This is the first issue of 2018 and all of us at the Community Development Journal would like to wish our readers a very peaceful 2018. Clearly, we are living at time of great political uncertainty and insecurity, and across the globe there are manifold reminders of the obduracy of oppression and injustice. But, as the content of this journal also illustrates, communities continue to fashion their own responses to their circumstances, often seeking to identify ways of living and being that might speak to the promise of equality, democracy and solidarity across difference. The articles in this issue reflect an impressive geographical spread, including Timor-Leste, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Korea, Scotland, India, Georgia, Canada and South Africa and thus enhance our understanding of the on-going social and political challenges facing each of those specific contexts. However, in their varying ways they also urge (and hopefully inspire) us to think critically about and beyond community development, its conceptual armoury, its practical achievements and its underlying purposes. Climate Change is one of the great existential threats, perhaps the great existential threat, of our times (Diprose et al., 2017). But, even when we break through the barriers of denial about the origins, extent, political and social implications of this threat, it can still prove difficult to imagine what we as individuals or communities can do to reverse it. Any identification of alternatives, is further hindered by ‘commonsensical’ understandings of how far ‘legitimate’ climate change activism should go or how (little) it should interfere with the normal routines of production, consumption and distribution. Writing in Volume 52(3) of the Community Development Journal, Diprose et al. charted some the challenges inherent in ‘fostering real action on and dialogue about climate change in the face of difficulties that span the local to the global scale and entrenched power inequalities within communities’ (Diprose et al., 2017, p. 490, emphasis added). In this issue, an important contribution to the debate about the acceptable limits of climate action by Callum McGregor and Jim Crowther considers the cultural politics, ‘cognitive praxis’ and ‘cultural pedagogy’ deployed by the Transition Movement. While their research primarily focuses on the Scottish and UK experience, it has broader international resonances. They consider the extent to which the Transition Movement and transition culture extend and reflect a form of ‘post politics’ where the necessary work of acknowledging conflict, antagonism and divergent interests might be evaded in order to appeal to a communitarian mythology of consensus. It appears that a (dominant) cultural pedagogy of the Transition movement seeks to distance collective endeavour from the more controversial and consciously political traditions of direct action: evidenced in its transmission of ‘positive’ messages of community ‘resilience’ – a sort of contemporary take on the Blitz Spirit – in the face of ‘Peak Oil’ crises. As the authors acknowledge, however, this may result in the silencing of the anti-capitalist discourses and practices that are so vital for addressing the political economy of climate change. From the pages of the Community Development Journal in 2011, Martin Mowbray appealed to writers, activists and researchers ‘to take up questions and engage debate around the overall nature of local government. Its scope, or legal and geographic jurisdiction, constitutional status and powers are all dimensions that should be seen as directly relevant to community development’ (2011, p. i149–150). Because the nexus between local government and community development remains underexplored in the pages of academic journals, the article by Monique Marks and Kira Erwin is welcome and timely; although it ultimately suggests that local representatives may undermine rather than uphold the democratic promise of community development. The article discusses a high profile and initially warmly received community engagement project that was initiated by the University of KwaZulu-Natal in the Kenneth Gardens area of Durban. It presents a detailed case-study of how local politicians and their party machinery actively subverted the ambition and growth of the project as they sought to bend community development to their purposes. This interference may have reflected politicians’ efforts to navigate inter-party rivalries, protect existing territory or lay claim to future electoral advantage. While the distinctive history of South Africa as an apartheid state and the contemporary status of the African National Congress as its party of government shape this political context in idiosyncratic ways, the broader parallels are apparent. The article invites us to think about the respective mandates of community development as a site of participatory democracy and local government as a site of representation, and how the power plays between them may be exacerbated by processes of neoliberalization, by conflicts over diminishing resources and by the intensification of economic and social inequality. Despite their optimistic claims and good intentions, community development programmes may in practice replicate and reinforce established patterns of social inequality or oppression. For example, women’s marginalization may be further compounded by exclusion from community institutions that promise to promote meaningful participation. Taking such forms of ‘participatory exclusion’ as their starting point, Mahed-Ul-Islam Choudhury, C. Emdad Haque and Sanzida Habib explore the factors limiting women’s engagement with and influence over natural resource management projects in Bangladeshi communities. Their article identifies the individual and collective consequences of such exclusion, while interrogating the complex interplay of structural forces and agency as constraints on women’s participation. The writings of Anthony Giddens, Pierre Bourdieu and Frances Cleaver inform the