Community Development and Local Culture Essay

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT AND LOCAL CULTURE Community A basic definition of community refers to a social unit larger than a small village that shares common values. [1] The idea of a community presupposes the existence of a group of individuals whose values and norms shape a common identity, where the feelings of trust and belongingness are fostered, and the existence of shared responsibility towards mutual goals. Smith breaks down the term into three concepts to further understand it, namely territorial or place community, interest or elective community and communion.

2] First, when people share a specific geographic location, this is known as territorial or place community. Next, interest or elective community is when people share a common attribute other than location. This can be the bond of ethnicity, religion, occupation, or sexual preference. It can be any mutual activity for that matter. When terms such as “Muslim community” or “cyber-community” are used then community is referred to in this context. As the term suggests, the common bond is a result of each individual’s choice or preference.

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Last, communion is when people have a sense of attachment to a place, group or idea.

These three concepts of community coincide in many cases. When a town grows from a common industry, such as the case of Victorias City in Negros Occidental, Philippines, where people who work at the sugar mill also reside nearby, then more than one concept is at play. The concept of attachment to a place, group or idea is an indication of people’s sentimentality. It occurs when they invest a part of themselves in the community. This makes them feel that they belong, and that their association with the group has meaning. To an extent, it gives them a sense of identity.

Smith goes on to discuss three linked qualities that he has found to be consistently present in various researches on the concept of community. These are tolerance, reciprocity and trust. [3] Tolerance means the capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others. [4] Through tolerance, people get along despite their differences. They tend be more open minded and willing to take in new experiences. This is one quality that allows people to stay together in one place. Reciprocity is the mutual or cooperative interchange of favors or privileges. 5] Smith quotes Robert Putnam in describing reciprocity: “I’ll do this for you now, without expecting anything immediately in return, and perhaps without even knowing you, confident that down the road you or someone else will return the favor. ”[6] The Filipino cultural trait of “utang na loob” comes to mind when talking about reciprocity. It is a sense of obligation to appropriately repay a person who has done one a favor. In the western sense it is a debt of gratitude, however to a Filipino, it goes deeper than that as it has a profound internal dimension rooted in culture.

Reciprocity builds deeper bonds between individuals allowing a community to exist and people within to co-exist. The third quality is trust. It is the confident expectation that people, institutions and things will act in a consistent, honest and appropriate way. [7] Trust is essential in all relationships. In the study of social capital, it is an important mechanism that transforms various sources of social capital into beneficial outcomes that advance the goals and objectives of the group. It facilitates cooperation, which in turn allows communities to develop and flourish.

Humankind, being social creatures, would take on these traits naturally. Ridley confirms this by saying: “Humans have social instincts. They come into the world equipped with predispositions to learn how to cooperate, to discriminate the trustworthy from the treacherous, to commit themselves to be trustworthy, to earn good reputations, to exchange goods and information, and to divide labour… Far from being a universal feature of animal life, as Kropotkin believed, this instinctive cooperativeness is the very hallmark of humanity and what sets us apart from other animals. ”[8]

Thus, these qualities of tolerance, reciprocity and trust are inherent in every community, which makes it impossible for these communities to exist without them. The experience of Yugoslavia, a former country in the western Balkans composed of diverse ethnic backgrounds, is a prime example of communities existing without these qualities. The ethnic composition of the state in a 1981 census, which did not change drastically in the seventy years after it was formed in 1918 despite population increase, were as follows: Serbs (35. 4 percent), Croats (19. 7 percent), Muslim Slavs (8. 9 percent), Slovenes (7. 8 percent), Albanians (7. percent), Macedonians (6. 0 percent), Montenegrins (2. 6 percent), Hungarians (1. 9 percent), Others (10 percent). [9] Ethnic groups existed beyond their respective territories, which acerbated racial tension within the state. “Most of Yugoslavia’s six republics and two provinces showed significant ethnic diversity. Only Serbia proper, Slovenia, and Montenegro were largely homogeneous. Croatia had a substantial Serbian minority of about 12 percent. Macedonia had Turks, Vlachs, and a fast-growing Albanian population. Muslim Slavs, Serbs, and Croats made up the population of Bosnia and Hercegovina, but no single group predominated.

Kosovo was predominantly Albanian with Serbian, Montenegrin, and Muslim Slav minorities; and a Serbian majority shared Vojvodina with Hungarians (at 24 percent, the largest minority in that province), Croats, and many less numerous groups. ”[10] In 1980, ethnic tensions escalated after the death of Josip Broz Tito, the President of Yugoslavia that held the state together for decades. The system of decision-making entered into a state of paralysis and the conflict of interests had become irreconcilable. [11] By the nineties, tensions amplified into hostilities. Communities were being torn apart.

