Community and how we interact with community is undergoing fundamental change. In this assignment you are required to address the following:
Discuss the definition of and development of community and arising the definition of community development
Outline and discuss the contemporary issues affecting Community Development
Critique one community development project with which you are familiar and draw conclusions relating to 1 & 2 above from an applied perspective.
Include a personal reflection on the task, process and learning.
In social sciences it is believed that one’s philosophical underpinning determines or influences h/her views, foundational values, conceptual and theoretical framework that tend to inform professional practice in one’s chosen discipline. Therefore, this essay will attempt to analyse Community and community development based upon the author’s ontological and epistemological stand, which is predicated upon constructivism, interactionism, interpretive perspective and critical theory. The essay will also outline contemporaneous issues affecting community development and analyse them in light of current understanding and knowledge. This assignment is a group work comprising four members and we have adopted to analyse a well-known case study project, whose author happens to be fellow course-mate Caroline Farrell a librarian/writer, and also a group member in this assignment. Finally my reflection on how this assignment was handled as a group work will be presented.
Philosophical and Classical Underlay
Since the dawn of history human beings have lived in communities the world over. The study of community has always been a huge challenge to social scientists, most especially with the kind of change that characterise modernity. The advent of modern philosophy, which began with Rene Descartes’ (1596-1650) mind/body (rational/emotional) split was linked to the enlightenment, modernisation, industrialisation, modernity, and then technoscience, and thus, established a new world order, which many contend has eroded “social capital”, traditional authority, solidarity and weakened communal bonds, local ties/links and threatens survival (Putman, 2000) – thus, giving rise to “fears about the supposed contemporary loss of community” (Wellman, 1999). The fear surrounding the breakdown of community is captured in Putman’s (2000) ‘Bowling Alone’ very clearly. Wellman, a proponent of network analysis argues that community undergoes transmutation (transformation). Therefore,
Community, of course, had never been lost. Yet since the industrial revolution, most people have believed that large-scale technological and social changes destroyed community in the developed world and were well on their way to killing it in developing countries (Wellman, 1999).
Many studies also supported this view that it is wrong to attribute this change entirely to the Industrial Revolution, its antecedents and the aftermath because as early as the Renaissance a fundamental shift occurred in society (Hareven, 1982); and also Wirth (1938) suggests that even in the so-called “pre-industrial society” nuclear families began to supplant extended community links. Nevertheless, modernity brought with it unprecedented social changes that have influenced or resulted in diversified opinions, views, understandings, conflicting ideologies and underpinnings between the modernist, critical theory and the so-called postmodernist thought. Herbrechter and Higgins (2006) noted “That community is returning can be seen in the proliferation of its current ‘postmodern’ or ‘posthumanist’ conceptualisation: phantom communities, deterritorialised communities, virtual communities … etc” (p.10).
The postmodernist argues that the ‘ideals of modernity’- objectivity, universality and truth, give rise to grand narratives or metanarratives that tend to generalise and universalise our social conditions through their high level theories and views (Birden, 2003). Notable metanarratives in social sciences include Durkheim (functionalist), Marxism (conflict approach), and Webber (rationalisation/interactionist approach). Classical theorists analysed communities using the rural and urban continuum. For instance, Cooley believed that rural community is characterised with primary relations due to homogeneity and the social control tend to be informal, while urban community characterised by heterogeneity has secondary relations and its mode of social control is formal. Also, another classical sociological theorist Tonnies spoke about rural community as traditional society characterised by “gemeinschaft” social relations, those based on long standing traditional ties or links, and view modern society (urban community) as having “gesellschaft” relations, “where people are drawn into larger networks of impersonal and instrumental relations” (Tonnies, 1935). In this continuum paradigm, the communities’ distinctive characteristics are teased out to determine their type and categorisation, and the criteria applied depends on what one chooses, such as degree of networks, size, connectedness or even occupation and so on.
The Nature of Community, its Definition and Description
The term community is said to have multiple or numerous definitions. Hillary (1955, notes from class) noted that the term community has been used more than ninety different ways. Bulmer (1989, notes from class) described community as “a notoriously slippery term in social science” because it “is far ranging and difficult to define” (Mullen, 1998, notes from class). This suggests that community is a complex, ambiguous, difficult, contradictory, elusive or slippery word, term or concept to conceptualise, and thus is relative to situationalities and contextual (personal, social, cultural, historical, political, and economical) factors.