theoretical framework presented by the authors who ultimately conclude that ‘the prevailing social structure at large holds women back from exercising their agency’. This theme of participation and its limitations, along with the associated gaps between reality and rhetoric, is also explored by Yunjeong Yang in her critical commentary on Korea’s Saemaul Undong movement of the 1970s. Conscious of Korea’s emerging status as a development donor, contemporary policy makers construct and promote the movement as an illustrative model of ‘community-driven’ development that might be replicable in other contexts. However, the article challenges this narrative through a case-study analysis of two villages, Dongmak and Sedong, that lays bare the differential scope and depth of participation in each setting, the contrasting forms of leadership experienced by communities and the implications of poor participatory practice for the sustainability of development. Under the umbrella of Saemaul Undong, there could be found programmes of mass mobilization that serviced a ‘top-down drive for rural modernization’ and more democratic forms of community based decision making and representation. Yunjeong Yang contends that if development is to be truly sustainable, then it must ensure that people can ‘participate voluntarily and willingly’ in activities that are meaningful to them. Evidently, community development theory and practice is beset by recurring dilemmas and debates about this concept of participation; nonetheless the word participation has secured a place of honour in the community development lexicon. In her article Naomi Joy Godden calls our attention to the comparatively neglected and mis-recognized concept of love. Informed by the writings of bell hooks and others, she challenges activists, professionals and writers to recognize the place of a ‘love ethic’ within our praxis. Asserting the transformative and egalitarian possibilities of love, the author reflects upon her own engagement in a group process of ‘co-operative inquiry’ undertaken in Timor-Leste that generated a ‘love ethic’ framework for community work practice. Deliberations and dialogue within the group context led to the co-construction of insights into the nature of love, the forms it takes in family and community contexts, the ways it is expressed and its objectives. The article argues that this process reflected a radical departure from the (external) donor-led development model that is increasingly hegemonic in Timor-Leste as it supported paid, volunteer and activist community workers to ‘collectively develop a framework of practice that honoured local knowledges’. If the concept of love is curiously absent from community development discourses, then the concept of ‘resilience’ has been enthusiastically embraced by British policy makers in recent years. Although its often depoliticized and simplistic usages are widely critiqued, Artur Steiner, Mike Woolvin and Sarah Skerratt contend that the concept is probably ‘here to stay’. Rejecting accounts of resilience that might reduce it to an ability to ‘bounce back’ or ‘stay the same’ in the face of external shocks, they envisage communities that can ‘thrive’ as they navigate on-going change. Presenting findings from a Capacity for Change programme undertaken in ‘less-resourced rural communities’ in Scotland, the article posits a multi-dimensional model for identifying and measuring resilience: the authors maintain that it is experienced collectively and individually and that it has both economic and social dimensions. Their own fieldwork underlines the importance of tracking resilience across all four dimensions and it also seeks to demonstrate the applicability of a ‘robust qualitative and quantitative research tool’ for exploring if and how communities experience resilience in their everyday contexts. Julia Fursova’s article addresses the non-profit sector and its role in reinforcing and furthering processes of neoliberalization in Canada. Reflecting on her own experiences as a community engagement worker in Toronto, she problematizes the displacement of advocacy and critical community development approaches by the service provision type initiatives that have emerged in the face of neoliberal restructuring, retrenchment and re-governmentalization. She also profiles a context where the mantra ‘we are in the business of community development’ has taken on very worrying and literal connotations, as the non-profit sector begins to function as a ‘neoliberal para-state’. Nonetheless, her account acknowledges the dialectical potential of community development, how it can be ‘integrationist’ or ‘oppositional’ or indeed how it can manifest both tendencies simultaneously. Explaining how issues of access to and control over public space have become crucial for communities in the Bathurst-Finch neighbourhood in the city, she contrasts a community development organization that promotes an ‘asset-based approach with an emphasis on voluntarism’ with one that is committed to ‘political action at the local level’. Interestingly, she argues that the politics, discourses and practices of the commons might help to rescue community development from its current imbrication within processes of neoliberalization, inspiring communities to assert their ‘right to the city’ in which they live while protecting and creating spaces for democratic encounter. A number of articles in this issue prompt interrogation of the resilience of the ‘imaginary of development’ (Escobar, 1992, p. 25), serving as bleak reminders of how projects of modernization, progress and growth continue to generate their opposites. Neelmani Jaysawal and Sudeshna Saha’s article profiles the causes and extent of ‘displacement by development’ in Odisha in India: how it disproportionately impacts on Tribal peoples, destroying their livelihoods, homes and communities. Since Independence, Indian state-led modernization programmes have incorporated large-scale dam building and the transfer of agricultural land for other forms of