WEEK 4 READING 1 - Principles and DIMENSIONS of community development -…
WEEK 4 READING 1 - Principles and DIMENSIONS of community development
The notion of Community requires interaction between people, and therefore social interaction.
It is important for development to be understood not merely in economic terms, but also in terms of the impact on people’s lives and the need for development in non-economic aspects of living.
ASPECTS OF SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT:
Identifying needs followed by efforts to meet those needs -
through the establishment of new community services or through the expansion of already existing agencies, to provide the necessary services.
Programs aimed at helping people to meet each other and strengthening community ties -
such as festivals, organised picnics, rec activities.
There is of course a limitation on how much community bonds can be ‘forged’ through social programs, as the initiative ultimately has to be taken by people themselves rather than by a community worker.
However it's possible for community development to provide space for those interpersonal connections to occur and to grow by creating nonthreatening, friendly environments where people can seek out others in relative security.
PARTICIPATION IS KEY:
It is out of direct participation that people are able to connect with each other and feel a sense of belonging. It is therefore important that community workers encourage participation.
To do this, all members need to feel equally valued when participating - participation needs to be valued as an end in itself, rather than simply as a means to some other end.
It is not just that high levels of participation bring about a ‘better’ result, but that high levels of participation are themselves important and that participation in its own right is worthwhile, quite apart from what outcomes it may or may not achieve.
Not the SOLE answer to a happy and health community.
It is often seen as the only, or most important, aspect of the development process.
This stems from the idea that if the economy is healthy, the rest will follow, as a strong economy and high levels of prosperity mean that people will be able to purchase the things they need to live a full and healthy life.
In government, economic policy is seen as the most important area of government activity and the economic portfolios are regarded as the most important positions in a cabinet, rather than health, education or even defence.
Many of the most economically advantaged communities have low levels of cultural activity, social connection or citizen participation.
Tourism can erode community, as there is a danger that community activity becomes subordinated to the needs of the tourist.
Community Economic Development classification:
1. The Conservative:
Involves helping a community to beneﬁt within the existing economic order.
attempts to make a community more competitive and more proﬁtable.
Includes seeking new industry or external investment so that economic activity in the community increases and more money is generated which remains in the community.
This approach depends on the health of the wider economy - if the wider economy suffers then so does that community’s economic base.
2. The Radical:
Involves the establishment of an economic system that represents a genuine alternative.
Seeks to establish a local economy in some form that is less dependent on external forces and is locally sustainable. - Includes establishing small-scale local industry and also establishing some form of local economic system.
EG. the creation of a local currency, which is traded among local people and businesses so that the beneﬁts of local economic activity remain in the community itself
Radical is more in line with good community development
Focuses on political relationships:
1. Internal political development:
Concerned with the relationship of power within the community.
Focuses on establishing structures and procedures that allow some form of participatory democracy and ways of making decisions whereby people feel that they have a genuine role in the decision or that they are satisﬁed with the process others have used in decision-making.
It does however recognise that some decisions may need to be taken without everyone’s direct input.
This is the preferred approach for community development as it is concerned with the way decisions are made and the importance of the
process of decision-making
, rather than the outcome.
2. External political development:
Concerned with the relationship of power between the community and larger society or other communities.
Communities often have to negotiate around issues such as resources, planning, property developments, recognition and the environment.
It can involve submission writing, tendering, lobbying, networking, use of the media, social action etc.
How, when and where to engage in such actions, and which actions are appropriate, is an important aspect of community life, and it is necessary for communities to develop their knowledge and skills in these areas.
Good community development will seek to have these skills shared among a broad group of community members, rather than leaving them in the hands of a few, and this requires training programs for people so they can develop their competence in the broader political arena.
In modern societies, much of what we call ‘culture’ has become commodiﬁed and is purchased and consumed rather than performed.
the emphasis is now on the excellence of the elite practitioner and the role for most people is to be the passive consumer who purchases the product. EG elite sportspeople replacing mass participation in sport at a community level.
One aspect of community cultural development is to try to reverse this trend and encourage active participation in cultural expression.
This involves the establishment and support of local groups.
Sport can, and does, still play an important role at the community level, where it represents a way for a community to come together and be active participants rather than passive consumers.
Community-level cultural expression enriches a community in numerous ways:
Brings people together to practise and celebrate their own talents.
Gives people a feeling of self-worth and enables them to meet others with similar interests.
Performing at a community level can assert the value of the community and can promote further community activity.
It is essential that community development both allow for and encourage cultural diversity (which is often easier said than done).
Too often attempts to facilitate cultural diversity have extended no further than hosting multicultural festivals and eating food from different cultural traditions.
The experience of multiculturalism needs to extend beyond the symbolic to enable people from different cultural backgrounds to meet in a spirit of dialogue and to learn from each other at a more fundamental level.
To meet in a spirit of dialogue requires moving out of one’s comfort zone and becoming vulnerable to inﬂuence from the other.
