconnected nature of many CCD initiatives, and lack of alignment and integration with local and national development planning policies and processes; (c) top-down governance, and the absence or erosion of participatory processes and empowerment objectives; (d) the tendency towards highly conservative development visions.