Neighbors were turning against each other. Ethnic minorities within towns and cities were either driven out or killed. It was ethnic cleansing at the national level that was reminiscent of the genocide infliction upon the Jews in World War II. As a result of the conflict, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted UN Security Council Resolution 721 on 27 November 1991, which paved the way to the establishment of peacekeeping operations in Yugoslavia. [12] Eventually new states were formed for each ethnic group, which are now recognized by the international community of nations.

Community Development Community development, in turn, has several definitions depending on the source. One definition states that it is a group of people reaching a decision to initiate a social action process to change their economic, social, cultural and environmental situation. [13] In another definition, it is a process where people are united with those of governmental authorities to improve the economic, social and cultural conditions of communities and communities are integrated into the life of the nation enabling them to contribute fully to national progress. 14] In the latter definition, external entities such as the government are involved. Other entities may include non-governmental organizations, foundations, and volunteer groups among others. Some of these entities even have foreign linkages. However, that definition presupposes that the community already has some kind of social action process already in place and community development will facilitate its contribution to society in general.

There are other definitions but common to all of them is the idea of a group of people collectively working together systematically towards a common goal, which is to improve their state of being. Working together is a process that involves change, improvement and vitality, which looks to enhance participation, flexibility, equity, and attitudes of people. Through community development, certain benefits such as employment, infrastructure, and others ought to be realized. [15] Further, it helps improve how stakeholders make decisions on how to utilize community resources.

Figure 1 illustrates this idea: |[pic] | |Figure 1: Community Development enhances decision-making capacity on how to utilize community resources. (Source: Cavaye, | |Understanding Community Development. ) | In Maaori. com: “Community development is a structured intervention that gives communities greater control over the conditions that affect their lives.

This does not solve all the problems faced by a local community, but it does build up confidence to tackle such problems as effectively as any local action can. Community development works at the level of local groups and organizations rather than with individuals or families. The range of local groups and organizations representing communities at local level constitutes the community sector. It is a skilled process and part of its approach is the belief that communities cannot be helped unless they themselves agree to this process.

Community development has to look both ways: not only at how the community is working at the grass roots, but also at how responsive key institutions are to the needs of local communities. ”[16] The following principles are the context upon which community development is understood:[17] • Community Development is crucially concerned with the issues of powerlessness and disadvantage: as such it should involve all members of society, and offers a practice that is part of a process of social change. Community Development is about the active involvement of people in the issues, which affect their lives. It is a process based on the sharing of power, skills, knowledge and experience. • Community Development takes place both in neighborhoods and within communities of interest, as people identify what is relevant to them. • The Community Development process is collective, but the experience of the process enhances the integrity, skills, knowledge and experience, as well as equality of power, for each individual who is involved. Community Development seeks to enable individuals and communities to grow and change according to their own needs and priorities, and at their own pace, provided this does not oppress other groups and communities, or damage the environment. • Where Community Development takes place, there are certain principles central to it. The first priority of the Community Development process is the empowering and enabling of those who are traditionally deprived of power and control over their common affairs.

It claims as important the ability of people to act together to influence the social, economic, political and environmental issues, which affect them. Community Development aims to encourage sharing, and to create structures, which give genuine participation and involvement. • Community Development is about developing the power, skills, knowledge and experience of people as individuals and in groups, thus enabling them to undertake initiatives of their own to combat social, economic, political and environmental problems, and enabling them to fully participate in a truly democratic process. Community Development must take the a lead in confronting the attitudes of individuals and the practices of institutions and society as a whole which discriminates unfairly against black people, women, people with disabilities and different abilities, religious groups, elderly people, lesbians and gay men, and other groups who are disadvantaged by society. It also must take a lead in countering the destruction of the natural environment on which we all depend. Community Development is well placed to involve people equally on these issues, which affect all of us. Community Development should seek to develop structures which enable the active involvement of people from disadvantaged groups, and in particular people from Black and Minority Ethnic groups. Culture Culture is the “full range of learned human behavior patterns. ”[18] O’Neil quotes Edward B. Taylor in describing it as “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society. ”[19] He believes that culture is a powerful survival tool, yet it is quite delicate.

It is dynamic and changes over time, especially through contact with exterior influences. With the same token, it can also be lost. History is filled with accounts of cultures lost over time. The experience of the American Indians comes to mind. Prior to European colonization in the closing years of the 15th century, there were thousands of tribes indigenous to North America, each rich and proud with their distinct culture, orally passed on from one generation to the next. Their population is believed to have been in the tens of millions spanning the continent. In Indians. rg, they are described generally as an “overall peaceful people who enjoyed family, prayer, and creativity. An appreciation and respect for nature was of the utmost importance. American Indians viewed nature as a gift from the Gods, which should be revered and treated properly at all times. ”[20] Due to European colonization however, many were either wiped out, or driven from their lands to make room for the “white man”. Many American Indian cultures were lost in the process. Today, only a sample of that population exists, for a time kept in reservations in an effort to preserve what is left of their heritage.