wealth creation. More recently ‘development’ has taken on a more neoliberal hue, with private actors and market forces unleashed on the forest and land areas that have sustained Tribal peoples. Detailing both the scale of and the terrible human, social and environmental costs of displacement, the article ultimately begs the question, what is the role and positioning of community development in contexts such as this? Does it too represent ‘exclusionary growth’? Or can it stand up for and render possible the ‘right to self-determination’ of Tribal peoples in India? In contrast, Uwafiokun Idemudia and Nedo Osayande’s article focuses on theme of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and if and how it might be possible to measure its impacts on community development from a corporate perspective. Drawing on Shell Petroleum Development Company’s involvement in oil extraction in the Niger Delta, and acknowledging some of the complexities underpinning its relationships with local communities, the article considers recent moves to develop Global Memorandum of Understandings whereby the corporation provides five-year funding streams for community development initiatives. The authors then assess the utility of the Shell Community Transformation and Development Index for measuring the associated outcomes for communities. As Michael Edwards has observed elsewhere (2008, p. 25) ‘CSR has grown into a major industry itself, with its own small army of consultants, councils, research institutions, monitors and standard setters’. The energy spent on auditing and measuring CSR outcomes, however, is not sufficient to erase deeper and more disturbing concerns about the purposes of CSR and the extent to which it seeks to grease the wheels of economic exploitation by buying off what might otherwise be resistant communities. Nor is it sufficient to erase awareness of the profound environmental, social and human costs that have followed Shell’s ‘engagement’ with communities in places like the Niger Delta or the West of Ireland. Indeed, some of those costs are evoked in the article written by Nwamaka Okeke-Ogbuafor, Tim Gray and Selina Marguerite Stead, which observes that despite evidence of oil exploration’s ‘life-threatening health hazards’ for Ogoni communities in Nigeria, their ‘complaints have not been met by either the Nigerian government or Shell’. Their article proceeds to challenge claims that community based organizations (CBOs) are an effective ‘conduit’ for community development in Ogoniland. Highlighting the difficulties in conclusively defining the term community based organization, the authors note the presence of traditional – emerging from within communities – and modern – emerging from outside communities – variants in the region. Their fieldwork draws attention to the very divergent expectations of development being articulated by community based organizations, ranging from concerns with the provision of basic infrastructure to more social, environmental, or cultural preoccupations. It ultimately suggests that there is considerable disagreement among community members regarding the merit, effectiveness, inclusivity and ethics of much of what passes for community development activity, whether it is conducted by traditional or modern CBOs. This too is a reminder that for all its power to function as social glue or to sustain social solidarity, ‘community’ may incite contestation, competition and conflict; that as Jeremy Brent argued previously in the Community Development Journal (2004, p. 214), ‘Division and disunity are part and parcel of community politics’. This issue also includes a ‘Reflections’ piece that highlights on-going efforts in Georgia to both remember and to remind the wider population of forgotten histories of community based and civil society activism dating back to the nineteenth century. Anna Margvelashvili and Irakli Khvadagiani confront the widely held assumption that community development has no past or indigenous reference points in Georgia, pointing to how this mistaken view might actually reinforce contemporary feelings of ‘nihilism’ or apathy. They therefore alert us to the importance of revisiting and drawing sustenance from alternative or peoples’ histories, which reveal fissures in and resistances to the operation of ‘official’ power in authoritarian or anti-democratic contexts. Finally, the issue concludes on a bracing note with the ‘Book Reviews’ section. Reviewers appraise texts on the subsistence economy, DIY activism in Detroit and the relationship between class politics and community development; three books that problematize in varying ways capitalism and its capacity to permit sustainable futures, economic equality or indeed ‘development’. References Brent, J. ( 2004) The desire for community: illusion, confusion and paradox, Community Development Journal , 39 ( 3), 213– 223. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Diprose, G., Bond, S., Thomas, A.C., Barth, J. and Urquhart, H. ( 2017) The violence of (in)action: communities, climate and business-as-usual, Community Development Journal , 52 ( 3), 488– 505. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Edwards, M. ( 2008) Just Another Emperor? The Myths and Realities of Philanthrocapitalism, Demos: A Network for Ideas & Action, The Young Foundation, http://www.futurepositive.org/edwards_WEB.pdf (5 October 2017). Escobar, A. ( 1992) Imagining a post-development era? Critical thought, development and social movements, Social Text , 31/32, 20– 56. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Mowbray, M. ( 2011) What became of the local state? Neo-liberalism, community development and local government, Community Development Journal , 46 ( SI), i132– i153. Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS © Oxford University Press and Community Development Journal. 2018 All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Community Development Journal – Oxford University Press
Published: Jan 1, 2018
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