Special Articles / Heather Percey, Peter Orpin / Community Work : Theories, Experiences & Challenges
Community development (CD) involves dynamic processes which are particularly visible in rural communities.Rural CD projects can have unintended consequences upon the interwoven dynamics of the fabric of rural communities, independent of whether or not project objectives are achieved.A greater theoretical understanding of these processes is needed to better manage outcomes and side-effects.
Through a grounded theory study, theoretical insights have been developed modelling the community processes associated with rural CD.Based on differing aetiologies, the model classifies three types of community:feature, interest and cause-based.A multiplicity of these communities acted as constituents of each rural community, being part of, yet separate to the rural community.In coexisting, they were constituted by and subject to boundary processes.The model describes boundary processes of agendas, alignment and non-alignment,in addition to differentiation and symbolic expression.
Rural CD involved establishing and managing a cause-based constituent community amongst existing constituent communities.In this manner, projects are subject to community boundary processes.The model also expands the often conflated concepts of community ownership and support, identifying them as distinct processes with different roles in rural CD.Management of these processes affected both the rural community fabric and project success.
Keywords: rural community development, community boundary processes, constituent communities, agendas, alignments, community ownership, community support
Experienced community development (CD) practitioners will recognise that even well designed CDinterventions play out in ways that fall outside of the script.Regardless of how effective or ineffective a CD project is in achieving its objectives, its presence within a community can give rise to changes within that community that are both unplanned and unexpected.For example, when involved in implementing a training program to increase IT literacy in a rural community, the primary author found that separatetoIT literacy gains, the project also addressed social isolation issues as participants made use of the training space as a place to drop-in and connect with others.Conversely, there can be unintended consequences that can be seen as negative.Many practitioners can describe experiences where a project has also involvedresistance, conflict and/or a sense of disempowerment, for example, whenproject control and direction are being determined from outside of the community.
This chapter argues that greater management of both intended and unintended outcomes in CD can be achieved through better understanding and sensitivity regardingthe dynamics underlying community processes.In particular, the boundary processes that constitute the multiple communities found within place-based communities are pivotal in shaping the direction and outcomes of CD.A model is presented as a basis for understanding how key community processes work in relation to rural CD.
The model was developed through a grounded theory study of rural CD projects within three different rural communities in Australia.In this chapter, these communities are blended and called Our town to illustrate the main understandings emerging from the study while ensuring communities and individuals are not identifiable.Accordingly, the ‘quotes’ are, at times, a blend from different people in the different towns, but remain true to the sentiment expressed.
‘Our town’ is a small rural town in Australia with a population of approximately 3,000.The town was historically based around fishing and agriculture, but recent change has led to an increased focus on tourism and an influx of retired residents seeking a sea change. These changes are visible within the town layout.The older homes are grouped around the main street, and the more modern residences in a subdivision with water views.The centre of town has the few local services clustered within a 200 metre strip.There is a small supermarket, a newsagent and postal outlet, one part-time doctor, a pub, and a recently established café which is open during the tourism season. Ourtown lies quite close to three other small rural towns and about twenty kilometres from a regional centre which services a population of around 14,000.
Rural Community as a Process
The central premise of this chapter is that community is best understood,not as a static entity, but as a relational dynamic process in which a multitude of overlapping constituent communities co-exist through a continual process of boundary negotiation and renegotiation.Although similar processes shape community in all its forms, the geographic isolation of the rural community provides clear boundaries within which these processes take place, rendering them particularly apparent.
Boundaries and Community Identityand Meaning
Communities take shape from and act as a repository for meaning and identity.Identity is expressed and symbolised in interactions, relationships, names, symbols and rituals (Brodsky & Marx, 2001; Cohen, 1989), which all create meaning.Members actively construct the community identity to give meaning to their experience (Colombo & Senatore, 2005; Hodgett & Royle, 2003; Kenny, 2006) and reduce the complexity of life (Connell, 2002).Defining a place through differentiating it from other places gives meaning and a sense of connectedness for people, making the world comprehensible.In this manner, meaning, identity and community are interconnected processes involving fluidity of construct with each changing and shaping the others.
