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A Few Notes on Jargon

By Phil Bartle, PhD


Do not be hindered by words; learn them

Big Words:

The training documents here are aimed mainly at community workers with perhaps middle school education. The grammar and vocabulary are deliberately kept simple. Special words used in the work are listed in Key Words, with notes for mobilizers.

You are invited to look at them often. In the Background and Purpose document, introducing the training material, there is one particular paragraph that condenses many of the specialist words and perhaps will be overwhelming to the newcomer. This document looks specifically at those words, and provides a few notes on them.

This is the troublesome text:

"modified action-oriented management training aimed at community members and their leaders, and adaptations of community organizing methods that are appropriate to the currently rapid urbanization of the world. Other topics include poverty reduction, gender strategy, facilitation, income generation, capacity development, monitoring, brain storm, community participation, social animation, learning an oral language, and empowerment."

Here are notes on the text.


This means "changed." Community development was originally developed for rural communities (in colonial societies).

The Community Empowerment site shows methods that have been changed from the original methods so as to reflect modern situtations, urban societies, post colonial countries, and increased control and decision making in the client communities.


This means that the Community Empowerment training modules are intended for action, not for academic musing or discussion. See Action.

They teach community workers how to act.

Management Training:

This is a special type of training which results in more than skills transfer. It is explained in the Key Words

The training is intended to result in the organization of a new group, or the reorganization of an existing group, so that they will be better arranged for making good efficient, effective and rational manegement decisions.

Aimed at Community Members and their Leaders:

The training is for community workers, also called mobilisers, activists, animators and others who work at the community level. It trains them in how to empower communities (strengthen communities or stimulate their capacity development).

So while the training is for community workers, the ultimate beneficiaries are the community members and their leaders.

Adaptations of Community Organizing Methods:

Old, traditional methods of organizing have been upgraded here.

It borrows, for example from methods used by trade union organizers and borrowed from management training facilitators.

Appropriate to the Currently Rapid Urbanization of the World:

The world is no longer the same as it was in colonial days. It is more urban, there is more and more rapid social change, and more heterogeneity of societies and communities.

The methods taught on the Community Empowerment site have been modified to reflect those changes.

Other topics include poverty reduction:

We avoid using "poverty alleviation" which temporarily reduces the pain of poverty without attacking its root causes.

The "reduction" is aimed at total eradication. See the principles of community empowerment module.

Gender strategy:

Any plans aimed at mitigating and/or reducing the differences in power, prestige, income and respect between men and women.

See the module on gender.


This means "helping." A good teacher helps her or his students to discover things for themselves rather than dictate what to think.

A community facilitator helps a community to make its own decisions rather than tell members what to think.

Income Generation:

The creation of genuine new wealth, not merely the transfer of funds.

See the module on principles of income generation.

Capacity Development:

We used to say capacity building as if we could increase capacity of an organization or community from the outside. Capacity development implies that the growth comes from within.

Capacity is "ability," so its development means an increase in strength, power or the ability to do things that it wants to do. See the module on capacity development.


Observing how things are going. Writing reports on those observations.

Unlike "evaluation," monitoring does not imply making value judgements about what is observed.

Brain Storm:

A special, highly structured, group session for defining problems and obtaining group decisions from the group. See the Brainstorm Module.

Community Participation:

Where members participate in decision making in plans aimed at improving the community. It is different from "consultation" where an agency talks to community members before doing its thing.

It is also different from "contribution," where community members are expected to donate money, labour or things to a community project.

Learning an Oral Language:

There is a special document on the site which is aimed at teaching a community worker who has been assigned to an unfamiliar community where she or he does not speak the local language. See An Aural Method.

It discards the methods we used in school to learn a second language, and uses the pathways burned into our brains at ages 1-2 to learn our first language. (When we were learning our first language, we did not write down anything did not read and did not memorize grammar rules. We learned to feel what was right).


Strengthening. When we go to the gym to become stronger, we can not let the coach or teacher do the push ups. To get stronger, we have to do the push ups ourselves.

That applies to getting a community or organization to become stronger. We can not do the push ups for them, because that will make them weaker. See Empowerment.

Conclusion; Learning Words:

The intention is to make the writing of these training documents as simple as possible for persons with middle school education. Difficult words, however, including words that are used in special ways in the community development profession, are not omitted.

Instead, this web site provides an extensive list of key words, and suggests that you, the mobilizer, use those key words notes to learn the difficult words. See Key Words.


A Workshop:

A Workshop

© Copyright 1967, 1987, 2007 Phil Bartle
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Last update: 2010.12.15

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