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 UNIT 2: Session I: Overview of Community Development Approaches

Session I, Overview of Community Development Approaches, introduces conventional, top-down, bottom-up and a new grassroots model which emphasises the human quality, information and the nature and value of resources within the prevailing global context of development.


On completing this unit you should be able to:

1. Assess the segments of the economy that impact on the development of individual communities.
2. Distinquish between the rural and urban infrastructural needs.
3. Identify the management structures/styles applied to modern approches to community development.

 Unit 2: Session 1: Community Development Approaches

There has been many attempts using varying approaches to the development of urban and rural poor communities. They vary from: improvement in social services and systems such as water, electricity and electricity; introduction of agricultural crops - new seeds, fertilizer, pesticides; establishment of infrastructure of facilities, example, boxing and processing plants; new and renew thrusts in plantation crops of coffee, cocoa, banana and sugar cane; educational reform after reform; adult literacy program; massive housing programs; changes in government, ideologies and personalities; and yet development has eluded the majority, especially the poor.

Overall development effort has failed to sustain basic life support systems by constantly falling short of desired goals of enabling a better human experience.

Traditional Approaches:

Top-down Approaches, traditional development strategies, applied centralized decision-making and forced implementation of policies and projects denying community inputs into the decision-making process about important aspects of the political, socio-economic, and ecological systems that sustains them.

Sources external to communities, private sector, government and non-government agencies apply top-down methodology to design and implement programs without the benefit of the wise counsel and of intended beneficiaries. Funding agencies that provide financial support for the projects and programs often marry use unsuitable technology and consultancy services, rather than use local know-how further enhancing its value. The result is often further reduction of benefits to the community and frustration leading to lack of interest by community members. This has persisted for years.

The Brundtland Commission Report on the state of the world environment, points to failure of the top-down or blueprint approach to rural development. Project failures are especially dramatic in areas of environmental management including soil, water and trees to the point where food security is threatened. The report call for new approaches - new perspectives and ways to halt the environmental decline and to introduce sustainable rural development.

Top-down Approaches, for example, Participatory Rural Appraisal [PRA] and variations thereof that include urban communities, recognize community participation with its locally maintained technologies, and, its sustainable economic, political and ecological systems as fundamental parts of planning, development and implementation of programs that local communities can manage and control.

PRA is a subset of an existing methodology known as Rapid Rural Appraisal (RRA) designed for rapid design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of rural development. Other include Exploratory, Topical, and Monitoring Rapid Rural Appraisal.

PRA has received support through a project known as "From the Ground-Up", administered by the Center for International Development and the Environmental of the World Resources Institute. "Ground-Up argues that "important insights can be gained by analyzing effective village resources management activities. The project identifies communities that are already pursuing ecologically sound development and assesses the causes of the community's success - issues such as leadership, viable institutions, and appropriate technology". By communicating these results through training efforts to share the case study results with other communities, national policy-makers, international development community, collaborating agencies and other target groups over time will promote decentralized, small-scale management policies and foster growth in self-reliance in the communities themselves.

PRA techniques for developing village level plan of action have already helped to mobilize community action and development. The methodology is applicable to other cultural, socio-economic and ecological settings.

Participatory Rural Appraisal was developed within the context of Africa. It is a systematic yet semi-structured activity carried out in the field by multidisciplinary team and designed to acquire quickly new information on and new hypothesis for rural development. Its goal is socially acceptable, economically viable, and ecologically sustainable development. PRA assumes that rural communities form the active foundation for reversing Africa's current natural resource degradation and increasing food production. PRA assumes that communities need committed local leadership and effective rural institutions to do the job.

PRA can help:
1. renew Africa's natural resource base with improved policy and action;
2. focus on rural communities, especially vulnerable eco-systems;
3. integrate relevant sectors in rural development by focusing on natural resources;
4. link technical and socio-economic issues in defining problems and solutions; and
5. systematize participation so that donors, governments, and non-government organizations (Egos) arrest and reverse Africa's declining productivity.

A Jamaica version of PRA appears in the recently published Manual of Participatory Rural Appraisal Techniques for Natural Resource Management. It describes the purpose of PRA as concerned with "translating people's reality into a form of information that can be used in offices. It is the interface between local people and outsiders".