Community is frequently defined by locality.In community literature, this understanding is often referred to as ‘place-based’ community.Community of place includes the relationships of people in a physical location and, perhaps more importantly, the meaning people associate with the geographic space and its physical features (Cheers, Darracott, & Lonne, 2007; Taylor, Wilkinson, & Cheers, 2008).The physical space of a locality, including services and infrastructure, can be considered the settlement, while the rural community is understood to be the interaction of people within and with the physical space (Cheers et al., 2007).Even though contained by physical boundaries, the focus is on relationships, the accompanying meaning and corresponding identity associated with the locality.
Place-based community boundaries (as with other forms of community) are temporal and dynamic in that they are defined at a point in time according to the purpose for distinguishing a community’s existence.Boundaries are ‘continually recreated, through the interactions and perceptions of local people as they go about their daily lives’(Cheers & Luloff, 2001, p. 130).The distinction between populated and non-populated areas found in rural geography provides a boundary for place-based communities.This containment, combined with the physical distance from other place-based communities, fosters a sense of community identity.However, as seen with Ourtown (below), while rural community boundaries and the membership they imply frequently align with settlements within a region, at times they encompass the broader rural region.
Community identity and the associated meaning are not due to the physical boundaries per se so much as the experience of living in community within these landmarks.The experience becomes associated with, and in turn symbolised in, landmarks.This association helps to explain the paradox of experiencing clearly identifiable boundaries which are at the same time fluid, positioned in response to the purpose of their identification.If it is not the physical boundaries per se that provide meaning and identity, but the associated experience of rural community living, then it is not necessary for a boundary to be immovable, so long as the experiences are contained within the boundary.
Small communities and distinct boundaries have been found to promote community identification and engagement (Nowell, Berkowitz, Deacon, & Foster-Fishman, 2006; Puddifoot, 1996).The capacity to identify clear geographic boundaries as found in rural communities like Ourtown, contributes to a strong sense of community identity and belonging which, as a motivation to be involved in community activity, facilitates CD. While the boundary positions are changeable, they remain highly visible in the distinction between populated and non-populated areas.The highly visible dynamics of small isolated communities where ‘everyone knows everyone’ highlight that improvements occur through local initiative and action, further promoting community engagement.
Ourtown residents describe a strong sense of collective identity as a rural community.At times this is displayed in rivalry with the other rural towns in the area.Residents consider themselves the poor cousins, particularly in relation to council spending.However, for the purposes of gaining funding for CD projects, residents describe all three townships as their rural community, temporarily putting aside differences and focusing on a broader rural community identity.
For some, the sense of connection with their communityis expressed through being involved in lots of community activities.As Jenny says, ‘I’m in the Red Cross, the State Emergency Service, the Mothers’ Club,Friends of the School. I’m a life member of the footy club.I love Ourtown and just love things to go right for it.’This strong connection and desire to contribute is attributed,in part, to their community being a clearly identifiable rural community.As John explains, ‘In a town of this nature, well it’s got a heart.That’s the only reason the project happened, because the community’s got a soul.Underneath there’s a bubbling mass of people and humanity that argue and enjoy life together.I mean it’s an identifiable community;you can put a ring around it very easily unlike suburbs in a large city.Here you go down the street and you know everyone.’
Like other place-based communities, Ourtown is made up of a multiplicity of communities.In the community literature these have been variably described, for example, as nested communities, sub-communities or layers of communities (Brodsky & Marx, 2001; Cavaye, 2001; Hunter, 2007). In the model presented here, these multiple communities have been termed constituent communities to describe how they relate to‘whole’ community.While entities in themselves, combined they comprise the rural community and are thus constituents in that each is ‘one of the individual parts of which a composite entity is made up; especially a part that can be separated from or attached to a system …’ (Princeton University, 2001), while also‘serving to form, compose, or make up a unit or whole’ (Merriam-Webster, 2012).