Due to multidimensionality of community, contemporary social scientists apply diverse methodology and use multiple criteria or lenses to analyse and understand community. Because of the transitory nature of community, it has become axiomatic that though people are embracing notion of place-based community they are still in many ways attached to their foregone, ideal, or imaginary communities. It is not surprising therefore, that attempts are made to develop typologies of communities – such as, distinguishing between the “community lost”, “community saved” and “community liberated” (Wellman and Leighton, 1979). Also, on the trail is what (Webber, 1963, 1964 and 1968) predicts as the emergence of “community without propinquity”, which share similar causality with the emerging virtual world that is creating “cyber communities”. However, Walmsley (2000) views cyberspace not as placeless but as “spaceless place” that could be altering the so-called time-space continuum and thus, may represent the ultimate example of non-place urban realm. This new vogue of cybersociety, which is premised upon inherently transitory cyberspace links according to McLaughlin, et al (1995) encourages superficiality in relationships and thus, viewed as the ultimate form of “community of limited liability” (Schiefloe, 1990).
Furthermore, some theorists have differentiated transitory, parochial, integral, diffuse, stepping-stone, and anomic communities, which they base on the degree of local interaction between residents, the extent of identification with the locality in question, and the pattern of connections between the local neighbourhood and society at large (Warren, 1978).
The communitarian theorists also attempt to view community from three strands: community of place, community of memory and psychological community (e.g., family). It is the interactionist relationship between the state and civil society that concerns the communitarian politics and movement.
Contemporary social scientists attempt to view community in a continuum spectrum, which helps in analysing distinctive characteristics, differentiation and categorisation. Based on such paradigm, a spectrum of definitions emerges between two extremes, and perhaps, helps in bringing into focus critical awareness to which community is place-based, and also placeless. Thus, at one end of the spectrum of definition (place-based), community according to Dalton and Dalton (1975) is viewed as a relatively homogeneous human population, within a defined area, experiencing little mobility, interacting and participating in a wide range of local affairs, and sharing an awareness of common life and personal bonds.
At the other end of the spectrum (placeless), community is defined in an ideological sense to describe what should be rather than what is (Bell and Newby, 1976). This side of the spectrum includes the virtual world, and also the imagined communities dating back generations, known as community of memory or groups of strangers who share a morally significant history (Bellah, et al., 1985). Webber’s (1963, 1964, 1968) proposed “community without propinquity” is today gathering momentum as our social world in recent times, continues to be influenced by technoscience bringing about unprecedented technological changes, advanced telecommunications and accessibility of the internet thus, making it lot easier to interact at a distance. Webber has argued that as mobility improves, and affluence also increases there will emerge a “non-place urban realm” – communities of concern having a widespread shared interests and values but spatially far-flung. Smith (1989) also argues that even indigenous community is no longer based on propinquity. Wellman (1999) supported this view saying, “In short, communities are far-flung social networks and not local neighbourhood solidarities.” He argues that, The principal defining criterion for community is what people do for each other and not where they live” – thus, community should be treated “as a social network rather than as a place.
However, the salience of place in conceptualising and defining community cannot be easily overlooked and thus, continue to generate debates and controversies, and many attempt to manipulate or politicise the notion of community. Therefore, the role of place in community has been the central focus of contention among social scientists. Hence, some theorists tended to be pessimistic, sceptical and suspicious about the general notion of community and therefore, argue that it is “a controlling myth” (McFarlane, 1989, notes from class); and “an illusion in societies dominated by international structures of economic control” (Sinnett, 1977, notes from class). Nevertheless, many optimistically view community as an indispensability that has intrinsic value in the social world of mankind.
It therefore, continues to stimulate and provoke studies and theories amidst contention between collective and individual interest. Herbrechter and Higgins (2006) captured what they call “precarious equilibrium between particularism and universalism, (individual) freedom and (collective) security” (p.9). The fear of overly pluralism and it consequences in our contemporary society has triggered heated debates between libertarianism and conservatism, which the proponents of communitarian ideology attempt to draw a line between individual freedom and social collective concern. According to a prominent communitarian thinker, Putnam, (2000) “We need to connect with one another. We’ve got to move a little more in the direction of community in the balance between community and the individual.”
It is also important and imperative to note the centrality of emotion or affective in mediating the definition of community in both extremes. People tend to be both physically and/or emotionally attached to a particular place, village, town, or city, artefact, networks, aesthetics, historical sites, festivals. All these sometimes could provoke or evoke memories of past, forgone, ideal or imaginary community, which
Besides tying us to the past, such communities turn us towards the future – members strive to realize the ideals and aspirations embedded in past experiences of those communities, seeing their efforts as being, in part, contributions to a common good. They provide a source of meaning and hope in peoples lives (Bell, 2004).
