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IMPORTANT NOTE: Unfortunately, admissions are suspended for 2022-23 while we review the future of this collaborative specialization and the core course. We sincerely regret the disappointment this will bring to those who had hoped to apply this year. We hope to be able to resume admissions next year, but we cannot offer any assurances at this time. An update will be forthcoming in this space in early 2023.

The Collaborative Masters Specialization 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.

Visit the Toronto Community Development meetup group website

The Collaborative Specialization 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 specialization 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)
  • 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 Social Work (M.S.W.), Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work

Note: The program will be conducted entirely online during the Fall 2020 session.

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 a process, not an end in itself.

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 Specialization?

“A collaborative specialization 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 specialization 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.

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 Specialization in Community Development (CSCD) 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 CSCD was created over a decade ago under the auspices of the Centre for Urban and Community Studies (CUCS), what became the “Cities Centre”, a vibrant interdisciplinary hub for research and collective action on urban issues.  The home or ‘host’ faculty for the collaborative program moved from the Cities Centre (which reported to the Faculty of Architecture and Landscape Design) to the Dalla Lana School of Public Health (DLSPH) in 2013. The move coincides with the creation of a new ‘hub’ or thematic area of concentration within the DLSPH on “Healthier Cities and Communities”.

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

(Degree Program)
Lead Faculty member
Dalla Lana School of Public Health
Blake Poland
(CSCD Director)
Factor-Iwentash Faculty of Social Work
David Hulchanski
Department of Geography & Planning
(Geography, MA; Planning, MScPl)
Susannah Bunce
Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education, OISE/UT
(M.A./M.Ed. in Adult Education and Community Development)
Marcello Vieta

4. What does the program involve?

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

a. Community Development Seminar Series

For years we ran a 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.  Given the volume of offerings on campus and beyond, we transitioned to an online platform that features relevant seminars and events from a wider set of players, with the same pedagogical value.

All seminars are open to the public and are posted on the Toronto Community Development meetup website.

b. Course Requirements

In addition to the CSCD seminar series, students are required to complete a core course in community development. UCS1000H 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.

Students in thesis or practicum programs are also required to complete two courses from amongst a list of CSCD-approved electives, one of which must be taken outside of their home department. The list of approved electives is being constantly updated. Students in coursework-based programs (e.g. the Med in AECD) are required by the School of Graduate Studies to have 30% of their courses approved as suitable for the CSCD. In addition to the list of approved electives available to all CSCD students, the following courses are eligible to count towards the 30% requirement for MEd/AECD students only, when term assignments oriented to community development: LHA1100H, LHA1147H, LHA1122H, and LHA1142H.

The required core course, UCS1000H, is offered on Tuesday evenings in the winter term: January to April, and Professor Poland (Public Health) is the instructor.

5. What are the program requirements?

Participation in Seminar Series in Community Development: Students are required to attend a minimum of six seminars, workshops and events, chosen from among those listed on the Toronto Community Development meet-up site  (sessions posted there have been specially selected for their pedagogical value in community development training). Some are organized by CSCD faculty, and some by community groups and NGOs. Events are planned throughout the year at varying days of the week and times of day and in sufficient number (over 100 per year) that timing and availability should not be a barrier. Students will be expected to list which ones they attended on the program completion request form. Attendance will be monitored through the Toronto Community Development meetup group website, which students are asked to sign onto and RSVP to events they will be attending.

Core Course: Students are required to complete a core half course in community development, UCS1000H Community Development.

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.

Students in coursework-based programs (e.g. the Med in AECD) are required by the School of Graduate Studies to have 30% of their courses approved as suitable for the CSCD. In addition to the list of approved electives available to all CSCD students, the following courses are eligible to count towards the 30% requirement for MEd/AECD students only, when term assignments oriented to community development: LHA1100HS/HF, LHA1147, LHA1122, and LHA1142.

Click here for CSCD approved electives

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 CSCD 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.

Graduation Completion Form: It is the responsibility of the student to complete the form and send it to the Program Director prior to graduation if they wish to have the CSCD designation on their transcript.

6. What is the application process?

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

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

 students from other non-participating graduate units may also apply using a Non-Standard Collaborative Specialization Enrolment form.

Applicants send the following to the Director of the Collaborative Specialization in Community Development:

  1. a copy of the letter accepting you into one of the participating graduate units;
  2. a résumé or curriculum vitae;
  3. 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 Specialization 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 (ideally with all required items in a single PDF file), and should be sent to the CSCD Director with “CSCD Application” in the subject line.

All applicants will be notified by email regarding the outcome of their application. An initial program orientation meeting will convene students in early October 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. What is the application deadline?

Applications are not being accepted for the 2022-2023 academic year

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

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

The Community Development Collaborative Specialization 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 may also apply using a Non-Standard Collaborative Program Enrolment form.

9. Who do I contact for more information?

Dr. Sarah Wakefield
Director, Collaborative Specialization in Community Development
Department of Public Health Sciences