Residents talked about the rural community as ‘the whole’ or ‘broader’ community which was comprised of smaller communities defined through a shared identity, in feature, purpose or interest.As Samuel explained, ‘It’s a normal rural community with your haves and have-nots, a predominant aged community, your new settlers, and those established residents who were born and bred.Then there’s the normal tragic footy club and all that, the usual thing:sporting clubs, arts and music communities, oh and the business community.’
Rural CD projects interact not only with the place-based rural community with its associated identities and meanings, but with a multitude of constituent communities.The degree to which an understanding of these communities is factored into the managing of CD processes is important in determining project outcomes.Such an understanding of community processes can be assisted by considering the aetiologies of these communities.The different foundations behind their existence translate into different structures, values, meaning and processes.Table 1 defines the categories of communities in the model.
While from a sociological viewpointthe term ‘community’ is associated with social interaction, it has long been used to encompass commonalities including demographic, psychological and social factors such as age, economic status or gender(Brawley, 1994; Colombo &Senatore, 2005).In the present model these are termed ‘feature’ communities.These relate to the concept of social identity where, in the process of daily living, people use commonality and difference as the basis for drawing boundaries to attribute community membership to themselves or others(Reisch & Guyet, 2007),and collectively distinguish one entity from another (Cnaan&Breyman, 2007):an us-them delineation.This process is described by Shaw (2008, p.29)as‘community as a process of differentiation’.
In such definitions, face-to-face interaction is not a necessary property of community.While at times structured processes may occur, for example ‘seniors’ or ‘youth’ activities, engagement with these structures is not necessary for membership, as the boundaries of feature communities are determined by a person being considered to hold that particular feature.Even in the absence of substantial face-to-face interaction, Ourtown ‘feature’ communities were identified and functioned within the rural CD process in much the same manner as those marked by frequent social interaction, justifying their inclusion in the model.As with other forms of constituent community, boundaries are fluid, responding to subtle changes of purpose or need.A powerful feature community boundary process within Ourtown was that structured around length of residence in the community.
Communities of interestare defined in the community literature as a group of people with both an interest in common and social interaction of varying degrees in conjunction with the commonality(Blackshaw, 2010; Komaromi, 2003; Taylor et al., 2008).The concept covers a broad range of pursuits across, for example, recreational, political, spiritual or professional concerns, and these are found within and spanning place-based communities (Desjardins, Halseth, Leblanc, & Ryser, 2002; Kenny, 2006; Taylor, et al., 2008).This use is broader than that proposed in the current model in which it is more narrowly defined as where a strong common interest creates a focus for interaction but where there is no requirement for set activities or goals.This definition is adopted to exclude those communities that are categorised in the model as cause-based communities.
Interest communities, while active to some extent around the common interest, need not be overly structured for the sharing of interest-based information to occur.As understood in this model, theyare purely about connecting to share a particular joint interest.In this way theyare distinguished from communities which arisede novoto achieve change goals that cross-cut and reach beyond the narrower goals of individual interest-based communities.
Within Ourtown there were a multiplicity of interest communities around sporting activities, artistic, musical and craft pursuits.Interest-based communities were some of the more easily recognised communities as they were named by the strong common interest which defined their existence, for example, the ‘angling club’, the ‘arts community’, and the ‘bowling club’.Members’ passion for their interest also drew attention to these communities.The term ‘tragic football club’highlights the boundary found through the dedication expressed by members.
While literature on communities tends to include cause communities under the descriptor communities of interest, their separation in this model is due to their significance in CD processes.The term ‘cause’ is used here to describe particular communities, based on the meaning:‘a goal or principle served with dedication and zeal’(Houghton Mifflin Company, 2009).Communities of cause arise to forward a particular cause or purpose – to achieve a specific goal or activity(such as campaigning for a service to benefit the wider community) and thus include those forwarding CD projects.While the cause community may have its roots in an existing interest community, it is more likely to arise as a separate entity in response to a need or concern, with the pursuit of that cause as the sole reason for existence.
Communities of cause are defined by the need for action towards a set agenda and goal.While interest communities need not be structured to fulfil the role of sharing an interest, in order for a cause community to fulfil the function of attaining the objectives for which it is established, planned and structured processes underpin the community’s functioning in both the establishment and maintenance of the community.
