Community Development. A people centered initiative to achieve sustainability

Bachelor Thesis, 2010

62 Pages, Grade: Sehr Gut


I. Table of Content

II. List of figures

III. List of tables

IV. Abstract

1 Introduction

2 The Problem - poverty and vulnerability
2.1 Expected Outcomes and Potential Benefits
2.2 Research Question
2.3 Hypotheses

3 “Think globally, act locally!”
3.1 Prerequisites for a functioning community

4 Community and community organizations
4.1 Community organizations
4.2 Defining the community

5 Community Development
5.1 What is community development?
5.2 Principle and Values
5.3 Community Development Resources
5.4 The role of different capitals

6 Capacity Building and Empowerment

7 Sustainable development

8 The economic dimension
8.1 Community economic development
8.2 Agriculture
8.3 Pro poor growth (PPG)
8.4 Social Economy
8.5 Cooperation versus competition

9 The social dimension
9.1 Human development and capability approach
9.2 Health as a key factor for social development
9.2.1 Components of health initiatives
9.2.2 Primary health care (PHC)

10 The ecological dimension
10.1 Environment and agriculture
10.2 Environmental health

11 Summary and Conclusion of theoretical framework

12 References:

II. List of figures

Figure 1: The multidimensional concept of poverty framework

Figure 2: Community development: a model of process

Figure 3: The three overlapping dimensions of sustainable development

Figure 4: The hierarchy of needs (Maslow, 1954)

III. List of tables

Table 1: Sectoral share in employment, world and regions (in %)

Table 2: Components and Elements of Social development

Table 3: Components and Elements of community health promotion

IV. Abstract

As communities around the world are struggling to cope with the changing social, economical and environmental structures, the demand for participation in the planning of policies is raising. Changes in economy, health and agriculture are influencing households, community relations and their livelihoods. Health will be highlighted as major resource for the development of a household and a community.

Through the research of different literature this paper reports prerequisites, strategies, principles and values to improve the well-being of local communities and the sustainability of community based initiatives. Through integrating the multisectoral dimensions of livelihoods, the paper discusses capacity building and empowerment. Therefore participation is the core principle of community development to improve the livelihoods of communities and individuals. Furthermore the paper argues participative practices which are focused on cooperative local economies, healthy convivial communities, educational equity and employment opportunities. Moreover community development provides the framework for the community to leap into modernity in its own rhythm.

Findings indicate that community development and the enhancement of participation promotes the ability for critical reflection of local problems and their capabilities to react on it. The findings also shed some light into social, environmental and economical capital to provide a sustainable setting for a healthy community. Community development is committed to social and environmental justice and its vision is a peaceful, just and sustainable world.

1 Introduction

The concept of poverty is widely discussed. Most literature differs between absolute and relative poverty. According to the Copenhagen declaration on social development (1995), absolute poverty is defined as:

“ ... a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information. It depends not only on income but also on access to social services. ” (United Nation, 1995)

For Armatya Sen (2001) poverty is deprivation of basic capabilities rather than low income. He argues that the deprivation of capabilities reflects a high rate of mortality, significant malnourishment, persistent morbidity, widespread illiteracy, and other factors of poverty. He also mentions the importance of freedom with the common concern of “quality of life” which focuses on the way of how human life goes and not just on the economic or financial resources. Here, freedom involves the processes that allow freedom of action and decisions, and the actual opportunities that people have, given their personal and social circumstances (Sen, 2001, pp. 87).

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 1: The multidimensional concept of poverty framework (OECD, 2006, p. 17)

Therefore poverty is a multidimensional problem and the root cause of all social evil. Figure 1 “The multidimensional concept of poverty framework “ shows the interrelation between different dimensions such as the economic, human, political, socio-cultural and security dimension. Furthermore it emphasises the forms of deprivation that poverty takes and the cut through all dimensions of gender equity and environmental sustainability. Accordingly, poverty highly correlates with national growth, economic development strategies, and quality of life. Poverty emerged as one of the most challenging socioeconomic problems in developing countries. At the moment about 20 % of the world’s population, 1.3 billion people are living in absolute poverty with an income less than US$ 1 per day (WHO, 2003, p. 7).

