'العربية / al-ʿarabīyah
Not Hardware Development
by Phil Bartle, PhD
Many people, including politicians and news journalists, when they visit community sites of a programme like this, want to see the facilities (eg the latrine, road, clinic, water pump, or school), and judge the success of the programme by the physical construction.
While those may be the objectives of the communities themselves, they are not the objectives of community strengthening. To mobilizers, the facilities are only a means of animating social change in the communities.
Our objectives belong to the "social change" aspect of development.
We encourage and assist community based organizations to build new facilities or rehabilitate and maintain existing ones. The objectives of the community, therefore, are focussed on the physical objects, eg the clinic, the road, the school, the foot bridge, the water supply, the latrine.
The objectives of strengthening community capacity, in contrast, focus on the people, how they are organized, how they relate to external and internal leadership and governance, attitudes, behaviour, skills and institutional organization.
The objectives of community empowerment, therefore relate to the "people element" of development, and the physical infrastructure and its construction and maintenance, is seen as a "means" not as an end.
The orthodox sectors (water, education, health) are secondary in importance, so long as the choice of type of activity is chosen by consensus and is identified as a community priority.
When you see a school built by a community, it is not only the result of the community management training, it is (and was) the means or strategy whereby we used community action to increase the capacity of that community to develop itself. The clinic is not the success; the ability of the community (to choose, plan, and construct it), is the success.
© Copyright 1967, 1987, 2007 Phil Bartle