The world oven public institutions appear to be responding to the calls voiced by activists, development practitioners and progressive thinkers for greater public involvement in making the decisions that matter and holding governments to account for following through on their commitments. Yet what exactly 'participation' means to these different actors can vary enormously. This article explores some of the meanings and practices associated with participation, in theory and in practice. It suggests that it is vital to pay closer attention to who is participating, in what and for whose benefit. Vagueness about what participation means may have helped the promise of public involvement gain purchase, but it may be time for more of what Cohen and Uphoff term 'clarity through specificity' if the call for more participation is to realize its democratizing promise.
This essay contrasts the logic underlining the production of `commons' with the logic of capitalist relations, and describes the conditions under which `commons' become the seeds of a society beyond state and market. It also warns against the danger that `commons' may be co-opted to provide low-cost forms of reproduction, and discusses how this outcome can be prevented.
Increasing communities' participation in development processes has been the subject of both policy aspiration and scholarly critique. This paper explores the implications of a critical perspective on the ‘elusive goal’ of participation for community development practitioners. Drawing on insights from a range of scholars, this paper poses a practical challenge to professionals who work with communities: to name and challenge deeply embedded assumptions about expert knowledge and formal institutions, to recognize the role of those who ‘translate’ between community and external organizational spaces, and to integrate community knowledge and community institutions into participatory development processes.
Abstract Although international volunteerism is a common service practice among Americans and Europeans, research exploring host community members’ perceptions of volunteers and their practice is lacking. In this phenomenological study, thirteen in-depth interviews were conducted with Kenyan participants and their perceptions of international volunteers’ attitudes and behaviors were explored. While positive themes of skill transfer and honoring cultural practices emerged, so did negative themes that suggested international volunteers had demeaning perceptions of Kenyans, controlled collaborative projects, and gave Kenyans cursory roles to play. The study also suggests that international volunteers departed from service hastily without empowering Kenyans, which led to project failure. Recommendations for strengthening international volunteer practice are identified and described.
Abstract In this article, I aim to add to the literature on the impact of neoliberalism on community development by focusing on two recent seemingly unrelated developments in Ireland. The first is the reframing of ‘community development’ as ‘community activation’ in Ireland’s latest community development programme. I suggest that this ‘community activation’ turn marks a new departure in the social and political embedding of neoliberalism in community development and in Irish society more broadly in that its reframing of both the identity of ‘the poor’ and of the nature of supports that they require individualizes responsibility and action. This, I argue, not only fragments and atomizes communities, it also risks foreclosing any substantive discussion and deliberation of structural issues, thereby posing a threat to democracy. The second development is the concomitant emergence of a new, more critically engaged form of community activism in the form of the so-called ‘water movement’. The actions and aspirations of the women we interviewed within this movement highlight their role in revitalizing and re-energizing communities, animating public debate and redirecting power back into communities. Activation clearly comes in many forms and, under the shadow of neoliberal reforms, results in many different outcomes. How or if the formal community sector chooses to respond to this diversity and what impacts this will have will prove critical to local communities as well as providing important avenues for future research.
Abstract For legacy cities, population decline and economic restructuring contributed to the challenges facing their built environments including low demand, oversupply, and high rates of vacancy and abandonment. Amidst this backdrop, there is intense pressure for demolition, yet legacy cities also possess rich stocks of historic resources that can potentially serve as physical assets for community development. Market-based historic preservation incentives such as historic rehabilitation tax credit (RTC) programs are important tools for facilitating reinvestment in legacy cities. These tools are also criticized for primarily benefiting the real estate developers spearheading these projects or creating inequitable neighbourhood change. This research analyzes federal historic RTC projects in two St. Louis, Missouri neighbourhoods – Lafayette Square and Midtown Alley – between 1997 and 2010 and asks: in what ways do investments supported by historic tax credit programs function as a tool for legacy city community development? Through interviews and document analysis, I find that historic tax credit projects support neighbourhood stabilization by minimizing vacancies and shifting redevelopment approaches away from demolition and towards preservation. These projects help build capacity among real estate developers to take on historic preservation redevelopments in other neighbourhoods. However, residents and community-based organizations are often disconnected from these projects, limiting their usefulness as a community development tool.
Abstract An important sub-discipline within the field of Communication and Social Change addresses how meaningful participation can be practically implemented. This article presents the case of an intervention developed by the NGO ‘Half the Sky Movement’ and reflects upon how participation took shape within a primarily top-down program model. The design of the project bridges traditional, outsider-led and participatory, bottom-up design. The project accomplishes this by focusing on small group discussion and short videos as catalysts for reflection. In addition, the data suggest that storytelling may be particularly helpful for promoting engaged discussion and critical reflection.
Abstract The urban poor in many advanced economies have become subject to the problem of food security. So far, the charity food model, such as foodbanks and meal programs, has been the key solution to this problem. This model tends to undermine service users’ aspirations to eat healthy food and their agentic function for change. Using a case study approach, we examine how a place-based community organization, with roots in the settlement house tradition, adopts an alternative approach to food security issues in an impoverished neighborhood. Adopting an activist and a right-to-food philosophy, it has brought together local residents to collectively tackle prevalent hunger and unhealthy food supply problems in the community.