My own theory of community dates back to my childhood years, that is, my rudimentary pre-conception of community based on my culture, village and my determinant values – my “frame of reference” (Mezirow, 1991) at that time. This pre-conception always as I analyse it, is usually captured in retrospect as in the construct of ‘community of memory’. I tend to remember nostalgically my childhood cherished communal life in my village, most especially the yearly longing of significant festivals, the unconditional affiliations of members to age-grades, rites of passages, the paradoxically uninvited attendance of community members to private ceremonies (like traditional marriages), celebrations (send-off/welcome party concerning an illustrious son of our community or village going to or coming back from overseas), works (traditional blacksmithing activity, farming), even woes, funerals and social problem solving and so on. However, in the light of my current understanding and conception of community, I believe “Community is a complex and contextual interactionist conceptualisation of interrelationships inherent to groups or set of organisms relative to place, time and space.”
Ni Mhuruchu’s (1998, notes from class) Irish view and understanding of community presents a Western society contemporary example to my pre-conception of community, though this view is arguably retrospective and does not ethnomethodologically represent the recurrent views of all members but sociologically one that may be indelible in the hearts and minds of all. According to Ni Mhuruchu, (1998)
Traditionally Ireland has tended to see community in both rural and local terms; the farming community, the village community. Within this understanding of the word, community meant engaging with one’s neighbours through listening to woes, celebrating joys, sympathising with sorrows. It meant helping with farm work, delivering babies, and borrowing cups of sugar, bartering at its best.
The descriptions of community presented above are consistent with Finberg’s (1973, notes from class) notion of community, which is defined as “A set of people….so far united in thought and action as to feel a sense of belonging together.” Furthermore, according to AIATSIS (1998)
Definitions of community are as diverse as communities themselves and there is no one definition of community that applies in all cases. Communities cannot be assumed to be homogeneous. To make this assumption is to ignore the diversity of groupings within communities. On the other hand, community can be used as a shorthand way to describe groups of people who indeed share a culture, including common linguistic characteristics, common geography, common culture and a common history.
Postmodernism demands that our society recognise other micro narratives not just the grand narratives of the ideals of modernity but to recognise such narratives like libertarianism, feminism, marginalized voices and thus, the recognition of diverse micro communities embedded within macro or dominant communities as we strive to uphold the ideals of modernity. In today’s multicultural Ireland, such micro communities include marginal entities/ethnic minorities, like religious communities, utopian communities [communitas (equal membership) based on communalism – in the sense of communal property and possession, e.g., camphill communities], traveller communities, diverse immigrant communities, gay communities and so on.
Significant to point out here also, is the structural inequality of neighbourhood housing system in Ireland. “In Dublin, for example, they are residentially segregated in the inner city and in areas on the periphery of the city” (Kellagher and Whelan, 1992). It is a usual site where one section is ‘council housing’ for disadvantaged families thus, creating a prototype ‘ghetto’ neighbourhood. The adjacent section is privately owned properties for middle-class families, representing an ultimate type of “gated communities” – “dramatic forms of residential boundaries” (Blakely and Snyder, 1997).
Many definitions or descriptions of community have been presented so far. It is important to note that generally, looking retrospectively at one’s community, evokes nostalgic feelings, which may suggest discontentment with the present status quo, perhaps, as a result of what could be assumed as the erosion or disintegration of social capital, local ties, common values, communal spirit, or collectivism. Some see community disintegration or erosion as a cause of social problem leading to atomised individuals or anomie as first analysed by Emile Durkheim (1897). However, according to (Wellman, 1999) network analysts have shown that large-scale social changes have neither destroyed community nor eliminated social support. Communities may have been transformed by the industrial and postindustrial revolutions, but network analysis shows that they continue to flourish.
Cohen (1985) view community as a process of defining boundaries and thus, believes that traditional bonds will survive the onslaughts of modernity. It is true that community never disappears but transforms or changes from time to time. But it is also equally true that current phenomenal changes demands advanced and sophisticated approach, knowledge and understanding. The biggest challenge is not just discovering, defining or conceptualising community but also most importantly how to carry out community development amidst contemporaneous issues.
Many have argued that the precursors of our contemporary social problems that threatens social cohesion and community life, are linked to modernity, rationalism, Industrial Revolution, capitalism, technoscience, bureaucratisation, urbanisation, also globalisation, environmentalism, politicisation, professionalisation, marketisation, the spread of secularism and pluralism, liberalism/libertarianism or individualism. This has led to community development practice becoming a specialised discipline. Kellagher and Whelan (1992) noted that, “increasing centralisation, bureaucratization and professionalisation of society were leading to increasing alienation.” Therefore, those concerned with community development “sought to promote individual empowerment and community empowerment as a means of combating alienation in modern society” (Kellagher and Whelan, 1992).