Culture is also defined as the arts, customs, and habits that characterize a particular society or nation. [21] Nation, in this context, is a group of people with a common language, customs and identity. Customs, on the other hand, are habitual practice, or repetition of the same behavior performed instinctively by a community. It includes the beliefs, values, behavior and material objects that represent a people’s way of life. [22] Values are shared ideas that dictate what constitutes desirable conduct within the group. In effect, it is the root of the moral code the group lives by.

Values help guide conduct in unfamiliar situations and may lead to the formation of specific norms. [23] Rules and norms that govern everyday life are consequences of values, which in turn reflect the culture of the community. Art, such as songs, dances, paintings, sculptures, potteries, and other material objects are evidence of culture, which give outsiders a peek into how people lived at a particular place and time. Culture can be understood better by dividing it into practices, products, and perspectives. Cultural practices are patterns of social interactions within a community.

Sometimes cultural practices employ the use of cultural products, which are the expression of culture. Cultural products can either be tangible, such as paintings, literature and clothing, or intangible, which can be dances, songs, or religious rituals. More often, products reflect the community’s cultural perspectives. Cultural perspectives reflect society’s collective view of the world, which include its attitudes, values, and beliefs. It is often times the rationale of their cultural practices and products. For example, in American culture: “Youth has traditionally been valued more than old age (a perspective).

As a result, products that purport to prolong youth and vitality (e. g. , face creams, high fiber breakfast cereals, and fitness equipment) have become an integral part of the culture. At the same time, practices that are perceived as prolonging youth and health are encouraged: school children have physical education to promote physical exercise; many invest in running shoes (products) or join a fitness club (product); some take extreme measures to look younger and have plastic surgery (practice) or wear clothes associated with a younger set (products). [24] Culture is generally developed over time. It is the product of accumulated experiences over generations that ultimately become ingrained within the core of each member of the community. These shared experiences develop into the basis of that sentiment of attachment or bond that connect each individual to the group. When discussing culture, it is noteworthy to mention O’Neil’s Three Layers Of Culture. The first is universal culture, which are learned behavior patterns that are globally shared by all of mankind, regardless of location.

They are universal traits such as the concept of family, or the notion of what is generally good or bad behavior. This layer of culture allows people of different ethnic backgrounds to co-exist. The second layer is cultural tradition that distinguishes specific societies such as the Filipino, Japanese, or American Culture, which have distinct language, traditions, and beliefs that set each apart from the other. The third is what O’Neil refers to as subculture. “In complex, diverse societies in which people have come from many different parts of the world, they often retain much of their original cultural traditions.

As a result, they are likely to be part of an identifiable subculture in their new society. The shared cultural traits of subcultures set them apart from the rest of their society. Examples of easily identifiable subcultures in the United States include ethnic groups such as Vietnamese Americans, African Americans, and Mexican Americans. Members of each of these subcultures share a common identity, food tradition, dialect or language, and other cultural traits that come from their common ancestral background and experience. [25] | | |[pic] | | | |Figure 1 | |(source: http://anthro. palomar. edu/culture/culture_1. htm) |

O’Neil’s discussion of the three layers of culture establishes the idea that other cultures exist within a bigger, more complex cultural environment. Karen Lawrence understands exactly that. She is an advocate of preserving her small town’s culture, amidst America’s multi-ethnic cultural backdrop. She believes in investing her energies in the community where she lives. Her support and others like her, hope to strengthen their community and preserve its identity despite urbanization in the name of progress.

She quoted Mark Mitchell in his article Wendell Berry and the New Urbanism: Agrarian Remedies, Urban Prospects who said: “if we hope to create a context within which human lives can be lived with dignity and joy, then we must turn our attention to preserving local culture, local customs, local beauty, local economies, families, and memories. ” She goes on to conclude her article that local culture is how one connects to life and to each member of the community, and that it embodies the collective memory of the community. [26] Local Culture and Community Development

Local culture, therefore, is defined as a “group of people in a particular place who see themselves as a collective or a community, who share experiences, customs, and traits, and who work to preserve those traits and customs in order to claim uniqueness and to distinguish themselves from others. ”[27] It is also used to “characterize the experience of everyday life in specific, identifiable localities. It reflects ordinary people’s feelings of appropriateness, comfort, and correctness—attributes that define personal preferences and changing tastes. [28] Consequently, local culture provides people within a specific group with a sense of identity. This sense of identity fosters the feeling of belongingness and solidarity among members. This is most valuable when it facilitates their commitment to work together to address specific community needs and solve problems that affect collective interest. It is a basis for common understanding among them. Looking at it from their point of view improves the effectiveness of local development options and actions aimed to improve the community’s well being.