Abstract This research evaluated a community-led participatory planning process that sought to involve citizens who are often marginalized within planning processes. Participatory planning – which is theoretically informed by communicative planning theory – may shift the legacy of power and marginalization within planning processes and improve planning outcomes, foster social cohesion, and enhance the quality of urban life. The two-year Stewart Street Active Neighbourhoods Canada (ANC) project aimed to build capacity among residents of a low-income neighbourhood in Peterborough, Ontario and to influence City planning processes impacting the neighbourhood. The project, led by a community-based organization, GreenUP, fostered collaborative interactions between residents and planning experts and supported residents to build and leverage collective power within planning processes. The participatory planning approach applied in the Stewart Street ANC transformed – and at times unintentionally reproduced – inequitable power relations within the planning process. Importantly, we found that GreenUP was a vital power broker between marginalized residents and more formal power holders, and successfully supported residents to voice their collective visions within professionalized planning contexts.
Abstract This article is a sequel to an analysis of diagnoses of the causes of the 2011 Tottenham Riots published in this journal (2012) which charts the emergence of a predominant focus on developer-led gentrification in the area. We locate this focus on gentrification within United Kingdom urban policy and political debates and through a historical analysis of regeneration policy and community development as this played out in Northumberland Park, the most deprived area of Tottenham.
Abstract This article analyses the studies of adult learning in Africa, where they exist, often draw uncritically on Western theoretical and methodological frameworks such as andragogy, experiential learning, and transformative learning. These frameworks are informed by individualistic conceptions of learners and learning, shaped by industrial and postindustrial political economy, liberal democratic politics and consumerist culture. Such structures are then imposed on African ‘territories’ of learning, much like a colonial template for carving up the continent, for and under Western eyes. This article, based on a study conducted in a rural village in South Africa, challenges the appropriateness of these frameworks. It adopts an Afrocentric research paradigm which understands research as a collective and collaborative humanizing project which is contextually sensitive and culturally informed. The article presents four community learning places, defines the nature of learning in each place, and concludes that learning in the village is still informed by values of interdependence, interconnectedness, and spiritual values.
Abstract This conceptual paper explores pedagogical interventions that can be applied to social change centered youth leadership programs. It specifically focuses on two interventions, Image Theatre and autonomy promotion; the former is a pedagogical tool while the latter is a pedagogical approach. These interventions are vital for social change centered youth leadership programs because they allow facilitators to account for participants’ sense of agency and determination while concurrently engaging them in critical social analyses necessary for the advancement of community development and well-being. This paper presents a description of Image Theatre and autonomy support as well as a discussion of how facilitators can apply these interventions to youth leadership programs. The theoretical tenets that inform the aforementioned pedagogical interventions, theory of self-determination and critical consciousness, respectively, are presented.
Abstract The article posits that the field of community development does not adequately engage with intergenerational communal wounding. A family support programme, developed in vulnerable communities in South Africa, was used as case study to investigate the feasibility of healing within community development. The articulation of a clear storyline to guide the process was identified as critical. The programme’s storyline unfolded in four episodes: facing the past (reds and greens); exploring current manifestations thereof (labels, secrets, obscured desires and projections); naming debilitating problems (the screws) to elicit a yearning for healing and action and creating new life stories. Reflection and mirroring through group work were identified as critical elements in this approach. The study concludes that while participants originally accepted the (false) messages/images resulting from oppression and discrimination uncritically, a more authentic self gradually emerged, which directed transformative action (underscoring the Freirean concept of conscientisation). The study invites further debate/research on issues, such as personal healing within group context; the dilemma of risk-and-failure; the slow nature of healing versus organisational demands; and the balance between promises for material improvement and healing. The study shows that communal healing work is both feasible and critically needed within the community development context and offers a practical way to realise this.
Abstract Participatory community-based women’s group interventions have been successful in improving maternal and newborn survival. In rural Makwanpur, Nepal, exposure to these Participatory Learning and Action groups resulted in a thirty-percent reduction in neonatal mortality rate and significantly fewer maternal deaths. It is often theorised that participatory approaches are more likely to be sustained than top-down approaches, but this is rarely evaluated after the withdrawal of external support. We sought to understand how participatory learning and action (PLA) groups in Makwanpur fared after the supporting non-governmental organisation withdrew their support as well as factors affecting their sustainability. We used mixed methods, conducting a cross-sectional survey of 239 groups, thirty focus group discussions with group members and thirty key informant interviews within twelve–seventeen months after support was withdrawn. Eighty percent of groups were still active which suggests that PLA groups have a high chance of being sustained over time. Groups were more likely to be sustained if the group had local importance and members continued to acquire new knowledge. However, the participatory nature of the group and local embeddedness were not enough to sustain all groups. They also needed leadership capacity, a unifying activity such as a fund, and a strong belief in the value of their meeting to sustain. These key factors should be considered when seeking to enable sustainability of participatory interventions.