The name of this blog, Rainbow Juice, is intentional.
The rainbow signifies unity from diversity. It is holistic. The arch suggests the idea of looking at the over-arching concepts: the big picture. To create a rainbow requires air, fire (the sun) and water (raindrops) and us to see it from the earth.
Juice suggests an extract; hence rainbow juice is extracting the elements from the rainbow, translating them and making them accessible to us. Juice also refreshes us and here it symbolises our nutritional quest for understanding, compassion and enlightenment.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Community Development Degrees

Do you want a job in community development?  These days it is possible to get a qualification in community development.  A Masters of Community Development, even a PhD if you so desire. That’s a good thing isn’t it?  People become trained and qualified to deliver community development programmes, plans and projects.  It must be good.

Well, no, not really.  Like any upper level educational qualification it sets the haves against the have-nots.  If I have a degree in community development then that suggests I know more about the process of community development than many of those in the communities I am working with.  And that is absurd.

The very notion of community development is premised on the understanding that local communities are capable of understanding the issues that face them, of working out solutions, of discovering what skills they already have, and determining the resources they need.  Community development degrees set up an “expert” mindset that may lead some to believe that they do not have the necessary intellectual, psychological or emotional resources to become “experts” in their own community.  Once that thought takes root then a downward spiral ensues.

Of course it is highly desirable that those who choose to work in community development undergo learning and development opportunities.  But this learning should be firmly rooted in active, experiential, participatory styles based in community settings. 

One of the earlier models developed within community development settings was that of the Action-Reflection model of learning and practise.

The model simply suggests that following analysis, we act.  But that is not the end.  Action-Reflection says that after we have acted, we analyse and reflect on what happened, what the effects or outcome was.  By doing this we learn what went well, what went badly, what more we need to take into consideration.  With this new understanding it is now possible to plan our next action.  The cycle then repeats, and continues to repeat. (see diagram)

A key element of the Action-Reflection model is that of learning from experience.  The maxim of “learning from experience” is often bandied about, without too much thought.  Action-Reflection, however, notes that we do not necessarily learn anything just by having an experience.  The experience must be actively, consciously, reflected on.  It is the active questioning of the experience that allows for the learning to take place.  We must actively ask ourselves: what did we learn from this experience?

Having a degree in community development may be required by many employers, but having the ability to consciously reflect on experience, in participation with the community itself, is of far greater benefit to the community.  Ultimately it is also of greater benefit to the community development worker themselves.

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