Some communities in Ourtown existed because, as Jeremy expressed, ‘They had a cause, they thought it was the best thing for Ourtown and they were going to make it happen!’For example, when the idea fora CD project arose within the local business community, some members then stepped out and actioned a new cause community with a broader membership focused on the activity and ideals associated with the cause of establishing a specific community facility.While there was overlap in membership, they were identified as different constituent communities:the business community was seen as an interest community sharing business concerns, whereas the CD project community was defined by their cause (establishing a facility and service for all within Ourtown).To attain their goal, members from the cause community met weekly to monitor and plan the resourcing, activities and the needed representation and connections with other communities.
As cause communities are about action, in progressing their agendas there are highly visible boundary processes in their interactions with other communities.In this manner, community boundaries are most apparent at the point of difference from another community.This is particularly evident with other cause communities where there is conflict around their respective values and agendas.
Tensions were described in Ourtown, between those who supported commercially driven structural changes such as multistorey buildings or land subdivisions (‘developer community’), and those who sought to maintain the status quo (‘status-quo community’).Developer community members saw structural change as progressive, whereas status-quo members saw it as undermining what they valued in the rural community culture.Conflict between these communities led to power struggles as each pushed ahead with their agendas.Where developers successfully implemented contentious change, a strong sense of injustice and mistrust emerged amongst status quo members.The strength of sentiment was apparent in the description of developers as‘the main street mafia’.
In summary, rural community is a dynamic space where multiple constituent communities co-exist and cross-cut.This is rural community as process rather than as a prescribed or fixed entity.Over time, constituent communities come into being, are sustained, transformed and dissipate through a process of continual negotiation and renegotiation of boundaries.Rural CD involves entering into this complex boundary negotiation process in order to create a new cause community.
Community Processes Model:
Negotiating Community Boundaries in Rural CD
As a new community,a CD cause community is not only established amongst the multitude of constituent communities that make up the rural community,but its membership is drawn from these existing constituent communities.Recruiting new members to the cause community requires negotiating the boundary processes of the constituent communities and that, in turn, requires an understanding of the values, meanings, and agendas that shape each community.
Figure 1 depicts a model of these community processes in relation to rural CD.As constituent communities of cause, CD project communities experience the same boundary process of differentiation, agendas, alignment and symbolic expression as other communities.Rural CD involves understanding how these boundary processes relate to the emerging CD cause community, the existing constituent communities and how they interact with community ownership and support.As such, their management interacts with the community fabric and in turn project outcomes.
Boundary Processes of Constituent Communities
The arrows in Figure 1 identify the boundary processes that were highlighted in the study. The existence and relevance of the dynamic process of community boundary differentiation has been described in a range of community literature, as has the interconnection with identity and meaning (Brent, 1997; Cohen, 1982; Cohen, 1989; Colombo & Senatore, 2005; Dixon, Hoatson, & Weeks, 2003). The role of symbolic expression to express to other communities the significance, identity and meaning in belonging to a community is also documented(Cohen, 1989; Nowell et al., 2006).As these are covered elsewhere, the focus below is on agendas, alignments and non-alignment as outlined in Table 2.
Agendas are acknowledged within CD literature to be an integral aspect of community dynamics.A general review of CD journals reveals an acknowledgement of agendas within both CD projects and the wider community environment.Frequent terms include government agendas, economic agendas, political agendas, neo-liberal agendas, social agendas and hidden agendas.The current model views agendas in relation to their role in community boundary processes.Although agendas are most often recognised when considered pernicious and a threat to projects, in the model they are viewed as an expression of different values and part of the boundary processes to be navigated and negotiated.
An agenda is the active expression of the values of the constituent community.As such, they represent the meaning a boundary holds for a community – the significant components of belonging and identity associated with community membership.For example, environmental and social preservation were considered paramount in the approach to daily livingfor the green community in Ourtown.
