Decentered Media Podcast 121 – Community Development with Peter Westoby

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Community development isn’t just a technical process of change management, but is something that aims to enrich our lives in more meaningful ways. This episode is a conversation with Peter Westoby about how can we enrich our outlook on community development to gain deeper insights into our meaningful connection with ourselves, our communities, and the world we are part of?

Peter describes how his “journey of social practice” has been “deeply shaped by three powerful rivers.” The first of which shapes the flow of dialogue, which has informed decades of Peter’s community and social development practice. The second is the examination of the soul, which has taken Peter “into the depths of personal and social worlds, inviting an understanding of the ritual and mythic elements of social change.” The third element is a phenomenological understanding of the “flow” that informs the poetic and delicate activism of being present and ready for new insights into what makes communities work.

Peter has been a writer or co-writer/editor of 14 books and over 50 professional journal articles on community development. He is currently working on his 15th book titled ‘Understanding Phenomenological Reflective Practice in the Social and Ecological Fields: Three Rivers Flowing’ (Routledge, forthcoming).

At this present moment Peter is:

  • Director/consultant at Community Praxis Co-op;
  • a P/T practitioner at Hummingbird House;
  • a Custodian of Camellia Centre for Reflective Practice;
  • as Associate of The Proteus Initiative, RSA; and
  • a Visiting Professor, University of the Free State, South Africa.

Peter studies at the University of Queensland, where he gained his Masters in Community Development and Social Policy, and then his PhD in Political Science – Peace and Conflict studies.

Peter hosts and facilitates Pete’s Podcast on Community Development.


Peter Westoby and Gerard Dowling (2014) Theory and Practice of Dialogical Community Development : International Perspectives, Routledge.

Peter Westoby (2015) Soul, Community and Social Change: Theorising a Soul Perspective on Community Practice, Routledge.

“At a time when inequalities are growing globally, when the pace of socio-economic transitions is rapid, and when traditional ties of community are under threat of dissolving, ‘soul’ offers a new way of thinking imaginatively about how people might respond both individually and collectively in social change work. In exploring ideas such as soul, soulful, ‘soul of the world’ and soul-force, Peter Westoby invites readers to disrupt their taken-for-granted assumptions about community practice and to foreground ethics, quality, being and the aesthetic. Drawing on work of people such as James Hillman, Thomas Moore and ‘Bifo’ Beradi, he insists on the need to bring more depth into practice, eschewing contemporary trends of soulless analysis, measuring, and technique. Written in dialogue with eight practitioner-scholars from around the world, the book suggests a fresh terrain for community work and social change theorising. Illustrated by images of Australian cartoonist-prophet Michael Leunig, the book also promises to unlock new imaginative spaces for dreaming. A soul perspective will resonate with people searching for both a robust socio-political response to the world and an imaginative, poetic and mindful centring of self, ‘other’ and the planet to their practice.”