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CD workers of the world unite!

Wednesday 20th April 2018, 15:04

Community development (CD) seems almost toxic to Government right now. It's clearer than ever that the current favourites of Government get their kudos by emphasising "individualism" (entrepreneurs, activists) as the dynamo for local change, and anyone working within (and against?) the state is being maligned as being part of an "institution" which resists innovation and change from grassroots-up.

So to these champions of “eco-systems” and direct action, CD sounds too "collectivist" and too ponderous in its early stages (too much focus on establishing equalities and the ideal group behaviours, not enough on tackling the externally powerful immediately), and many CD activists are perceived as too tied to existing bureaucracies/ institutions.

However, there are still opportunities for community development people to make their mark because these champions of individualism are scratching their heads on how to scale-up this activity so that it mobilises whole neighbourhoods or wider.

A spectrum of approaches...
So I'm emphasising that CD is a spectrum of approaches (from long-term development work to supporting short-term action) and should not be pigeon-holed and ignored because:

  1. Paulo FriereWe are already active with the communities others still call "hard to reach".
  2. We make sense of how to redress Alinsky's short-comings via Freire (pictured).
  3. We can offer collective entrepreneur model.
  4. We have developed ways of reducing bureaucratic resistance (axis of influence etc) so that power isn't a zero sum game but can be win-win rather than "the common ruin of the contending classes" (2 points for spotting who said this in 1848).
  5. CD has a theory of power and how change happens, and it will help to redress the fallacy that Creative Disruption is healthy because it weakens local Bureaucracy (Naomi Klein's “Shock Doctrine” makes the case that the ensuing chaos benefits only the most organised who can profit from it to grab the reins ie private corporations).

So CD workers of the world unite! – let us focus on the gaps in the current evangelism and pose questions about how individual activism can be scaled-up and inclusive.

Paul Barnes, SSEC Chief Executive

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