Conflicting agendas particularly define the community identity as separate from another community, demonstrating difference.The basis of the differences is in the values of each community.As agendas are an expression of the values, identity and meaning of the collective, to compromise on agendas is to compromise on these values and meanings and thus represents a challenge to identityand meaning for the collective existence.
Strongly contrasted agendas were found in interactions between forestry/agriculture and green/alternative constituent communities.Emotive language was used by members in each community about the other, intimating the strength of meaning the issues presented for members.Members were unable to compromise the core values that identified their community; for example, the Greens’ prime focus was on the environmental and social issues, while within forestry and agricultural communities the focus was on resources and resource management.As Fred saw it, ‘We don’t get together with the Greens and agriculture and forestry because we can’t co-operate.We have a different perspective on things.’
It is also possible for constituent communities to have similar membership and yet be identified as different communities because of the different purpose and agendas for existing as a collective.In small rural communities such as Ourtown, the same people may mix for different purposes; for example, an interest community pursuing jazz music may have a significant overlap with a cause community to improve local hall facilities, or the business community.In this manner the purpose and agenda define a community in conjunction with the ongoing boundary processes of differentiation.
Alignments have been described in different ways in the literature.For example, exploring the idea of community as small groups, Reisch and Guyet (2007) discuss literature which describes varying degrees of connection of groups within communities.There is also a plethora of literature viewing communities through relational systems, networks and social circles which encompasses the quality of the differing connections (Barbesino, 1997).In the current model, the functions of the boundary processes in these connections are explored in the concept of alignments.The concept is also similar to literature that describes the importance and character of networks in their role of enabling the capacity to resource and increase the success of CD (Cavaye, 2001; Cnaan, Milofsky, & Hunter, 2007).Yet, while alignments connect constituent communities through building on networks, they are more than networks in that they identify the boundary process qualities of the shared values and meaning underpinning the connections.
Within CD, cause communities align with various individuals and constituent communities to gain access to skills,knowledge or resources which assistin achieving goals.Building alignments involves renegotiating existing community boundary processes by identifying and focusing on the shared meanings and values underpinning the respective communities’ agendas.In this manner, alignments are closely associated with the identity of constituent communities,and respective members (or other rural community members) perceive the connection as implying complementary values across the two communities.
Three types of alignment were apparent in Ourtown: those where cause community members utilised their membership within other constituent communities (the values shared across boundaries were already established for multiple membership to occur);those built through a cause community member emphasising the shared values with an individual from their networks;and formalised agreements between collectives.
Residents in Ourtown variously described having contacts, links and ‘networks’ through social interests and vocations, and their importance in resourcing activities, gaining support and understanding current community dynamics so as to make informed decisions in the CD process.As Carol explained, ‘... and so, you know, you work out the best way to do something and you’ve got to take the politics and the alliances and things into account before you work out how to implement it.’In one new cause community, membership was carefully selected to include a representation across feature, interest and cause communities, so as to demonstrate the importance of the project agenda across the rural community and,in turn, facilitate multiple membership alignments to support the project’s completion;they ensured seniors, youth, newcomers, long-timers, business, and arts were included in their cause community membership. In another cause community, an individual aligning with a media contact improved access to project publicity.One cause community joined with the school community making formal arrangements to share resources to deliver a project on increasing social skills.In each case, the alignments were built by focusing on the values and meanings shared across the boundaries rather than the points of difference upon which the boundaries were based.
Non-alignment is evident where members take steps to disassociate their community from another, usually in direct response to perceived clashes of values, agendas and related activities.In Ourtown, non-alignment ensued when it was felt that demonstrating the difference benefited progressing the cause.
Larsen (1982) identified avoidance as a boundary process used in managing constituent communities in conflict.This describes a way of sharing place-based community space while avoiding confrontation and open conflict.Non-alignment differs in that while it too is a boundary process in managing cohabitating amongst conflict, it is about demonstrating difference and independence of another set of values (which has the potential to incite conflict depending on the manner in which it is done), not a strategy for avoiding conflict.
