|Photo: Tom Garnett|
Cure and care. Two little words differentiated only by a single vowel. Yet, that single vowel difference contains an oceans worth of difference between how a community development worker understands a community, works with a community and what their goals for a community might be.
If a worker comes with a cure mentality then they will view the community as a site of issues, needs and problems.
A caring mentality, on the other hand, views the community as place, people and relationships.
Curing a community will mean bringing a series of technocratic, bureaucratic and expert-led programmes and techniques into a community with the intention at the end of these interventions that the community will be cured, or fixed. A cure mentality believes that “I know what’s best for you.”
Caring for a community, however, means accepting those that live, work and play there. It means being prepared to enter into relationships with local people and local community organisations to the point of being inquisitive and open to learning and change.
Cure or care begs the question: what is a healthy community?
First and foremost, a community is its people; each with skills, knowledge and experience. Second, a community endures, it continues, it expects and hopes for a future. It is not static.
To arrive with the intention of curing a community assumes that its people lack skills, have little knowledge and are inexperienced. Such an intention further assumes that the community has no aspirations and that it is stuck and needs shifting – often to a place determined by the curer.
Arriving in a community with a caring intention assumes that the community development worker is not the expert, that the worker does not know all the answers (indeed, most likely doesn’t even know all the questions). Caring assumes that the community is alive and that the primary role of the community development worker is to help the community to realise its dreams – by being a part of that dream.
Let us bring caring to our practice as community development workers.
1. Peter Westoby & Gerard Dowling. Theory and Practice of Dialogical Community Development, Routledge, London and New York, 2013. See my review of this book here.
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