The Concept of Community
Community participation in governance simply means engagement of people in community decision making especially on matters that affect their lives. Many times people are reluctant to take part in decision making but for the good off the community communal participation is important. This can be made possible through creation of awareness on the importance of communal participation. The term community participation is sometimes confused with the term consultation when it comes to decision making. This may be because there generally has been a lack of clarity in governance circles when it comes to the role the public should play in decision making. According to Burns and Rowntree (2004), the term community development means that the community is playing a major role in decision making and has a significant degree of power and influence in the process.
There are many good reasons why there should be community participation in decision making. Participation is important in developing democracy and accountability in service delivery and enhances social responsibility since people learn the importance of working together. Community participation also enhances efficiency and effectiveness through understanding and sharing of knowledge. It is considered by many to be the best way of solving problems collectively. According to Burns and Rowntree (2004), it also enhances enactment of relevant policies and adds economic value through creating employment opportunities and skills enhancements.
In order for there to be effective community participation in decision making the process has to have a starting point. Firstly, it is important to recognize the every community has diverse and elaborate trends that are usually dictated by the community’s needs. This acts as a strong base to initiate progress in community work. Community participation is no doubt a process that ultimately achieves change in a community. In many ways a community can be compared to an organization. When people are motivated to work in unison with each other, change is usually apparent. The good thing about community participation is the fact that there are many benefits. However, for sustainable growth and change there has to be commitment from those in leadership as well as the community members. There are also a number of principles that are important in the establishment of the needed framework for community participation. In order to come up with the right frame work aspects such as establishing the needs of the community and prioritizing them is crucial. Existing social networks should also be scrutinized to find their strengths and weaknesses. There is also a need for establishing partnerships between governing organs and reviving any dormant ones especially if they affect the community directly. According to Burns and Rowntree (2004), there is a need for developing effective infrastructure to enable community participation.
Team work in a workplace can be used as a very good blue print for how community decision making should work. This is the best way to achieve results within an organization. Employees perform well when they are collaborating in teams. In team work exercise, every member of the team participates in the activity at hand. This is a method used by many organizations to achieve their goals and meet their targets. Within a team, employees are motivated to participate in the activities of the organization among them the decision making processes. The management of an organization identifies the needs of the employees and puts in place the adequate resources and infrastructure to enable them to do their work. This should be practiced by community leadership. Team work makes work easier for the team members as well as promoting change in an organization. A good working environment is improved when people work together. According to Burns and Rowntree (2004), when there is good leadership in an organization employees are able to focus all their strengths and resources towards accomplishment of the organization goals.
Currently many countries around the world are increasingly directing their efforts towards establishing community capacity building. This is aimed at encouraging individuals to work in organizations such as child centers and community schools. As a project manager at the ADT African Development Trust, I have seen the best coming out of community participation. Firstly, ADT is a charity organization aimed improving the quality of life globally. ADT participates in finding holistic approaches for getting to the bottom of problems facing the African continent. It is an organization that was established in Britain with the aim of collaborating with locals across Africa in finding solutions to their problems. The organization is purely non-political and non-profit making. The mission of ADT is solely to empower local communities by establishing sustainable development projects. As a manager at ADT, I have been able to coordinate activities that address human suffering.
Community development practices have a variety of features that makes it possible for individuals within the community to engage with the leadership. Firstly they are guided by purpose, this means that they are well structured and they clearly stipulate the work at hand. They have clear goals and aims that are decided by what the community wants to accomplish by the end of the process. ADT has assisted a number of widows, orphans and sick people in Africa to get a decent life. ADT has also ensured that disadvantaged people in Africa get access to good healthcare, both physical and mental. The suffering communities have not only obtained basic needs but also education. Policies in community participation assist in coming up with specific frameworks that lead to effective actions. At ADT, there is a well designed and implemented needs-based program.