Non-alignments highlight the relationship between alignment and identity. In Ourtown an alignment of values was perceived between two constituent communities due to some shared membership.Without additional information, residents assumed a new constituent community to involve the known values associated with other constituent communities to which members belonged.This perception may be erroneous, as seen below, where the project purpose and cause community focus was not associated with forestry or developer practices and principles.There can be a need for non-alignment in such circumstances, where perceived connections might negatively affect the CD.
Conflict between forestry and green constituent communities affected other establishing constituent cause communities’ activities and acceptance, as did receiving support from contentious developers.In the absence of values presented by one forming CD community, residents first saw founding members’ membership within other constituent communities and anticipated alignment ofvalues.The new cause community struggled to build members as an instigating member held a high profile within the green community and many agricultural and forestry members assumed the new community would be built upon green values they considered incompatible with their own.Once the CD cause community changed their formal leader to a non-green member, and promoted their own cause (founded in non-contentious values), their membership grew and project tasks progressed.Another CD cause community used a building owned by a developer.Some rural community members saw this as an alignment.The CD community counteracted by actively demonstrating their non-alignment;as Stanley said, ‘I had to work fairly hard at saying ‘We are not [developer], we are not [developer]’.Just ’cos it’s in the same building, just because [developer] built it.We are nothing to do with [developer].’
Community Ownership and Support
Within the model, community ownership and support are identified as distinct concepts with different functions in the boundary processes of CD cause communities.While ownership takes responsibility and directly tackles the tasks associated with a project, support is important in accessing skills, resources and in building momentum within the cause community, yet is less demanding and thus more accessible where people have limited time and energy.They are summarised in Table 3.
Ownership occurs through core CD cause community members embracing both the project concept with the associated values and meaning, and the responsibility of the project tasks.In comparison, community support encompasses a broader sample from, and at times beyond, the rural community, and does not necessitate continued responsibility.
Ownership of the project concept is built on a strong sense of connection with the rural community which is founded in people’s inherent need for purpose and meaning in life and, similarly, to define and express identity through belonging (see earlier, ‘boundaries and community identity and meaning’).It is further facilitated by an identified need for the project within the rural community and local control.Many CD practitioners can identify projects where lack of local control has led to no responsibility within the rural communityfor project tasks.
Cause community members with a sense of ownership of a project describe community support as something that exists and that they need to engage with or access. They receive support from other members or through alignments to complete a specific task, but the responsibility for the project momentum remains within the sphere of ownership.
Community support is managed through boundary negotiation processes by building alignments through engagement which presents the cause community agenda, and focuses on the shared, non-contentious values, thus reducing resistance within the rural community. This can be within activities such as surveys, meetings, marketing strategies and developing network relationships.
Ownership can be difficult to engage where there is a history of ‘depressed’ rural community and previous failure.This pertains to community support processes,in that the previous poor conditions and failures build resistance through the expectation of continued failure, rather than support for new effort to bring change.Experiencing community support is both rewarding and motivating for core members, contributing to the ownership and momentum within the CD cause community.Accordingly, where community support is actively managed there can be greater momentum, facilitating the rapid achievement of goals.
In one CD cause community,members were determined not only to ‘make it happen’, but to control the process.As Rodney expressed, ‘We really wanted them to understand it was our project, we own it, and at the end of the day we were going to call the shots....I mean it’s our project for sure.’Similarly, they set about building support in the community.Linda described that:‘Within reason I’d sit there and I’d say, “Who’s going to be against it, and why?”At the beginning I would try and involve those people in the process to educate them to start with, so that you get them on board and you’re half way there.It doesn’t matter whether Doug’s the mayor not, he’s going to have a following.So he’s a good one to have on your side, and that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to agree totally on everything.You don’t do anything that’s really going to upset the senior cits, but something that everyone can see we need, so that you haven’t got the people really against you.’
Cause community members felt encouraged by the support they received, to continue project tasks.As Jed described, ‘The community got behind us, I mean they or a greater proportion of it, became excited about it too, I think.That really just gave us more desire, no stronger word than that, incentive, yes, motivation to get on with it.’