The philosophy behind PRA relies on three things: 1) there are no experts, 2) local problems require local solutions, and, 3) development means change for the good.

Grassroots Approach:
Grassroot Development is undertaken by grassroots people. They may own the investment themselves, invites or approves investors to undertake specific projects, or, negotiate with government about the nature, extent and timing of development projects and programs in their community or that is likely to affect the community directly or indirectly. The

Grassroots Approach differs from other models aimed at sustainable development in the following ways:

1. Places emphasis on the collection, storage and dissemination of information using the most appropriate methods and tools available.
2. Applies to the whole community resource that is to be assessed, recorded and maintained permanently: community profile, organization, human, natural, man-made, and cultural.
3. Seeks to build on what is there, identifying in the first case opportunities
4. Focuses on a respect for the human quality and its ability to acquire the skill to learn and acquire other skills if the opportunity is available.
5. Accepts the effectiveness of emerging technology of education, particularly for adult learners, to enhance learning experiences ten to twenty times so that persons suffering the greatest deficits can recover and become meaningful contributors to the development of the community.
6. Recognises the ability to learn and build knowledge as the premier skill.
7. Recognises brain power is the premier item of capital.
8. Recognises access to the information and knowledge system as the essential utility.
9. Recognises efficiency through application of technology as basic for competitiveness.
10. Recognise the strength of human energy in the production equation.

Available information attracts and engages available opportunities. Knowledge of community, its organizational capacity, talent, skills and experience of the people, and the nature and value of its other resources - natural, infrastructural or cultural, gives that community the edge in its readiness to undertake or accept development opportunity.

The community resource assessment process creates this knowledge and knowledge system on behalf of the community and makes it readily available using the technology to which it has access. The output enhances libraries, through its documentation, illustrations, displays and exhibits, and it is the content for the Internet.

The exercise is the stimuli for developing community learning activities. It offer occasion to apply every tool of learning currently know and most importantly it provides something for everyone. It therefore, not only recognises the full potential of each of its members, embraces each to realise individual potential through engaging exercises and systems of learning that simultaneously support the preservation and enhancement of the context of life - natural and human environment through knowledge building activities and the effective use and application of knowledge, know-how and technology.

The program is about developing a sustainable process that is transferable to any community. The approach prepares each member of the community to be an effective participant in the community-based development process based on a progression of activities in assessment and analysis of resources, assessment and selection of development options.

How one begins development is varied.

1) It is nice to be invited by the Priest, Principal, or Chairman of the local community organizations;

2) a group of citizen might decide that it is time to do something for ourselves;

3) a facilitator, investor or government may perceive an opportunity and intervene to make development happen. The importance of empowering the community for decision-making and action is always essential.



1. How does the impact of quality leadership impact on your individual community?

Write your comments below?

2. Identify instances in which the societal norm has been challenged by community leader?

Discuss these among the members of your group.

By targeting existing community grassroots organizations, the pulsar will tap into existing leadership base and realise a critical mass quickly that will buy into the concept of providing tools for more effective work. Challenges arise where the intervention is seen as politically threatening. The pulsar must then be able to size up the situation and apply an appropriate strategy.

A feature of the approach is the creation of a community workshop that is inter-generational, inter-disciplinary and as diverse in interest and focus as the participants and the context of their experiences. The workshop, which is ongoing is the main instrument to energies and maintain momentum in the development process. It is an "organic" engine that drives community success.

The process explores new learning scenarios, embracing the entire environment as a classroom; assigning the responsibility to learn to the learner and empowering each learner to take charge; redefining the role of the teacher as facilitator,mentor, motivator and supporter of the process; and re-allocating the use of time and space in order to optimise results. The approach will employ a process of continuous monitoring, assessment and application of remediation or advancement in accordance with need, achievement. and interest.

The information technology infrastructure of computers, multi-media systems, and telecommunication will allow and facilitate the acceleration of the process of development, support the educational and training thrust, provide unlimited access to expertise and vast reservoirs of knowledge via the Internet. These are the pre-requisites to building a knowledge system through research, documentation and the shaping of new ideas, and the eventual creation and packaging of new products in the form of publications, projects, designs and images, skills and services.