In Ireland, “Community development as currently understood has evolved over a long periods of time” (Kellagher and Whelan, 1992). Each period or epoch pass through contemporaneous issues, which constantly challenge practitioners in the field and continue to do so today. I see contemporary issues as not only challenging issues that attempt to hinder practice but also inclusive of those issues that affect the community in the first place. Such as: (1) The issue of ‘power’ how it affects the work of practitioners generally, the top-down or bottom-up approach, setting of agendas, decision making, community politics, bureaucracy, negotiation of funding and types of projects together with its processes and outcomes.
Kellagher and Whelan (1992) commented that all the “trends towards community involvement and integrated development are taking place without any real attempt to devolve power and resources to communities.” (2) The ontological and epistemological stand of the practitioner influences greatly the works of community development. This includes his/her philosophical views, underpinning, values, professional understanding and overall personality attributes. (3) The issue of lack of genuine activists and volunteers. The issue of inequality, corruption and mindlessness when it comes to public affairs or helping fellow citizens is also tied in here. This is why Amitai Etzioni (1993) a leading communitarian argues that our public discourses erode a moral value.
In contemporary Ireland what Ni Mhuruchu (1998) analysed no longer exists but has been eroded and replaced with individualistic attitude, mindlessness to other peoples problems, which are now left to the ‘social welfare’ to deal with. Sometimes one wonders how the Irish people could easily forget/reject completely generations of fundamental religious morals that fostered communal spirit captured by Ni Mhuruchu. People no longer talk with their neighbours and when they do, it is artificial, plastic and full of pretences. Such asocial neighbourliness Veblen (2006) noted as “unsympathetic observers of one’s everyday life” (p.284). (4)
The issue of industrialisation has been an ongoing challenge and remain multi-causal. In Ireland and elsewhere it is a key crucial phenomenon that transformed the cause of history. It ushered in the Celtic Tiger, an unprecedented economic boom that altered not only the conservatively protected and contested landscape (the historical and green Ireland) but also altered the demographics and brought multiple ideology imports. (5) The impact of multiculturalism, population explosion as a result of economic immigrant workers and asylum seekers exert great pressure on resources and even processes. (6) The influence of the state and the EU assistances and policies, and also global politics, all affect indigenous communities in both good and bad ways.
Contemporary issues influence both the individual and community at large creating unprecedented ambiguity and complexity thus, demanding a specialised approach to contemporary community development. My observation is that most community development programmes in Ireland are fictitious, illegitimately co-opted, and corrupted. There is also this myth that everybody is doing fine or that the welfare and other social agencies are there to assist the needy. The question is why still exist much poverty and disadvantages in Ireland? Breen, et al’s (1990) study suggest a grave inherently rooted inequality in Irish society, which has remained unchanged amidst economic boom and countless high profile projects geared towards addressing this issue. They lamented that, the families that enjoyed privileged positions in the old class structure secured comparable positions in the new one. Those families at the bottom of the old class hierarchy have, if anything, drifted downward into a new underclass, dependent on suite income maintenance for their livelihood.
It is deplorable and lamentable that, years of religious moralism and subsequent viable economic blessings have not addressed dramatically the deeply rooted causes of poverty in modern Ireland instead, the new fad became the culture of consumerism. Veblen’s writing is very much alive in our today’s Ireland, which many suggest pride itself or camouflage under the culture of consumerism, and thus, attempt to masquerade the poor among her who are equally infested with this contagious social dilemma, which Veblen (2006) called “invidious” and “conspicuous” consumption. Kellagher and Whelan (1992) noted that,
Many families are experiencing second generation unemployment, and the likelihood is that many of the young adults of these families will never work. For the most part, however, the poor remain hidden.
The Community Development
While there are many definitions of community development, the core concept for this analysis is one of collective action for social change, with an emphasis on empowerment and participation, and focus on process as well as outcomes
(Combat Poverty 2006).
It is important to note that defining or describing community development is equally controversial as is the definition of community. Many theorists view community development from different applied perspectives involving multiple lenses. According to Connolly (2003)
Community development has been a very powerful agent in raising issues around social and cultural inequality, such as poverty, discrimination, neglect, and other disadvantages. Community development essentially entails members of a community – geographical or issue-based – identifying their needs in terms of development, sustainability and education, and collectively working together to meet those needs.
The Combat Poverty Agency defines community development as: ..a process whereby those who are marginalized and excluded are enabled to gain itself confidence, to join with others and to participate in actions to change their situation and tackle the problem that face their community (Combat Poverty, 2000).
Generally, communities both in ancient and modern times have always engaged in various developmental strategies for the betterment of their communities. But there is a problem with organising and mobilising people for community development in our modern society due to rapid social changes that ushered in new world order, diversified ideology (individualism as against collectivism, the spread of libertarianism or conservatism as against collectivism or communitarianism, secularism as against institutionalised religious dogma or traditional norms,), break down of local ties, solidarity and the bonding spirit that once held people together. According to Collins (1988)
Sociologists berated the spread of secularism, the break down of traditional bonds of kinship and community, the release of the individual from such ties and from traditional moral certainties and the consequent emergence of the individual lost, alienated and dissatisfied (p.65).
