Health Administration 315
Unit 8: Community Development Practice
In this final unit of the course, we address one of the most fundamental and important issues in community development practice—that of people’s participation in the process. In Segment 1, we start by defining participation, and emphasize that engagement of the minds and hearts of people in analysing, choosing, and acting to improve their world is important for individual participants as well as for the community.
Elders and participants of a Tar Sands Healing Walk, an initiative that unites the peoples of Athabasca River and Lake to protect the culture, climate, and environment of northeastern Alberta from tar sands expansion. Laura Whitney. CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
We then briefly summarize competing arguments about why participation in development is important. Some proponents argue for participation, based on arguments about efficiency or empowerment; others favour participation because it also serves their own self-interests. Still others are motivated by the transformative power of participation as people begin to decide and act for themselves, becoming the active agents of their own development rather than the passive recipients of the services of others. Once again, we stress the critical difference between the service delivery approach and development from within—a community development approach. In Segment 2, we outline barriers to participation, and highlight that, fundamentally, the participatory approach engages the people who are targeted as the beneficiaries of an intervention as co-implementers, an approach that some professionals regard as threatening or inappropriate.
In Segment 3, we explore the idea of continuous improvement through Participatory Action Research (PAR), which empowers people at the grassroots to collaborate with professionals in the production of new knowledge that should lead to improvement. The Participatory Action approach incorporates 1. Action; 2. Reflection; 3. Learning; and 4. Planning. These steps form a cycle that is repeated until the desired changes are achieved. We present some participatory tools that can be used to improve achieve community engagement.
In Segment 4, we describe six core competencies, or fundamental abilities, which contribute to the work of understanding context and collaborative planning in community development practice:
We conclude the course with participation because, if community development makes sense to you, you will want to put your learning into practice using a participatory approach. You will have arrived at Step 1: Action, which is as good a place as any to put PAR to use.