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.

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Community Development or developing communities?

Although I haven’t heard it said in so many words, I have been exposed to the idea that “community development is the same thing as developing communities”.  Most often I have noted this idea disseminated by politicians, departmental bureaucrats and especially managers of social service arms of local and national governments.  But are they one and the same?

My short answer is – no.  Don’t fret, I’m not about to launch into a lengthy long answer.  I do wish to give a medium answer though.

When I hear the idea being expounded that community development is the same as developing communities what I also detect in the sentiment is the belief that all and any community should be developed and hence there is no need to discriminate, or even prioritise.  All communities are equal in this understanding.

But, Community Development says NO – not all communities are equal.  Our societies are full of inequalities, injustices, disempowerment and inequity.  Therein is the rationale for community development.  Community development is not just a process, it is, importantly, an outcome.  Or, if not an outcome, at least a vision of a more just, more equitable society.

And so, community development unashamedly works in a way that helps to address injustice and hence works with people and communities suffering from those injustices.  To do so means that a community development professional must discriminate – positively, I hasten to add.

Most scholars and writers recognise community development as a professional practice emerging after World War II, firstly as a response by industrialised nations to assist Third World nations to develop.  Very quickly the ideas, methods and goals came to be practiced within industrialised nations also, fuelled in part by the feminist, indigenous and peace movements.

One of the earliest attempts to describe community development within academic circles was that of Sanders (1958) who noted four ways of viewing it: as process, method, programme and movement1.  All these views are apparent within community development.  The idea that community development is just about developing communities, however, recognises process and method only.  The vision of a just and equitable society is subsumed in the all-encompassing liberal view of equal opportunity.

It should by now be obvious that I subscribe to the community development profession not to the developing communities idea.  Furthermore, if we are truly to reach a just and equitable (I would even suggest sustainable) society then the idea that community development is nothing more than developing communities must be discarded.

1. Sanders, I. 1958. Theories of Community Development. Rural Sociology. Vol. 23 (Spring): 1-12.

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