Because Western culture is premised on rationality, it therefore became “widely assumed that liberal democracy is something that all rational individuals would want if they could get it” (Bell, 2006). Rationality in Western society has been found to belong to privileged few, and thus is discriminatory, mythologizes, and could be blamed for polarisation and widening socio-economic gap in modern society. Research has also shown that many are not capable of rational thinking because they did not have matured cognitive structures (Merriam, 2004). Therefore, it is not surprising that many in the West are still living in poverty and disadvantages. The major challenge for community development remain how to bridge this widening gap and loss of social capital. Many lament the dislocation of locus of control away from the community or civil society to the state control. The precarious and supercilious interaction between the state and civil society in our modern world is laden with complexity and controversy and tend to create challenges in the handling of the affairs of community and community development.
Important dilemmas face the community sector in relation to the state… The paradox for many community groups which enter partnership arrangements with the state is that they risk being co-opted on the states terms, without the real needs and potential of community based development being acknowledged and catered for (Kellagher and Whelan, 1992).
It is this supposed mutual interaction (between state and civil society) in our complex modern communities that concerns the communitarian politics. “The theory is based on a two-dimensional political grid that rejects the one-dimensional, liberal-conservative spectrum” (Raapana, 2005). Communitarianism attempts to address the disintegration of communal spirit and erosion of social capital.
Communitarianism, or civil society thinking (the two have similar meanings) has many interpretations, but at its centre is a notion that years of celebrating individual freedom have weakened the bonds of community and that the rights of the individual must be balanced against the interests of society as a whole. Inherent in the philosophy is a return to values and morality, which, the school of thought believes, can best be fostered by community organizations (Raapana, 2005).
The concept of communitarian ideology and movement attempt to rekindle communal spirit, communitas, creates connectedness and solidarity in our modern society, thus, attempt to meliorate the already precarious inevitable interaction of government and civil society and generates understanding. Such understanding has led to the progressive attempts in contemporary Ireland to get community members and groups to be directly involved and take control of the initiating and handling of their community’s affairs through participatory democratic processes that promotes active citizenship, communitas and genuine community spirit. According to Connolly (1996) in Ireland, groups have been set up with the explicit aim of developing the community, to enable them to respond to needs within their areas, including employment, leisure, educational, sport, environment and so on.
Kellagher and Whelan (1992) noted that, The context in which community development took place in the 1980s changed significantly. For the most part, the citizen mobilisation of the I970s (self help community groups. a strong tenant movement, a housing action movement and a women’s movement) had a certain autonomy from the state and was not dependent on the state for funding…. A series of state agencies supports community based development. These agencies include FAS, the vocational educational committees, local authorities, the Combat Poverty Agency, health boards, central government departments, and EC programmes.
Community development is wide ranging and could involve holistic community building effort to establish basic infrastructures, or could focus on specific micro projects in core areas such as, preservation, youth work, community integration, or community education, and so on. “Community education is an agent of community development, and they have core attributes in common” (AONTAS, 2000, cited in Connolly, 2003). Adult and community education project is geared towards empowerment, transformation and social action/change. Connolly (2003) noted that
Community education provided a forum for listening to the voices of otherwise silenced people, … In addition, community education has supplied the wherewithal for disparate groups to engage with empowering processes and become active agents in their communities.
Though there are difficulties and controversies surrounding community education, leading many to become pessimistic (see ‘Cinnide and Walsh, 1990), nevertheless, it still remain the most salient and viable option in my estimation in the fight against structurally rooted poverty, asocial behaviour, disadvantage and inequality in gender, race, ethnicity or socio-economic standing, and significantly in the development of community. Therefore, community development attempts through projects to address those issues that affect community or that will help in the development of the community. Because of the specialisation, professionalisation and comodification of the contemporary community development, stakeholders tend to evaluate and assess the legitimacy and viability of protects through the principles that underpin conventional community development projects.
A Case Study Project – The Critique of “Picturegs”
The project to be critiqued in this essay is “Picturegs” (Farrell, 2006), a community project born out of the call by the Irish government grant initiative, targeted at children in primary schools in disadvantaged areas. It is partly funded by the national government and also received funding from county Kildare library board. It is a project in response to the government initiative announced in 2004 aimed at eradicating “Reading Literacy in Disadvantaged Primary schools”. This project will be analysed using Kenny’s (2007) six principles of community development: Trust/Team, Communitas, Homogeneous Target Group, Participation, Critical Collective Learning/Reflection, and Notable Changes.