It is though these programs that ADT has assisted in establishing smooth relationships with the governments and the communities in Africa. Programs in a way assist in implementation of policies. ADT has also succeeded in working in collaboration with other international NGOs, donor communities, local communities and governments
Community practices also require well established social practices in any given comunity. These involve the methodologies applicable in performing operations, the operations itself and the required skills expected to accomplish the operations. Within ADT, one main practice that makes the entire operation successful is networking and research. Another important when it comes to community practices is processes. These are routine operations that keep the general operations of the activities moving. These are usually the activities that respond to the needs and characteristics of the community. They are more or less related to occupation and capacity building in the organization. Context also marks a great feature in community activities. This is mainly concerned with the general environment surrounding the community. For instance, issues related to politics, economics and social-political. ADT has faced many challenges in environmental conditions surrounding community work mainly because of the different cultural practices amongst African communities. For example some countries face tough economic and political conditions hence and therefore display hostile characteristics that may be a hindrance to community work. The good thing is that with time community work finds a way of reducing some of these challenges through extensive activities. There are many benefits that individuals gain when they participate in these activities. According to Taylor (2003), community activities is a way of eliminating social and political barriers that destroys the peaceful coexistence.
Frameworks exist for achieving effective community work efforts. A good example is establishment of debates and dialogues. These are measures that get people to participate in the work through equal contribution. With dialogue people can genuinely contribute without fear or intimidation. Creation of awareness is also an effective means of achieving effectiveness in the process. It is also positive because it gets people in a community to speak out some of the issues that affect them. It also serves as a way of getting to know the needs of the community. Community work requires the highest level of accountability and transparency. This serves to achieve equality and fairness for all. Without transparency there will always be conflicts of interests and that is a fact. Strategic development is also another good example of achieving effectiveness in community work. According to Goss (2002), trategic development assists in provision of strategic tools and procedures for promoting the key issues that foster development.
The importance of participating in community activities and especially enactment of policies can only be appreciated by enlightened citizens. These are people who know their rights and therefore want to foster democracy in their countries. Participation of both the citizens and the government is of advantage in shaping the public policy of the nation. Professionals taking part in these practices stand a great chance of influencing the community and their families in a positive way. They not only provide for them but also encourage them to participate as well. In the case of educators, practitioners and scholars who take part, they hold big responsibilities. It has made it possible for many people to learn about the importance of these activities in the community. The most important thing currently, is the fact that programs has been introduced in schools and institutions of higher learning to educate and prepare young people for these responsibilities. According to Ralston e.al (1999), this is a way of ensuring that future leaders are prepared at an early age to keep the activities and programs running even in the near future
Community participation is a good way to get people to unite to accomplish their goals. It is process that is beneficial both to individuals and the community as a whole. There are many issues that are addressed within the process that lead to peaceful coexistence. With community participation there are certain important values that the community will come from it. There are also a number of policies and principles that guide the entire process. The main thing that motivate people to participate is the training and learning. This gains individuals leadership skills in the process. This assisted people to be more aware of what is expected of the process. The process also comes with important features that assist in shaping the public policies in a country. It all boils down to dedication that people put into the process. Participants of these activities ameliorate their lives as well as those of their families. Current trends offer promising results for the future. References
Burns, D., & Rowntree, J. (2004). Making Community Participation Meaningful: A handbook for Development and Assessment . The Policy Press.
Goss, S. (2002). “Local Goverance and Communitie” in Marketing Local Governance Work. Palgrave.
Ralston, P. A., Lerner, R. M., & Mullis, A. K. (1999). Social Change, Public Policy, and Community Collaborations: Trainning Human Development Professionals for the Twenty-first Century. Springer.
S.Gross. (2001). Making Local Governance Work. Palgrave.
Shaw, M., & Martin, I. (2000). Community Work Citizenship and Democracy. Remaking the Connections Community Journal , 35 (4), pp 401-413.
Taylor, M. (2003). Public Policy in the Comunity. Palgrave MacMillan
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