The Model and Project Implementation
The role of boundary processes in rural CD as mapped in Figure 1 can help in understanding the environment of a project by highlighting the rural and constituent community processes with which the project interacts.It can also be used to understand how boundary processes apply in establishing a constituent cause community to forward CD project goals.
Three project examples
1:Three long-time locals in Ourtown saw a need fora training project.They had clear goals with set tasks, and worked on these without initially establishing a constituent community around the project.To avoid conflict, they managed boundaries by identifying and staying away from constituent communities with potentially contentious values.Without aCD cause community defined by boundary processes, values and meaning, there were no members to embrace ownership and tasks remained with the initiators.After two years, they sought greater community involvement, however, the prior avoidance of negotiating boundaries had resulted in no clear collective values and meaning with which rural community members could identify.Inaccurate assumptions had developed about perceived alignments and values, based on the instigators’ membership in existing constituent communities.To address this in part, they swapped leadership from a high profile Green member to a high profile business member.They then worked to dissolve the associated mistrust by promoting their agenda so that the CD cause community identity was clear, and ownership and support could be attained.While it was always felt the support would be there, it took four years to attain their goals.
2:In contrast, the initiators of a similar project with the neighbouring towns immediately invested time in establishing a CD cause community and sought broader community support based on their purpose and the shared values that strengthened alignments.Clear statements about theproject need and benefits were repeated throughout the rural community, which due to funding requirements included the three small towns.Early members identified the constituent communities within their rural community and sought to build alignments and broad support by ensuring membership from each,as the newCD cause community grew.In this manner the cause community was quickly established around a core of 14 members.Community ownership was encouraged by sharing tasks and responsibilities broadly, and ensuring all understood the significance of their contribution to both the cause and rural communities, thus reinforcing a sense of belonging, purpose and achievement for the extensive commitment of individual time and resources.From this commitment core members met weekly to assess progress and set new tasks for the cause community membership.They said the regular interaction, visible progress and support from across the rural community, reinforced the motivation and sense of belonging.It took fourteen months to achieve their goals.
3:Another project in Ourtown began around the issue of domestic violence.A range of interested local and non-local stakeholders mapped out tasks and responsibilities.They all considered that local ownership and passion was important for success.However, rather than establishing a new cause community with a sense of ownership, participants remained representatives of their existing communities,stakeholders making a contribution of support by completing the tasks given them by the non-local initiators.Community support was not sought beyond the stakeholder group due to concern that people might deny the need.When the outside initiators left, there was no core of local members with a sense of responsibility for ensuring that the project progressed and so the project ceased, despite local stakeholders still saying that it was needed.
Boundaries and Identity
It is recognised that how community is defined for funding affects the likely ownership and support offered to projects(Taylor et al., 2008).The geographic boundaries of rural communities are associated with a strong sense of community identity, and correspond with a greater capacity for ownership and support of CD projects.At a policy level, concepts such as social catchments (Hugo, Smailes, Macgregor, Fenton, & Brunckhorst, 2001)for determining funding boundaries might more closely match the existing sense of rural community identity and thus facilitate ownership and support in CD.As with example two, at timesboundaries defined for funding do not match those associated with the rural community identity expressed by members.In such environments, practitioners implementing CD need to become key facilitators of negotiating the existing rural community boundaries to develop a new purpose-specific sense of rural community identity, around which ownership and the CD cause community can then be established.
As a CD practitioner it is helpful to understand the constituent communities that constitute the place-based community of which you are a part.These highlight the boundary processes occurring within the rural community (see also Vergunst, 2006), amidst which the establishment of a cause constituent community emerges.
While constituent communities are temporal and unique to each rural community, some repeatedly arise as important in relation to CD. The role of interest communities in interaction across place-based communities has already been noted (Desjardins et al., 2002).The study additionally highlights the role of feature and cause communities.In particular, boundaries relating to the length of connection with a rural community,and green and forestry cause communities affected community ownership and support.In the immediate future it is conceivable that similar dynamics may exist in many Australian rural communities.Managing these boundaries by, for example, considering long-timers’values in development decision making(particularly when projects were instigated by newcomers), and focusing on the values shared with the CD cause, helped build community ownership and support.