In brief analyses, (1) Trust/Team means that the project being assessed should be one that will influence or foster team spirit, team participation, team effort, commitment to teams contract, also builds, encourages/influences trust among members. (2) The project should also influence Communitas, that is, representation of equitable distribution of resources, goods and services, be it properties, human resources, equality of opportunities, etc. (3) Projects are also evaluated on the bases that it will address crucial issues affecting a Homogeneous target group, such as issues relating to foreign immigrants, travellers, drug addiction, suicide, youth programmes, and so on. (4.) Another key principle is Participation, and this means that the project should foster participation of all members. Thus, influencing significantly the notion of participatory democracy and active citizenship.
Participation remains one of the salient reasons for community projects and programmes, which are geared toward stimulating membership participation within the community. Many writers have argued the participation of members in the decision-making (bottom-up approach) and in all processes, initiating programmes, monitoring and evaluation and feedbacks. (5.) A project is also expected to have Critical collective learning/reflection meaning that it should be something that will help the members to become more reflectively and critically aware of their communal social interactions. A representation or stimulation of collective vision, imagination, or community of memory. For example, projects should take into cognisance those shared community of memories because it fosters collective vision based on their shared common meanings, ideals, memories and imagination. (6.) Projects are also meant to bring about noticeable changes within that community. Changes that impact significant effect in the target group, both individual and/or social and the entire community.
Using the above analysed six principles and also based on my ontological and epistemological stand, I regret to say that the project in my estimation is not and may not be a viable and efficacious programme that could eradicate literacy among the children of its target group – the Travellers. First of all, I am not convinced that the initial ideas and conceptualisation came from the target group themselves rather I believe it all came from the government through its quantitative research findings (generalising/universalising) of society’s problems. This is where the top-down approach originated and upheld through the author’s own research reinstating this approach, which is “hegemonic” (Gramsci) as the target group are co-opted into buying the idea and making it theirs.
The project if viewed from project outcome using Kenny’s (2004) project cycle, could be said to be effective since it attracted a large interest from the target group and the sponsoring bodies, thus satisfies all the stakeholders. It also proved to be sustainable as it helps in capacity building according to the author through its multiple intelligence conceptual underpinning. It also enhances resources as it recognises indigenous knowledge, enhancing collective ownership of the project, skills and knowledge of the future direction. Finally the project was premised on experiential and reflective learning through telling tales, participatory arts, reminiscence, socio-cultures, folklores, and so.
However, assessing the Pictureï¿½gs project using Kenny’s (2007) principles of community development, revealed some shortfalls, most especially its effectiveness and efficacy in eradicating literacy among the target group. It is important to note that the target group in this case is travellers, a micro community within a dominant community. In my estimation I do not see how this project will bring the beneficiaries closer and in par with the wider community, instead it tended to celebrate and promote a particular ethnic culture, which could lead to further segregation and possible backlash. For instance, the author, Farrell (2006) emphasized that “The process raises positive self-awareness of Traveller culture and language through the exploration and sharing of their stories” (p.17); and also inferred writing “… to mind it and to entrench it as their own model of education and cultural identity” (p.20).
I understand the author attempted to apply Paulo Freire’s method/methodology of teaching/learning literacy programmes but this is not near what Freire (1973, 1996) has proposed. I have watched the DVD but did not see the linkage or explicit connection to literacy reading. What I saw was a celebration of travellers’ folklores and their community of memories through telling tales. I know serious effort was made with good intentions from the author and her sponsors but the project fell short of its main objective – eradicating difficulty in literacy reading among disadvantaged children.
This is not different from what goes on all over Ireland regarding projects that did not actually address the real problems it was supposed to address instead it all appeared in principle very convincing and in reality the proponents only celebrates themselves, get recognitions/honours, but the target group received little or no help from the institutionalisation of the project. This essay has earlier on, established that in spite of numerous high profile projects, even though addressed towards homogeneous target group, have not yet addressed the crucial issues affecting them. As Michael Kenny our lecturer would say that in his experience with community development, “it is always and has always been that everything is in the process, we are in the process” (Kenny, 2007, class lectures).
It is beyond this essay to analyse this project using Kenny’s (2004) project cycle because this is not an attempt to see if the project went through the theorised project cycle rather this essay attempts to evaluate and assess the viability and legitimacy of the project in respect to doing or having achieved its supposed purpose and objective and the impact to the community in general. It is regrettable to point out that such well intentioned though incompatible with reality resulting in questionable, unrealistic and ambiguous/meaningless quantifiable outcomes remain the standard in contemporary Ireland. For instance, such projects like integration of foreign nationals, ethnic minorities, travellers, or even schools that tend to promote culture particularism (like Irish school, or Polish school or African school), and so on, are controversial and out of touch, and might remain so because the so called activists championing these have no clue the underlying intricate multiple causalities and other issues associated with such approach.
