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UNC-Chapel Hill SOWO 804 - Models of Community Development Practice

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Models of Community Development PracticeAllen B. MooreUniversity of Georgia, USAandLilian H. HillVirginia Commonwealth University, USAAbstract: We address two models developed in a research project that explored community development prac-tice. We begin with a brief introduction of our research, continue with the presentation of the models, relatethem to existing theory, and conclude with why the introduction of new models is justified.This paper represents a progression of our work of thepast three years. We initiated this ongoing researcheffort in 1997 to explore what guides the work ofcommunity development practitioners. We began witha small sample in the southeastern United States, buthave since had the opportunities to make our studyinternational encompassing eight countries in five conti-nents. Rather than formal theories, we learned aboutimplicit practice-based theories formulated in the workcommunity developers perform and the elements thatinfluence their reflective practice. We have presentedour research in a number of forums, including AERC,the Community Development Society of North America,the International Community Development Society inScotland, and an international symposium in Botswana.The purpose of this paper is to present and test themodels of reflective practice in community developmentwe developed in the course of our research.This study utilizes grounded theory, a researchmethodology that builds theory from practice.Grounded theory is a qualitative method of inquiry inwhich the researcher intends to generate or discoversubstantive theory, meaning theory that is rooted inpractical situations and that provides explanations of keysocial processes grounded in empirical data (Creswell,1998). Data are collected primarily through interviews,supplemented by fieldwork. Typically 20-30 people areinterviewed. The constant comparative model of dataanalysis is used, and the focus is on social processes.Grounded theory results in an analytical schema of aphenomenon that relates to a particular situation orpractice setting. It describes a plausible relationshipamong concepts and sets of concepts (Merriam, 1998).In this type of study, approximately 35 interviews areusually conducted and data sources other than inter-views are utilized. We have collected data via inter-views, site visits and observations, and photographs anddocuments with 33 practitioners in 5 countries.We began with interviews of 10 practitioners in thesoutheastern United States and the findings indicatedthat they were aware of the complex nature or commu-nities, valued inclusiveness and collaboration processesto involve people, and were conscious of the need toincorporate indigenous, local knowledge of communityresidents in action planning and following up on results(Moore & Hill, 1998). We reported about the addition of13 community workers in Australia and another groupfrom the United States and Canada making a total of 23interviews (Hill & Moore, 1999a). These results in-cluded practitioner support for valuing local knowledge,leveraging community resources, and providing spacefor people to be involved and voice their opinions aboutissues. Strategies and techniques used by practitionersfor these activities included using local stories and resi-dents’ visions of the future as a method to make plansfor change in communities. In addition, practitionersacknowledged using culturally relevant mental imagesand metaphors as tools for communicating with peersand community members. In 1998, we collected 10additional practitioner interviews from Botswana, Ma-laysia, and Canada which were added to the existing 23,making a total of thirty-three interviews. We reportedthese analyses and findings at the International Associa-tion for Community Development conference held inEdinburgh, Scotland (Hill & Moore, 1999a). Findingswhich emerged were related to the power of govern-ment interventions and the unintended consequences ofgovernment support for community change. Further,practitioners were concerned about top-down expertdictates for change, loss of local control in decisionmaking, and the need to involve residents of differentbackgrounds, races, and cultures in community devel-opment activities. Based on our research, we haveconceived two models of community developmentpractice which will be described below.In 1999, additional data were collected in Taiwanand Scotland which are being analyzed for inclusion inthis ongoing research. Additional manuscripts are underdevelopment concerning diversity in community devel-opment practice (Moore & Hill, submitted) and theinfluence of cultures regarding community workerperceptions and actions (Hill & Moore, submitted).Despite the obvious language, cultural, and locationdifferences there are many basic community organiza-tion and development issues of agreement expressed bycommunity practitioners.The ModelsIn this section, we describe the two models that haveresulted from our research. They are presented sepa-rately, but are interrelated. Figure 1 represents a modelof reflection in community development practice andcan be found on the last page of this paper. Elements ofthe proposed model are:• Implicit practice-based theory. In the course ofdoing their work, practitioners tended to developpersonalized and practice-based theories based ontheir field experiences. They formulated strategiesand theories about community development workto inform their practice. We have labelled them im-plicit because they tended to become somethingthat wasn’t articulated but influenced their actions.• Beliefs about community. Practitioners must assesshow capable a community is to chart its owncourse and how to assist them. Community devel-opment practitioners struggle with the appropriateblend of local knowledge, involvement of outsideexperts, accepting directions from local leaders,and when to call upon their own knowledge incommunity development activities. They are chal-lenged about when and how to bring in outsideknowledge such as new government regulations oractivities in neighboring communities.• Talking/working together/observing. Practitionerslearn by working with each other and communityresidents, working together on projects, visitingother communities, and soliciting ideas and sugges-tions from their peers.• Literature-Based Theories. Our participants turnedout to read widely in business, environmental, pol-icy studies, law, psychology, agriculture, and adulteducation. A


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