For many years the approaches to international development and policy-making focused on economic growth. Therefore the quality of life was simply measured by looking at the GNP per capita1. This kind of measurement does not even consider the distribution of wealth, and certainly not the capacities of individuals or communities. Aspects such as health, education, gender, and justice were not taken into account. Today the upcoming trend goes towards a more human development approach. In the Human Development Report (United Nations, 1990) Mahbub Ul Haq wrote:

“ The real wealth of a nation is its people. And the purpose of development is to create an enabling environment for people to enjoy long, healthy, and creative lives. ” (Grusky & Kanbur et al., 2006, pp. 47)

The World Development Report (2000; 2001) of the World Bank underscores the interrelation between empowerment, security, opportunity, and poverty in order to overcome the latter. Absolute Poverty as a multidimensional issue affects all aspect of life. Therefore a multisectoral approach is needed in order to reach sustainable development and social change for the better. A multidimensional problem needs a multisectoral approach on all levels and stages, in both social and economical dimensions (World development Report, 2000; 2001, p. 1-10).

Community development is a new upcoming term in development studies and particularly in the field of social development of individuals, households, communities and the state. The idea of community participation is a holistic and multi-sectoral approach being applied in health, economic, politics, urban and rural development in both non-governmental and statutory social development programs. The increasing inequality and continuing importance of the burden of disease caused by absolute poverty in developing countries must be addressed in a multisectoral way (WHO, 2003, p. 7-17).

The United Nations defined community development in 1956 as a process by which local initiatives of rural people are linked with governmental and nongovernmental efforts to improve the economic, social and cultural situation of the communities. Furthermore the effort of community development is the integration of local citizens into decision making to contribute fully to national progress (United Nations, 1956, p.1-3)

The range of tasks for community development can be categorized into two groups which are closely intertwined with each other:

- Enhancing quality of life through economic progress and
- promoting social change by
- sustaining the environment and its resources.

To achieve a better quality of life people are obliged to take critical action and to be integrated into analyzing their situation, into the process of decision making and implementation. A basic principle of community development is the organisation of action based on the needs of the citizens which is consequently the basic foundation for voluntary critical action. Another requirement is the supply of technical cooperation and knowledge which encourages self-help. Moreover the foundation of community development is embracing the community in all its major areas of life (Kuhnen, 2004, p.1-3).

2 The Problem - poverty and vulnerability

Rural communities across the world are exposed from varieties of unfreedom and poverty due to many kinds of vulnerabilities. Little access to health care, insufficient sanitary arrangements, no access to clean water, lack of education, inadequate infrastructure, malnourishment and underemployment are only few vulnerabilities of communities in developing countries. Due to those, people in such communities spend their lives fighting unnecessary morbidity and often become victims of premature mortality. These factors weaken the economical and social situation of single households and communities and their capacity to deal with uncertainty (Prüss-Üstün, Corvalán, 2006, p15).

Community development is a tool to overcome poverty and to achieve sustainable development on a grass roots level. Through empowerment and participation, communities are enabled to analyze their needs critically, solve their problems successfully and independently. Empowerment supports the dynamic between a critical thought and critical action (Shor & Pari, 1999, p. 23). Paolo Freire describes critical thoughts and critical actions as interwoven elements of creating change. For Freire, critical thinking leads to critical action and consequently to a change in reality (Freire, 2000, p. 73). In a community, critical thoughts and critical actions are achieved through the empowerment of people to engage them in collective action for social change and “quality of life” from a critical perspective. Therefore, education can be seen as a prerequisite for critical thinking, critical action and finally a major key factor for social change (Hamilton, 1992, p. 3). Community development therefore addresses not only the economical need of people. Furthermore it comes into action on all levels such as health, economy, education, politics, and social development, benefiting all members of a community by enhancing social welfare. Social welfare and the provision of basic needs ensure people and communities to raise their opportunities in social and economical development. Welfare and well-being can be achieved on the individual and the community level as well as on the level of the state. According to James Midgley (1995, p.15), social welfare ends when...

