Aristotle states that man is a social animal. He cannot live his life in isolation and community is the best example of humans interconnected with each other. Community is an integral part of society. With the advancement of human beings and their civilizations, there arose the concept of ‘community’ which traditionally can be defined as a socially cohesive group or cluster of people interacting with each other who have organized themselves around common values sharing a geographical area. However, in today’s closely linked time the concept of community has surpassed the geographical boundaries and has gone far and beyond, connecting people from across the world. The term community has in fact gained several meanings over a period of time. In fact community has been called as the local people’s capacity to collectively respond to the issues and events that affect them. Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister of Great Britain calls the concept of community as a core agenda of government discourse in the country and abroad. Mayo says that a community evokes a sense of belonging, of integrity, and of shared interests and identity. Since a long time, a number of sociological analysis have been made on the concept of community, however, it has not been able to acquire a precise definition. In any case, it still captures the ideas of socialization, mutualism and collective existence which have both functional and ethical facets to it.
These dimensions are being harnessed by the initiatives of many governments of the world, leading to the concept of community development, closely supported by statutory and voluntary sectors. A genuine commitment is being made towards the integration of communities in the planning processes, delivery of public services and improving the quality of life.
In the field of social work, working with the community has been one of the most important aspects of social work profession. Community organization and Community Development are some key practices aiming to uplift communities of the state.
Community Organization viewed from a humanitarian approach is meant to solve the problems of the community by mobilizing and empowering them through their institutions, organizations, groups, leaders, advocates and volunteers. On the other hand Community Development is a movement designed to promote better living for the whole community, with their active participation and if possible at the initiative of the community. Both of these themes capture the idea of working in partnership, social inclusion and active citizenship. Moreover, it echoes the notion of finding ‘local solutions for local problems’ which not only aims to promote regeneration of neighbourhood but also enhancing of civic engagement.
Community work has had a long history as an approach to social work. In the western concept, the community work has been in relation to community care, promoting care in the community, as well as enabling service users to participate in planning, monitoring and evaluating community care services. However, in developing countries like India, the community work has largely been seen as a process of developing local initiatives, mainly in the areas of education, healthcare and agricultural development, by matching community needs with the available resources. Community social work in any case has not been restricted to community care, rather has been seen relevant to a wide range of social work practices, including preventive work with children, families, youth, elderly, etc. While community work has a continuous role to play, it is yet not confined to social work .It features in other professional settings including housing and planning. In addition, community work has also been carried out and continues to be carried out by volunteers and unpaid activists within communities.
On the theoretical spectrum, community work seems to be based upon competing perspectives and is associated with both left and right political view. The ‘professional’ approach, seeks to promote self help and to improve service delivery within the wider framework of existing social relations, with the ‘radical’ approach. This latter ‘radical’ approach seeks to go further, contributing to empower the relative powerless to challenge the causes of their deprivation and discrimination, and to develop strategies and build alliances for social change, drawing upon insights from neo-Marxist structure analyses, together with insights from feminism and from anti-racist analyses (Twelvetrees, 1991).
Though these distinctions have relevance, the terms ‘professional’ and ‘radical’ have inherent problems, in the current context, as Twelvetrees has also recognized. In recent years, the term ‘radical’ has become more confusing with the adoption of ‘radical’ right. The use of the term ‘professional’ could imply that alternative approaches are ‘unprofessional’. Nevertheless, Mayo states that whatever may be the perspective, community work can be categorized into ‘technicist’ and ‘transformational’ approach which aim at community empowerment and social transformation of the communities.
Charles I. Scotland in his paper,” Community Development: A Challenge to social worker”, emphasizes on the fact that social workers have a key role to play in the process of community development. The social workers make a conscious effort to understand the dynamics of human behaviour. A social worker has successfully developed techniques to solve problems of humans by way of some specific skills which enable the individuals to make the optimum utilization of the resources available to it. These skills in fact can help in mobilizing the cooperation of the youth and women in a group activity as a step towards taking community responsibility.
Community development requires a strong organizational structure which would help in administering the programs and accomplish goals of community development. The concept of community organization is closely related to the concept of community development, as the community organizers can help in applying the democratic principles for the development of community.
Some of the general elements of community organization and development include, fact finding, community analysis and surveys, social programmes, consultation and negotiation, project administration, planning of conference technique etc.
Community development is one of the central themes in developed countries like UK and developing countries like India. UK government has directed its attention to the disadvantaged groups in Britain and target issues like that of unemployment, low educational level, poor health and crime. It has been duly recognized that these problems must be addressed by close linkage with the local authorities and the communities to halt the cycle of deprivation. There have been a number of initiatives taken by the politicians in this regard such as the Social Inclusion Partnerships in Scotland, Community First in Wales and Community Strategies mechanisms in England, which not only demonstrate features like community partnership but also leadership and accountability. User partnership and involvement of the community into the decision making process has been a matter of great importance in the government’s aim to provide welfare services to the people. Mulgan (1997) and Stewart(2000) in fact state that the New Labour introduced the concept of ‘stakeholders’ which laid an invisible foundation for inter-sectoral collaboration, community governance and development.
There has been an increasing recognition of the fact that the residents of a community must play a major role in identifying their problems and issues and suggest solutions for the same. Thus governmental initiatives in partnership with the communities have been generally in relation to health, community safety, environment, neighbourhood management and lifelong learning.
In UK, community development has been a part of the local authorities and the voluntary sectors since late 1960s and today it has gained an institutional status. The source of funding for community development in UK has been in relation to the Urban Programme which is a scheme of the government set up in 1968 to tackle the issue of deprivation. This funding system is jointly funded by the central government and the local authorities and works on short term budgets of 3 to 4 years. The result of this is that there has been a considerable rise in the number of practitioners and the problem of job insecurity has reduced. In the 1990s, community development in UK entered a new phase where major restructuring of social welfare services and training took place especially in the fields of community architecture, economic development, planning and housing. These techniques were later on adopted by many rural developmental agencies and church for their community development initiatives.
