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The concepts “community” Essay

Assessment evidence shows that you can:

• critically discuss the meaning of the concepts “community” and “community development”
• discuss some of the difficulties encountered when explaining these concepts
• provide a historical background of community development
• critically discuss how the meaning of these concepts has changed over time and how scholars influenced by different ideologies and disciplines have given diverse meanings to these concepts
• use evidence from the prescribed readings

Critically discuss the meaning of the concepts “community” and “community development”

Community
Geographers emphasise spatial aspects, economists emphasise work and markets and sociologists emphasise social interactions and networks in their definitions of community.

Community is also defined as people in a given geographical location, the word can really refer to any group sharing something in common. This may refer to smaller geographic areas — a neighborhood, a housing project or development, a rural area — or to a number of other possible communities within a larger, geographically-defined community. Examples of community: The Catholic community (or faith community, a term used to refer to one or more congregations of a specific faith).

The arts community
The African American community
The education community
The business community
The homeless community
The gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered community
The medical community
The Haitian community
The elderly community

Often when we think of community, we think in geographic terms. Our community is the city, town or village where we live. When community is defined through physical location, it has precise boundaries that are readily understood and accepted by others. Defining communities in terms of geography, however, is only one way of looking at them. Communities can also be defined by common cultural heritage, language, and beliefs or shared interests. These are sometimes called communities of interest. Even when community does refer to a geographic location, it doesn’t always include everyone within the area.

For example, many Aboriginal communities are part of a larger non-Aboriginal geography. In larger urban centres, communities are often defined in terms of particular neighbourhoods. Most of us belong to more than one community, whether we’re aware of it or not. For example, an individual can be part of a neighbourhood community, a religious community and a community of shared interests all at the same time. Relationships, whether with people or the land, define a community for each individual.

Community development

The United Nations defines Community development as “a process where community members come together to take collective action and generate solutions to common problems.” Community development is a process where community members come together to take collective action and generate solutions to common problems. Community wellbeing (economic, social, environmental and cultural) often evolves from this type of collective action being taken at a grassroots level. Community development ranges from small initiatives within a small group to large initiatives that involve the broader community. It is a broad term given to the practices of civic leaders, activists, involved citizens and professionals to improve various aspects of communities, typically aiming to build stronger and more resilient local communities.

Community development seeks to empower individuals and groups of people by providing them with the skills they need to cause in their communities. These skills are often created through the formation of large social groups working for a common agenda. Community developers must understand both how to work with individuals and how to affect communities’ positions within the context of larger social institutions. Community development as a term has taken off widely in anglophone countries i.e. the USA, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand and other countries in the Commonwealth. It is also used in some countries in eastern Europe with active community development associations in Hungary and Romania.

The Community Development Journal, published by Oxford University Press, since 1966 has aimed to be the major forum for research and dissemination of international community development theory and practice. Community development approaches are recognised internationally. These methods and approaches have been acknowledged as significant for local social, economic, cultural, environmental and political development by such organisations as the UN, WHO, OECD, World Bank, Council of Europe and EU. Discuss some of the difficulties encountered when explaining these concepts

Mayo (in Mae Shaw 2008:24) observes that it is not just that the term has been used ambiguously; it has been contested, fought over and appropriated for different uses and interests to justify different politics, policies and practices.

Stacey (in Mae Shaw 2008:24) also states that the ambiguity of the term community also tells us something about its wider social significance and the way in which it continues to be appropriated to legitimise or justify a wide range of political positions, which might otherwise be regarded as incompatible.

Kumar (2005:279) takes the debate further by looking at how the concept community has often been used in the implementation of community-based natural resource management (hereafter CBNRM) projects.

The manner in which the term community is represented conceptually, socially, politically and geographically in CBNRM policies shapes the way in which relation- ships and administrative procedures are constituted and enacted.

Mearns and Scoones (in Kumar 2005:279) argue that the concept of community has been taken for granted, especially, in policies, projects and also the literature dealing with the CBNRM.

They argue that a community has been portrayed “as a distinct social group in one geographical location, sharing common characteristics, in harmony and consensus: images that actually may be quite misguiding reflections of reality”.

Uphoff (in Kumar 2005:280) argues that CBNRM faces two particular problems in how the community is conceptualised, firstly, communities are not necessarily bounded social or geographical units, and nor are they likely to be homogeneous entities with single and agreed interests. It is this generalisation of community that has made the implementation of CBNRM difficult.

Provide a historical background of community development

One author traces its history back to the mid-19th- century USA, while another finds its origin in the early 20th-century history of the USA. One says it all started in India in 1921, and yet another would credit the 1931 Gandhian experiment in rural reconstruction as its beginnings. It is also claimed that the British colonial administrators of India were the creators of the elusive concept of community development.

Critically discuss how the meaning of these concepts has changed over time and how scholars influenced by different ideologies and disciplines have given diverse meanings to these concepts

Conclusion
About the early history of community development there is as little agreement simply because there is no definition.

Bibliography:

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Community Tool Box website

PeerNetBC website


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