'العربية / al-ʿarabīyah
KNOW YOUR TARGET COMMUNITY
Who Benefits from Your Actions?
by Phil Bartle, PhD
Being a social researcher and analyst; A good potter must know the characteristics of the clay
Another proverb that we use in community development is, "The potter must know her/his clay." Your clay is the community. You want to mould it, develop it into something strong.
To do so, you must know a lot about the community (and about the nature of communities in general). You must know as much as possible about its social organization, economy, languages, layout (map), problems, politics, and ecology.
Your research should not be merely to get a list of unrelated facts; you need to analyse them to understand the nature of community as a social system. (See What is Community? and Social Research).
Think about how the different elements are related.
A good start is to make a map. Where do people live? What facilities are in the community? (eg roads, paths, water supply, clinic, school, sanitation, market and other communal facilities and services).
Later, when you lead community members through an assessment of the community situation (resources, needs, opportunities, problems);you will guide them in making a community map. Doing one now for yourself will help you to prepare for that participatory activity later.
Put your notes into your journal. Make observations about the community's: Social organization, economy, language(s), politics, shared values, traditions, and its relationship to the physical environment (ecology).
Continue to analyse how the different elements relate to one another.
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