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.

Thursday 2 July 2015

Community Development Jigsaw

It can be a frustrating task when it comes to defining or trying to explain what community development is.  There is a very good reason for that frustration.  Community development does not fit within nice, logical, rational boxes that can be defined.  Community development can be applied within most human endeavours: social, artistic, economic, spiritual, cultural, environmental, sporting….  “But, what is it’s purpose?” can often be heard by those operating within a managerial or bureaucratic paradigm.  “Well… it doesn’t really have one,” can seem a very unhelpful, even lame, answer.

But the truth is: community development doesn’t have a purpose in the sense that it doesn’t set out a grand design or political objective.  There is no Grand Narrative that is the Community Development Project.  It is not capitalist, it is not communist.  It is not Democrat, it is not Republican.  It cannot even claim to be Green.  It does have goals though, albeit fairly global ones like justice for all, equity, sustainability etc etc.

What community development is, though, is a journey.  It is a mutual journey of discovery and shared experience.  Community development workers may have a map, but the exact choice of route between one point and the next is discovered by setting out on the journey rather than sitting with the map and plotting a course from “here” to “there.”  Furthermore, as communities work and journey together they may discover that the map needs updating.

So, what is the purpose of community development?  Many years ago, a fellow community development worker and I grappled with a way of explaining this rather ephemeral concept to those who may be just beginning the journey or those who had a more managerial approach to “community.”  We came up with the idea of a jigsaw.  Each piece in the jigsaw represented a vision, value, method or role that community development embodied.

© Bruce Meder, Jane Parret 2007

The jigsaw became a very useful metaphor.  The pieces - although in one sense unique, identifiable elements - had to fit with other elements to allow the jigsaw to be pieced together.  There is no box-top picture to guide us in putting the jigsaw together.  The picture becomes apparent as you put the pieces together.  This symbolises community development’s emphasis on process rather than outcome.

Community development is an evolving process, emerging from, and reacting to, the changing social conditions of the times.  Hence, it is unbounded, symbolised by there being no straight edges to this jigsaw.  The edges allow for extra pieces to be added.  Consequently, you will also notice that there is no piece in this jigsaw that is labelled “outcome focused.”

Before it looks as if I am suggesting that community development is the panacea to all the social ills and a vehicle for bringing every potential to its fullest, let me say that it is not.  The community development jigsaw is only part of the bigger puzzle.  But, it is an important one, because it recognises the importance of relationships and  that people are people first.  People are not consumers, they are not assets, they are not objects.  People are also not individuals, people become who they are because of the families, neighbourhoods, communities, cultures that they live in.  The analogy of the jigsaw recognises these links and relationships.

Of course, like any good jigsaw, the community development jigsaw can be pulled apart and reassembled.  What is unique about the community development jigsaw though is that the pieces can be put back together in a different configuration, yet still fitting together to show a community picture when done so.

Right, back to putting the pieces together…

Note: The piece labelled "Treaty of Waitangi"refers to the 1840 document signed between the indigenous peoples of New Zealand - the Maori, and the British crown.

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