- ... social problems are managed by the community;
- ...the needs of the community are fulfilled;
- ...the community provides opportunities for advancement to raise their potentials.

With regard to Midgley (1995, p. 12-16), community development brings up approaches to enhance social processes. Community development projects recognize that social development can only take place when the needs of a community are fulfilled on all levels - such as education, health care, harmonious social interaction, safe drinking water, proper sanitation facilities, and social security. Therefore, there is no community development without sustainability and vice versa (Ledwith, 1997, p. 1-8).

2.1 Expected Outcomes and Potential Benefits

This paper provides approaches and models in order to raise the capacity of communities out of a social, economic, health, and political point of view. The definition of the term community development provides a basic understanding, furthermore the relationship between “community development” and “capacity building” will be discussed. In addition it highlights the processes of a healthy and voluntary interdependency, mutual benefit, and shared responsibility in order to raise the livelihood on different levels such as the household, community, and the state.

This paper is based on literature research that provides a sustained knowledge about tools within community development used in developing countries. Different approaches and models will reveal the current status of the method “community development” in order to raise the economic status of household, community and state.

Above all, this paper should highlight the linkage between health, advocacy and the social and economic factors within the community. Factors like environment, sanitation, and their agricultural situation will be integrated into the literature research as well as in the qualitative and quantitative research. The aim of this thesis is to present a holistic strategy for community development that incorporates all aspects of influences on the community-life.

2.2 Research Question

To achieve this goal, the following question should be discussed by looking at the multidimensional concept of community development. Arguing out of a socioeconomical and environmental point of view, the following question will be answered considering all aspects of the livelihood of a community.

- Can community development improve the livelihood of a community? Furthermore, the importance of the factor health and its influence on a community should be emphasized through following question:
- How is health related to social, environmental and economical factors?

2.3 Hypotheses

The research question will be processed according to the following hypotheses:

Hypothesis 1:

It is to be discussed which factors affect a community. Moreover, factors which have to be considered by community development to address poverty on all its dimensions are emphasized:

Which factors must community development consider in order to achieve sustainable development?

Hypothesis 2:

Looking at different approaches and programs done in praxis, the following question is to be discussed:

Can community development be done on all levels of a livelihood?

3 “Think globally, act locally!”

“Think globally, act locally!” During the last decades, this has been a maxim of many scientific areas and now starts to become more important in developing countries as well. It has become a prerequisite of sustainability and local development. Acting locally in relation to global thinking has to be considered in the short-term, within our daily processes and in the long run, in our strategies for life. This principle is also valid for the choice of local initiatives in order to create and maintain job opportunities. Furthermore a responsibility of this principle is to satisfy social needs as well as shaping the social structures of decision making. Due to this goal, every citizen, every household, every community, and every organizational body in their various types are called for their individual initiatives to consider this calculus in their daily processes. Global impulses are followed by local actions. Furthermore these actions are triggers for global impulses. In the area of environment the relationships between global and local actions are clearer than in other areas. When it comes to an individual level, the relation between local and global characteristics becomes more complex. An unemployed textile worker in Austria will of course relate the loss of his workplace to the ongoing restructuring world economy, which has an impact on the local textile industry - but is exposed helplessly to the situation. Just as well, a rural or urban household in the Philippines considers very well the world economic situation as a reason for their oppression to fulfill their basic needs (Birner et. al., 1997, p. 5).

