Community development and empowerment

Tsey, Komla (2009) Community development and empowerment. In: Jirojwong, Sansnee, and Liamputtong, Pranee, (eds.) Population Health, Communities and Health Promotion. Oxford University Press, Melbourne, VIC, Australia, pp. 215-231.

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Community development and related concepts such as community engagement, capacity building, community control and participation are all strategies of empowerment (Campbell et al., 2007). These concepts are critical elements to promote health and well-being in ways that are relevant, meaningful and sustainable for the intended beneficiaries. Community development is a process of organising or supporting community groups in identifying their priority health issues, planning and acting upon their strategies for social action and change, thereby gaining increased self-reliance and decision-making power as a result of their experiences (Labonte, 1993). Community development is within the ‘organisational’ or ‘community’ dimension of the Wallerstein’s multi dimensional empowerment framework (see Table 12.1 in the later section). Community engagement is defined as the ability to establish a meaningful contact, conversation or discussion with individuals and groups with the aim of maximising their participation and decision-making in issues that are of concern to them. Engagement involves strategies that assist communities to understand and use their strengths as the basis for change. Engagement forms the critical initial steps towards effective community development and empowerment. Empowerment is defined as a process whereby individuals and groups of people become stronger and more confident in controlling or exerting influence over the issues affecting their lives. This involves the ability of people to assert and claim their legitimate rights in any given situation and their capacity to accept and willingly discharge responsibilities towards oneself, others and society. It entails special responsibility of a wider society to consciously work towards creating social environments and relationships that bring the best out of people. Following the work of a number of community development practitioners including Wallerstein (1992 and Tsey & Every (2000), empowerment is viewed as an ecological or multi-level construct involving three distinct but closely related dimensions: personal or psychosocial empowerment; organisational or group empowerment and community or structural empowerment. Community development and empowerment sometime have been used too loosely by different people to mean different things over the years. A recent review by Campbell et al. (2007: 157) found ‘a great deal of confusion and contention in the literature about the term ‘community development’ and its constituent concepts of ‘community’, ‘participation’, ‘involvement’, ‘power’, ‘capacity’ and ‘empowerment’’. There is also skepticism as to the value and efficacy of community development and empowerment in promoting health. The practitioner needs to address and clarify four important issues prior to using the community development and empowerment. Firstly, the practitioner must clearly define and explain the main theoretical constructs and approaches being used. Secondly, the practitioner must describe and explain the ways in which the theoretical concepts and approaches are put into practice. Thirdly, the community development and empowerment initiative must be located in the relevant socio-economic contexts. Fourthly, the criteria by which to monitor and determine the effectiveness of the empowerment outcomes need to be made explicit. Power refers to the ability to affect change rather than the power to exploit or dominate others (Ife, 2002). Differentiation is made between ‘power over’, whereby individuals, groups or institutions assume the right to make decisions for others versus ‘power with’ which involves a commitment to self determination or capacity of people to determine their own affairs.

Item ID: 8182
Item Type: Book Chapter (Research - B1)
ISBN: 978-0-19-556055-8
Keywords: community development; empowerment; capacity building; community control; health and wellbeing; community engagement
Date Deposited: 17 Feb 2010 00:39
FoR Codes: 13 EDUCATION > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130399 Specialist Studies in Education not elsewhere classified @ 100%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9203 Indigenous Health > 920301 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health - Determinants of Health @ 100%
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