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Alternatives to Tireless Exertions and Passionate Concern…

October 20, 2009

Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable…

Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

These days it seems that every step towards the goal of social justice requires a government policy and an associated funding stream.  We expect the state to sort this stuff out for us.  Well, it hasn’t and I suspect it can’t.

And given how the funding climate is likely to shape up over the next few years, even if the state did know how to sort this out it won’t have the money.  So instead I think we need a return to community development work that:

  • is rooted in communities rather than government departments
  • embraces affordable and human scale interventions rather than national projects and the rolling out of grand plans
  • honours the integrity of individuals over the narrow outcomes being purchased by funders
  • that attracts investment from venture philanthropists as well as the public purse.

Perhaps it is time to invest less in state funded mangerialism and more in ‘tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals’.

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2 Comments
  1. Some interesting points there.

    On first glance, I’d be inclined to agree with all of them. I was preparing to write a comment to that effect.

    But then my mind cast back to a debate I had with Norman Perrin on the Third/Voluntary Sector vs the Private sector, and I felt I’d be cheating on my previous points if I agreed.

    You see, I think the public sector agenda is crucial in community development. After all, the council is charged, politically, financially and ethically, with promoting a cohesive, safe, pleasant and vibrant community. Additionally, with the current political models, it is charged with providing an investable and financially stable community.

    These charges are not simply agendas – they are the building blocks of communities we want to live in. Therefore, is it not entirely right that the public sector, at least in part, fund community development work? Is it not also right that, in a world where every community cannot get funding, the funding can be spread into areas where the sector feel that the above conditions are not being met?

    Arguably, one could extend this to argue that this means their specific political agenda should also be followed…and here’s where it gets sticky. In theory, this isn’t a problem as the community have elected in the politicians who push the agenda. In practice, that’s not what happens.

    Target driven, single issue agendas (such as getting people back to work) will not solve the problem. Making a community safe will solve nothing or very little if a community isn’t happy.

    The public sector need to therefore fund workers to build up community confidence as a whole, based on a very broad agenda – give the community the tools and let them build it.

    This is starting to sound like the same area where you are coming from, so its no suprise I agreed on first read – my only difference is that, whether it is politically sound or not, regional, local or national government MUST fund the broad community development you speak of for it to work. Whether that’s a utopian un-realism remains to be seen.

    • I have no problem at all with the public sector funding community development. Indeed I agree with you that there role could be pivotal. Crucial. But they frequently fund counterfeits of community development. Pale imitations of the real thing. Electorally popular short term shams.

      There is a big hole in the democratic process as you have identified – but IF politicians and civil servants really understood the practices and processes of community development and respected them then they would not be abused.

      Give the community the tools and let them fix it – spot on in my opinion!

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