Several models have been modified to explain the connection between local action and global policies. Concepts have been created to tackle the problem from “top down”. But there are various factors of local development that have to be developed from “bottom up”, through mobilizing and developing endogenous and local resources. Therefore the development from “bottom up” must be well organized, as it is the fundamental structure of community development. One possibility to do so is the foundation of local initiatives in order to reach sustainable development on a grass roots level (Birner et. al., 1997, p. 7).

3.1 Prerequisites for a functioning community

At this point, following question has to be considered: Which prerequisites are obligatory for a sustainable development on a grass roots level?

A functioning community must have different characteristics in order to allow sustainable development. Basically it can be said that democracy is on of an important factor of a functioning society or community. However, democracy is a dynamic process that needs different factors to develop appropriately. In countries where democracy is applied, economic and social development is achieved more likely than in others. These countries have a higher capability to allocate the success of development to their citizens (Meyer, 2009, p. 38)

According to Maier (2001 cited in Hofmann, 2003, pp. 9-12) there are several factors needed for a working democracy which are also essential for local initiatives in order to achieve sustainable development.

- Firstly, secularization is a major point within a democratic process. The separation of religion and state is a requirement for democracy and furthermore a positive prerequisite for local initiatives.
- Secondly, the personal, intellectual, economical, and political freedom must be provided in order to promote the basic human and civil rights.
- A community or a society is composed of pluralistic identities which have to be protected. It has to be based on an overlapping consensus which is partly in conflict with the need of compromising and negotiations of democracy.
- While wealth is a promoter of democracy, a market orientated system is an often mentioned but not proofed principle of a stable democracy and the way to a wealthy society - the richer a country, the greater the chances for a democratic constitution.
- Important for the success of a process of democracy is an effective civil control of the executive and military power. Therefore a country ruled by an autocratic system which is used in many developing countries is unlikely to reach a fair and free election (Vorländer, 2010, p.93-100).
- The political separation of powers has to be divided by different institutions which control each other (Maier, 2001 cited in Hofmann, 2003, pp. 9-12).
- Another important point is an active and critical civil society. A sufficient level of education is a necessity to reach a responsible and confident civil society. A critical mind is obligatory to analyze problems and issues of a community in order to approach it on a political agenda. Therefore a local, social, political, and economical knowledge is essential for a working democracy and sustainable development (Maier, 2001 cited in Hofmann, 2003, pp. 9-12).

The probability of a stable democracy increases if the above mentioned aspects are met, but is never guaranteed. It must be said that the exact prediction of the stability of a community, society or state can be hardly done, because it depends on the circumstances and the situation of the individual community or state. But by fulfilling the mentioned conditions of democracy and sustainable development the essentials pillars of community are more stable.

Democracy is an important step within the process of the development of a country. Furthermore it is the base for collective action and for social and environmental justice. Democracy also begins with the process of empowerment, and in this line empowerment should be the result of democracy. While democracy grows through participation of local initiatives, community development advocates on a local and grass roots basis. Basically, community development is a democratic process which is committed to transformative change for social and environmental justice, and develops analysis and practices which move beyond symptoms to the root causes of oppression (Ledwith, 2005, p. 1).

4 Community and community organizations

As discussed in the previous chapters, democracy is highly important for a functioning community and their local organizations in order to achieve a sustainable community development. Communities and their organizations are determined by many characteristics, which will be specified in the following chapters.

4.1 Community organizations

Community organizations can vary from highly bureaucratic nonprofit organizations to cliques or voluntary associations which are embedded in the community. These communities and their local initiatives can diverge from small and even mid-size organizations to facilitate transactions and aim to improve local quality of life. Furthermore they are essential components and are embedded into other social arrangements. Community organizations are shaping their social environment such as their civil society, their community, their democratic representation, other community organization and the grassroots economic development (Coleman, 1990 cited in Cnaan & Milofsky, 2007, pp. 1- 17).