This essay emphasised the centrality of one’s ontological and epistemological stand in attempting to conceptualise and define community and community development and their attendant elements. Community was viewed as being multidimensional. Therefore, vary in meanings and relative to one’s underpinning and conceptual applicability. The salience of place and its controversies were explored and analysed. In line with this essay, community of place was accorded more importance because localism is very much significant in our social life, and also remain most valid and objective presentation of accountability of community development. Community development was defined and analysed – teased out in light of contemporaneous issues and how these affect multicultural Irish society. Community education and its implication in community development, capacity building, social action/change and empowerment of the individual and social were analysed. The essay also recognises the significance of fostering communal spirit and thus, analysed the salience of communitarian ideology, politics and movement.
Finally a case study project authored by a fellow course-mate and a member of my team for this assignment was proudly presented, discussed with the group, and critiqued in this essay using Kenny, M. (2007) six principles of community development. I just want to note here that the feedback I received from Michael Kenny (the lecturer) was of the highest order, and indeed helped me critiquing the project as should, using the “six principles of community” rather than using the “project cycle”. When a project is critiqued using project cycle it appears viable and convincing but try using the principles modality, a different meaning follows. Therefore, the project in my estimation though an interesting one, is not my kind of thing because I have strong reservations when it comes to overly celebration of indigenous cultures rather than attempts to integrate, appreciate and uphold the dominant culture people become invariably part of. The project in my estimation is purely conceived by outsiders and then introduced to the target group as if they (target group), were the ones who identified that such will help them to eradicate literacy problem.
This assignment is deemed a group work but obviously a spurious one. That we are asked to tackle this assignment task in teams led to the formation of our group of four members. Since we were told that this assignment must be completed in mini groups, I began to think those I might like to work with. So when I over heard Caroline Farrell explaining to Jo Toomey her pictureogs project, I became excited and decided to join them as a group member, which they accepted and at the same time Margaret Nugent too decided to join us, and behold the group was formed.
I was very anxious for our group to get down to business and after a quick discussion we agreed to send individual definitions (of community/community development) through email. After which we met again for discussion and this time Caroline gave everyone her pictureogs DVD for us to go home, watch it and then when we meet again for discussion, she would then answer any question we may have for her and then would explain to us everything about her project.
It was in the next meeting that I strongly suggested the need for us to decide how we would be writing the assignment but to my greatest surprise Caroline was the first to object and then supported and seconded by Jo – insisting that it was meant and supposed to be written individually. I tried to press further for them to reconsider and also think of the various benefits in such group work, which always outweighs the associated difficulties of working as a group for the first time. Still they were not ready and then Margaret who had been quiet now stepped in and clarified the air pointing that it seemed obvious members preferred to go by individual written assignments, and thus, I was persuaded.
The next time the group met Jo suggested using Kenny’s project cycle to critique the project, which guided us on questioning Caroline’s project, which was convincingly defended. We did not meet again to discuss vividly contemporaneous issues or even how individually we view community or community development. I did not press much for that because when we were commenting on individual definitions, Caroline commented on mine containing too much vocabulary and could give somebody headache and dizziness and that I should attempt to be writing in a very simple language. I honestly defended my reasons for attempting to write academically (lots of vocabulary/terminology). Such comments made me more eager to work with them in team writing and editing, with intent possibly I could learn something very, very useful about writing, but unfortunately and regrettably it never happened.
Therefore, I made up my mind to do my community assignment according to my own view except using the project adopted by the group, which I am highly proud of because its author is my course-mate. Other than that, I could have opted for another project that would suit my ontological and epistemological stand.
It was ironical and unfortunate that we are doing community assignment, which warrants that we work with collective inputs of potentialities, abilities and possible growth of communal spirit, empowerment and transformative learning as participants in adult and community education.
Etzioni, A. (1993). The Spirit of Community: The Reinvention of American Society. New York: Touchstone.
(1995). New Communitarian Thinking: Persons, Virtues, Institutions and Communities. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press.
AIATSIS (1998). Research of Interest to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, Australian Research Council Commissioned Report No 59, Canberra, Australian Institute Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies: 41.
Bell, D. (2004) “Communitarianism”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Dec., 2004 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/communitarianism/
Bellah, R. Madsen, R. et al., (1985) Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.
Bell, C & Newby, H (1976). Community, communion and community action: the social services of the new urban politics, in DT Herbert & RJ Johnston (eds) Social Areas in Cities, Volume 2: 189-207. London: Wiley.
Birden, S. (2003). Critical and postmodern challenges for education. In Baumgartner, L. M., Lee, M.-Y., Birden, S., and Flowers, D. (Eds.), Adult learning theory: A primer (pp. 29-34). Columbus, OH: The Ohio State University.