Identifying the existing constituent communities, and their expression of values, meaning and identity through boundary processes, may enable proactive management of community processes in establishing a CD constituent community within rural communities.As constituent and rural communities are constantly negotiating boundaries, conflicting constituent community agendas are part of the complex dynamic of the fabric of the community.If agendas are recognised to be part of maintaining, negotiating or constructing constituent community boundaries, rather than being a subversive influence they provide insight into the values of the related constituent communities and the boundaries to be negotiated.
The meaning and values at the core of agendas shed light on the foundations for building community support and alignments.For example, it may possible to manage the fit between the values and agendas underpinning the project and those of different constituent communities.By focusing on the shared values, attention is drawn away from differences.Further, in managing the impact of the inevitable multiple memberships within CD constituent communities, understanding agendas as an expression of meaning and identity associated with the respective constituent community memberships takes the focus off individuals and instead acknowledges and respects the broader community roles involved.
Establishing a CD Constituent Community Identity
While each of the preceding example projects had similar CD steps as their guide, the manner in which they established a CD constituent community through the negotiation of boundaries was handled differently.This included the extent to which the new community language and values were articulated, to support the development of a collective identity around which the constituent community could be galvanised.
Values expressed in agendas underpin the collective identity of CD cause communities.The values of a new community are negotiated through the initial members voicing values and ideals, including those relating to their membership of existing constituent communities.By first negotiating and clearly identifying the values and agendas around which the CD cause community is established, it is then possible to build alignments to access resources and support.People’s willingness to be involved hinges on holding compatible values,including those associated with their membership in other constituent communities.
In the project examples,while the study did not determine causality,more rapid goal attainment was associated with a CD cause community quickly projecting a clear collective identity, establishing early alignments and non-alignments and enabling local control.Conversely, where no community identity was actively developed and stakeholders remained separate representatives of their existing communities, the project ceased when the leader bringing the stakeholders together left.Despite there being clear goals and community support in completing tasks, the project did not continue where no collective cause community identity had been formed and thus no local ownership had grown. A clear community identity provides the foundational values and agendas upon which community ownership and support is built.Further, where control over cause community activities was managed tightly by key leaders,there was less room for a broader membership to shape and determine the constituent community identity, also affecting ownership.
Actively managing community ownership involves presenting the CD cause community in a manner that encourages membership, and then managing the community’s internal processes to further encourage ownership of both the concept and responsibility for tasks, as occurred in project example two.Community ownership appeared most readily where the need for the project in the rural community was clearly validated, where members believed in the values and meaning inherent in the cause community identity, and where there was the power to act from within the rural community.High support was also associated with promoting the uncontentious values underpinning the CD cause community identity, and the project need.
In summary, to understand how boundary processes might be managed when implementing CD projects, it is important to identify the constituent communities within the rural community.Identifying the associated values provides the foundation for understanding and managing the processes of alignment.The model highlights that building alignments or establishing and balancing non-alignment in the early stages assists in engaging community ownership and support to access needed skills or resources to attain project goals.Ownership and support is also assisted by managing agendas through concentrating on the values shared between a constituent community and the CD concept, and maintaining a focus on the purpose of the project and its benefits in the rural community.
The boundary processes in communities and especially constituent communities are important in the outcome of rural CD. Although boundaries cannot be drawn and described definitively, because they are constantly defined and redefined in response to contact with other community boundaries, modelling community processes provides an avenue for insight into the perpetual process of community change.This insight can be used to understand each rural community and the boundary processes surrounding CD.The model presented in this chapter can help in understanding the environment for a project, by highlighting the boundary processes of rural and constituent communities with which project implementation interacts.It can also be used to understand how boundary processes apply in establishing a constituent cause community,and how this changes the rural community.The model outlines the theory which emerged from an initial grounded theory study.Its ability to explain new data needs testing so the model may be further refined.While developed from a rural CD study, at face value it would seem possible that the model has relevance for CD in other environments, but again, this would need to be tested.
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