Local initiatives may not own resources but depend on relationships, history and the willingness of people who contribute what is needed when a new crisis arises. They may also disappear when the signature problem is not present as a community concern anymore. They resist the identification as a discrete “organization”. However, Cnaan & Milofsky (2007) increasingly recognize their presence and their importance in order to develop community welfare. For local initiatives, the voluntary involvement of people and their contribution to the community are essential. The lives of individuals are “multiplex" and determined by many dimensions. Community development grows out of particular dimensions of social involvement (Cnaan & Milofsky, 2007, pp. 1-17).

Although community organizations are quite mundane, they are the origin of the social capital that makes civic life and civility possible. They take over a wide area of topics that interfaces with nearly any aspect of social life. Despite of strikingly diverse intellectual traditions and different styles these aspects are highly interconnected with one another. According to Cnaan & Milofsky (2007, pp.

1-17) communities and community organizations are a complex body composed out of many important dimensions. The community and all embedded organizations subsume people, locality, place, organizations, and the forces that affect them all.

Therefore community development addresses problems, poverty and vulnerabilities on all levels, not merely the economical level. To achieve a holistic approach, community development involves all members of a community, such as the individual, the household, public and private bodies and the entire environment.

4.2 Defining the community

Looking at different definitions of the term “community“ one will recognize that there are various perspectives in the scientific and economic literature. The term “community” is recognized in many different ways and consequently it identifies different implications and approaches. According to Merriam-Webster's collegiate dictionary (2008), “community” is defined as:

(1) A body of individuals organized into a unit or manifesting usually with awareness some unifying trait: a state, commonwealth; b. people living in a particular place or region; c. a monastic body or other unified religious body; d. an interacting population of different kinds of individuals constituting a society or association or simply an aggregation of mutually related individuals in a given location; e. a group of people marked by a common characteristic … (2) society at large … (3) common or joint ownership, tenure experience, or pertinence.

Beside the geographical and territorial characteristics Chekki (1990, cited in Loue, 2003, p. 3) points out that a community is the key concept for understanding social life. In addition he considers the term community to understand social processes and structural relations which are found in a given community. While a definition in sociology can hardly be found, modern communities are often defined as a multidimensional interlinkage that is primarily territorially-based on social systems. Furthermore, a community is an identifiable unit, in which people share a common interest based on sharing a common space. In addition to that, it leads to collective action, when the need arises.

As already mentioned, many different definitions of the term community can be found. Important for local initiatives are to understand how the community is defined and who constitutes the community. Sinikka Dixon (1999 cited in Loue, 2003, p. 4) states three elements that are most considered in the literature as important features of community life:

- Firstly, a Community is characterized by geographically, territorially or spatially circumscribed area.
- Secondly, the members of a community are bound together by a number of different characteristics or attributes such as values, interests, attitudes, ethnicity or even a common problem.
- Lastly, the members are engaged in some form of sustained social interaction to develop their community and to address common and uprising problems.

Therefore, a modern community is often seen as a multidimensional concept which is a primarily territorially- based open social system. Especially in the globalizing world, communities become larger and have a greater cultural complexity than in the past. Thus, in order to develop a complex setting like a community, a well planned and multisectoral approach is needed. The next chapter will define “community development” as multidimensional approach to meet the individual needs of a community (Loue, 2003, p. 5).


1 GNP per capita: Gross national product (GNP) per capita is the dollar value of a country’s final output of goods and services in a year, divided by its population. It reflects the average income of a country’s citizens. Countries with a GNP per capita in 1998 of $9,361 or more are described as high income, between $761 and $9,360 as middle income, and $760 or less as low income.

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Community Development. A people centered initiative to achieve sustainability
Management Center Innsbruck  (Non Profit- social- and healthcare management)
Sehr Gut
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Sustainability, sustainable development, health care, bottom up, welfare, empowerment, capacity building, coopreation, economic development, human development, direct democracy, peace
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Andreas Achatz (Author), 2010, Community Development. A people centered initiative to achieve sustainability, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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