Blakely, E. J., & Snyder, M. G. (1997). Fortress America, Gated Communities In The United States. Washington D.C., Cambridge, M.A.: Brookings Institution Press & Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.
Breen, Hannon, Rothman and Whelan (1990). Contemporary Ireland: State, Class, & Development in the Republic of Ireland. McMillan.
Cohen, A. P. (1985). The Symbolic Construction of Community, London: Tavistock.
Combat Poverty Agency (2000). The role of community development in tackling poverty. Dublin. Combat Poverty Agency.
(2006). The role of community development in tackling poverty. Dublin. Combat Poverty Agency.
Connolly, B. (1996). ‘Community Development and Adult Education: Prospects for Change?’ in Connolly, B., Fleming, T., McCormack, D., and Ryan, A., (eds.) Radical Learning for Liberation, Mace, Maynooth.
(1999). Groupwork and Facilitation: A Feminist evaluation of their role in transformative adult and community education, in Connolly, Ryan, (eds) Women and Education in Ireland, MACE, Maynooth.
(2003). Community education: Listening to the voices. The Adult Learner, x, 9-19.
Dalton & Dalton (1975). Community and Its Relevance to Australian Society. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service.
Farrell, C. (2006). Threading Tales-Pictureogs: A Model for Inclusive Learning that Celebrates Cultural Diversity in Contemporary Communities. Kildare County Council Library Services. Published by The Reading Association of Ireland.
Freire, P. (1996). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. London: Penguin.
Hareven, T.K. (1982). Family Time and Industrial Time. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Herbrechter, S. and Higgins, M. (2006). Returning (to) Communities: Theory, Culture and Political Practice of the Communal. Editions Rodopi B. V., Amsterdam/New York, NY
Hillary, G.A. (1955). Definitions of community: areas of agreement. Rural Sociology 20: 779-91.
Kelleher, P. and Whelan, C. (1992). Dublin Communities in Action. Combat Poverty Agency, Dublin.
Kenny, M. (2004). Project Planning and Development. Distance Learning Module for the NUI BSc Rural Development by Distance Learning, NUI Joint Constituent University Initiative.
(2007). Module Class Notes and Lectures. Higher Diploma in Adult and Community Education, NUI Maynooth.
LOW, S. M. (2003). Behind the gates : life, security, and the pursuit of happiness in fortress America. New York: Routledge.
McLaughlin, M L et al (1995). Standards of conduct on Usenet, in SG Jones (ed)
Cybersociety: Computer Mediated Communication and Community: 90-111. London: Sage
Merriam, S. (2004). The role of cognitive development in Mezirow’s transformational learning theory. Adult Education Quarterly, 55(1), 60-68.
Merriam, S. and Caffarella, R. (1999). Learning in adulthood. 2nd ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Mezirow, J. (1991). Transformative Dimensions of Adult Learning. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco
3.2 Ontology and Epistemological Foundation Web Site,
Putnam, R.D. (2000). Bowling Alone. The collapse and revival of American community, New York: Simon and Schuster.
Raapana, N. (2005). What The Communitarians Stand For. www.crossroad.to/Quotes/communitarian/niki.htm
Schiefloe, P.M. (1990). Networks in urban areas: lost, saved and liberated communities. Scandinavian Housing and Planning Research 7: 93-103.
Smith, B (1989). ‘The Concept “Community ” in Aboriginal Policy and Service Delivery’ North Australia Development Unit Occasional Paper No1.
Thomas, Calvin, ed. (2000). “Introduction: Identification, Appropriation, Proliferation”, Straight with a Twist: Queer Theory and the Subject of Heterosexuality. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-06813-0.
Turner, V. (1969). The ritual process: structure and anti-structure. Chicago: Aldine Publishing Co.
Walmsley, D.J. (2000). Community, place and cyberspace. Australian Geographer 31: 5-19.
Warren, D.I. (1978). Exploration in neighbourhood differentiation. Sociological Quarterly 19:310-31.
Webber, M.M. (1963). Order in diversity: community without propinquity, in L Wingo (ed) Cities and Space: 23-56. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press.
(1964). The urban place and the non-place urban realm, in MM Webber (ed)
Explorations in Urban Structure: 79-153. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
(1968). The post-city age. Daedalus 97: 1091-1110
Wellman, B (1979). The community question. American Journal of Sociology 84: 1201-31:1202.
(1999). Networks in the Global Village: Life in Contemporary Communities. Westview Press, Perseus Group.
Wellman, B & Leighton, B (1979). Networks, neighbours and communities: approaches to the study of the community question. Urban Affairs Quarterly 14: 363-90.
Wirth, L (1938). Urbanism as a way of life. American Journal of Sociology 44: 1-24.