Typically, efforts to improve ‘cultural understanding’ do not require this of people from the majority or dominant culture, though this is clearly the expectation on those from the minority culture or the culture labelled as ‘different’.
In this way the encounter is unequal - people from the ‘different’ culture are expected to learn more about the dominant culture, while those from the dominant culture feel that they are ‘helping’ the other to understand and to accommodate to the dominant culture, and are becoming more ‘tolerant’ without exposing themselves to the possibility of change.
VALUING CULTURAL HERITAGE:
A community will have a history, and this is important. - Sometimes this may be very brief, but in other cases that history can stretch back for centuries or even millennia (most notably with indigenous communities).
The history includes: the story of the community, its traditions, its myths, its shared meanings, its pride and sometimes its shame.
Celebrating and preserving a community’s heritage can be important in community development, especially when a community perceives its future as under threat.
BE MINDFUL AND REFLECTIVE:
A community’s history may not always be worth celebrating, especially if that history includes violence, abuse, exclusion, racism or other forms of discrimination.
In considering its history, a community may need to reﬂect on that history, not in the form of uncritical celebration of everything that happened in the past, but rather of thinking about how the story may have been distorted over the years, denying or underplaying the negatives while exaggerating the positives, and thinking about the voices that may have been silenced in the process.
Such a reﬂection on a community’s history may be a painful experience, but it can also lead to a new appreciation of the past and discussion of how that past should be represented.
The environmental aspect of community development has become more signiﬁcant with increasing awareness of the environmental crisis facing the planet.
We have a history of local action - Standing up to powerful political and economic forces through advocacy and social action or to develop stronger, more sustainable and cooperative local structures to cope with environmental uncertainty.
Environmental threats can often see a community come together, building its solidarity and identity.
A decentralised community is a good model for sustainability, as local communities will be more aware of their immediate environment and will be able to respond more appropriately to its needs, allowing for an appropriate and sustainable response to environmental change.
Community development is important not only for reacting to environmental challenges, but also for the more proactive task of building an alternative, sustainable society.
GLOBAL CHALLENGES TO HUMANITY:
Air and water pollution
Depletion of ﬁsheriee
The resource crisis
It is important that we learn to work in harmony with nature, rather than continuing in the Enlightenment tradition of trying to dominate and exploit nature.
Rather than seeking the answers from science and technology, we should be seeking the wisdom of indigenous people, who have more wisdom than Western ‘civilisation’ about how to live in harmony with the natural world.
For some it involves expression in organised religion, while for others spirituality is a more personal matter, which may be experienced in nature, in music, in physical work, in sex or in a variety of other pursuits.
Although in some societies attendance at traditional religious services has declined, there has been an apparent rise in more fundamentalist forms of religious activity, perhaps as a way of seeking certainty in an increasingly uncertain world.
There has been considerable interest in less traditional forms of spirituality, such as New Age practices and in indigenous understandings of spirituality that serve to reconnect people to the natural world.
Organised religion also provides a community experience and can give an important sense of belonging to a community.
One of the dangers is that the more fundamentalist adherents of a particular tradition will claim superior wisdom and will not accept or even tolerate alternative expressions of spirituality.
Community development needs to allow space for the expression and experience of spirituality in a variety of forms.
It is important that this be inclusive rather than exclusive. Community development can encourage inter-faith dialogue, which has proved to be very rewarding in many communities as people learn more about each other’s experiences of spirituality, rather than staying locked within their own.
It is a common experience that at times of threat – from natural disasters or from human causes such as military invasion – communities tend to pull together.
People will help each other at times of crisis and will comment on the increase in social solidarity in the face of a common risk. These are situations when the very survival of individuals, families and communities is at stake and a perceived common threat to survival can often bring about a collective response.
In countries where basic survival rights (such as food, water, shelter, clothing and basic health care) are not adequately met, the resulting insecurity can be a powerful stimulus for community development.
Communities do not need to wait until threatening situations occur to increase social solidarity. Planning community responses for possible events in advance can be a powerful focus for development (eg. volunteer firefights and emergency services in rural communities).
This does not need to be an individual matter, it can be addressed at a community level.
Memorial services, community art, music and theatre have been used as ways for people to address together the issues thrown up by traumatic events.
although each experience of community-based trauma recovery will be unique, the fact remains that the application of community development principles can signiﬁcantly assist the trauma.
INTEGRATED COMUNITY DEVELOPMENT:
Good community development needs to take account of, and incorporate, all seven of these dimensions.
There is little point in concentrating exclusively on one, for example economic development, to the exclusion of the others, as such an approach will not even begin to tap the richness and the many layers of community experience.
It may well be that a community will have stronger needs in one area than another (eg a community may be economically well developed but culturally and spiritually weak) and this can help to set priorities for community development, but it is always the case that all seven dimensions need to be understood and addressed.
We can't just use a 'triple bottom line' approach that only takes into account economic, social and environmental dimensions. We must address the political, environmental, cultural, spiritual and the needs for basic survival to this approach.