Though a number of initiatives were taken by the government, there are certain aspects that need revision and correction. Some of the problems with the approach taken by the government are:
As the procedures set up by the local authorities are considered to be the appropriate methods of managing partnership arrangements, the result was that the community representatives feel alienated and frustrated at the formal partnership board meetings, formal protocols and settings. Thus most civil servants find it difficult to manage their relationships with voluntary organizations and communities.
In UK, it has been felt that the interventions of the government are overly focused on the designated local area and somehow fail to jointly work with the communities leading to non lasting impact on the quality of life of the people of the community.
The focus has always been more on support and training rather than promotion of community leadership which would also hold them accountable to the wider community.
In spite of these challenges, the government of UK still aims to achieve its objective of community development and the New Deal for Communities programme currently running in 39 areas across England has brought some ray of hope to the state of community development in the country. It is a long term and well funded initiative that aims to work upon the issues of social deprivation and inequality.
To attain satisfactory results, community networking is what the governments should direct their attention to. A community can achieve greater tolerance, social cohesion, social trust and better impact on decision making if they are closely connected. This is possible through networking, i.e, the ability of people to interact with each other, thereby influencing one another surpassing geographical, organizational and identity boundaries.
At the moment, there is a dearth of ‘active citizens’ in the country who may influence and represent the opinions of their communities. The government, moreover, seems to adopt an individualized approach to recognize and reward ‘community champions’ and ‘social entrepreneurs’ characterized by charisma and creativity rather than their commitment to social learning and collective accountability, which has been widely criticized.
Nevertheless, several initiatives are being taken for capacity building of partnership members, educational programmes for skilled social workers, training for managers coming from other professions etc. The Community Development Foundation has been working to frame an evaluation draft, the ABCD model, that measures the techniques, processes and the goals for accomplishing better community management.
Contrasting to UK ‘s organized system of community development, participation of local communities and voluntary organization is one of the most distinctive features of community development in developing countries like India. India is basically a rural society and thus the community development practice began with the villages in India.
Community development in India is largely concerned with provision of basic amenities like food, shelter, and clothing and to bring about a change in their outlook for further upliftment. It aims to bring about a social change especially in traditional societies. Post independence, Community Development Programme was launched in 1952 on pilot basis. According to Prof. S. C. Dube, its basic aims were to provide for a substantial increase in the agricultural production of the country, for improvements in the system of communication, in rural health and in village education. The programme also was directed towards a cultural change, aimed at social and economic transformation of the lives of the rural population. Though the Community Development Programme in India was initiated with lot of enthusiasm and great zeal, it failed to mobilize and involve the local people and thus it was a failure. One of the main reasons for the failure of the Community Development programme was that it became a task oriented strategy and the educational element was missing. As much as people are imperative for the development programmes, a high level of stimulation and motivation is also required for a lasting development and upliftment.
However, with the intervention of the social workers and many NGOs, the community development objectives have been attained and are in the process of achieving justice, equality, upliftment of the socially deprived and economic empowerment. Therefore, the process of community development in India has been a story of success mainly because of the sheer interest and involvement of the community in its development along with governmental initiatives which has not been much of a case in UK’s system of community development.
Earlier, the method used for provision of welfare services in India was through either casework or group work. However, with time, social work practitioners began using community-oriented approach.
UK has a very organized system of addressing the issue of community development and to an extent its communities face different issues and problems. While in India, the process of community development has taken shape in an unorganized manner, which the country is battling to organize it. The role of the state has been central in community development in UK. India on the other hand has had voluntary social welfare organizations working at local, regional and state level apart from the governmental schemes aiming to address the question of community development. The Central social Welfare Board, through State Advisory Boards and field staff, help local leaders handle some of their own welfare needs. Organizations like Association for Social Health in India, Indian Council of Social Welfare, All India women’s conference etc are promoting and coordinating bodies.
In contrast with UK, where it has been seen that there is a dearth of ‘active citizens’, country like India finds a number of young social activists working to promote, protect and uplift the socially deprived sections of society, rather than professional social workers(as in UK). They are mainly found working in urban cities like Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, Madras. Professional social workers in such situations are more often development -oriented, while activists use socio-political analysis to raise issues and mobilize people, sometimes getting in conflict with the authorities.
To stimulate neighbourhood communities, several cities organized citizen’s councils under the Development of Urban Development. A number of community centres have been set up in the community neighbourhood in many parts of Bombay, Delhi, Banglore, Calcutta and other cities.
In rural communities, through mass literary programs and efforts made by community workers, there has been a wide awakening amongst peasants, landless labourers, schedule castes and tribals. Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, the government with many rural schemes and social workers with their community practice have been able to reconstruct villages at macro and micro levels.
Many communities of people have organized themselves to work for their own development as well as receive resources from the government.
Different movements in India such as abolition of Sati, movements to mobilize women such as SEWA have not only organized women in trade union methods and community organization techniques but have made them capable enough to make themselves self reliant. Micro attempts are being made by the community workers to generate employment for young men and women. The goals are high and are hard to achieve, thus the result is that there is a high level of frustration.
Community development has a long way to go and has much to offer to the societies both urban and rural and to the governments. However, it needs to progress with great caution as its methods, skills and techniques can be opted for purposes that may not reflect its key objectives, commitments and values. As the world advances, the issues f poverty, suppression, social exclusion, private property, inequality will still be faced by the people of the world. However, with collective action towards changing the lives of the people at an individual level too can bring about a considerable change in society.