It helps bridge any differences in perspectives and becomes a powerful tool for uniting ideas and motivating action for the common good. Brennan, et al. establishes that local societies consist of unique social groups that have their own culture. [29] Sometimes, these social groups have a strong sense of culture that they begin to discriminate, or even distrust those that do not belong to the group. This can prove to be a serious obstacle in local community development efforts. It is difficult, if not impossible, for community development to be successful if the community is uncooperative.

It is therefore vital to get the people behind community development efforts. And the key to achieving this is local culture. Understanding local culture allows the identification of possible barriers to development efforts and formulation of action points and strategies that are culturally sensitive, which will elicit positive community responses. It makes the people of the community subject to development more receptive to hear what community developers or mobilizers have to propose.

People have a tendency to relate with and support local development efforts if their way of life is considered and their local culture will be ultimately preserved and promoted. They will be committed to see the project to its conclusion if they are able to contribute their voice and be able to make informed decisions in the development process. What local people perceive as beneficial or threatening is oftentimes a matter of culture. Indeed, local culture provides a mechanism that links community developers or mobilizers with the community subject to development.

Brennan, et al. emphasizes the importance of local culture. According to them, it plays an essential role in “shaping the definition of community problems, influence possible solutions and provide the means of addressing them,”[30] and is key in “seeking local participation, voluntarism and community action. ”[31] Similar principles apply when dealing with community development involving multiple heterogeneous communities. Oftentimes, the differences in communities arise from diversity in culture.

Deeper consideration must be given to the customs, practices and other related factors as previously discussed, to help identify general interests and shared needs of the different communities. The best practices from the different cultures can also be culled and adapted into comprehensive plans. Making local culture the focal point of community development would result in more efficient and effective strategies that would inspire local community action from diverse groups. Common needs and interests are the foundation upon which the willingness of different cultures to work together is built.

They are a result of interaction. Interaction makes communities dynamic and allows diverse groups to come together and exchange ideas, explore differences and determine common ground. There is no abandonment of cultural identities when communities interact, but interaction may cause cultures to evolve. One community may adopt the cultural perspective of another if it suits its needs better. Local culture therefore is observed to be in a continuous flux, evolving and adapting amidst illimitable social interactions.

Community developers and mobilizers, therefore, should be vigilant and aware of these cultural changes and be flexible in their approach. M. A. Brennen, in another paper, discussed how culture could be incorporated in development efforts. The most obvious is tourism where the community’s culture is promoted while being preserved at the same time. Such efforts become even more sustainable if the local population is mobilized in development efforts, giving them an active role in shaping and enhancing their society.

He cites examples such as: “The renovation of villages (architectural renovation, etc. ), highlighting the architectural heritage of the area (restoring historic sites to serve as focal points for tourists), cultural venues (local heritage centers, traditional cultural events), traditional craft and artistic skills (development of industry and employment based on the production of items which are symbolic of the local culture), cultural based entertainment and cultural dissemination (organization of cultural activities, festivals, permanent exhibitions).

Equally important is the environmental aspects of culture where traditional uses of natural resources or events symbolize local cultural ties to environmental processes (solstice festivals, harvest festivals, agricultural progress days). ”[32] The concepts previously discussed are present in the case of the Palawan Tropical Forest Protection Programme. It was environmental cooperation between the Philippines and the European Union, who pledged 17 million Euros to the project.

It had a term of 7-year, which started in 1995 with the objective of assisting forest preservation in Palawan through catchment approach, with sustainable development strategy implemented by the communities. The Philippine government, even before the turn of the millennium, recognized the significance of Palawan’s forests. However, the means to preserve and protect them were not sufficient. Prior to 1995, the tropical forests of Palawan faced problems such as illegal logging, “slash and burn” (kaingin) farming[33], and poverty.

Although generally speaking, commercial logging companies had logging permits/concessions, their boundaries were not properly enforced, thus it was commonplace for them to log beyond the areas covered by their permits. Further, kaingineros gained access to deeper parts where old-growth forests grew through the use of the roads constructed by the logging companies for their heavy vehicles. Government and NGO efforts proved fruitless because the indigenous people of Palawan who lived in partial isolation and relied on their traditional livelihood based on swidden cultivation, hunting and gathering, were impoverished.

The Palawan Tropical Forest Protection Programme was implemented in 1995 and addressed these concerns. The project provided computer equipment and established a General Information System (GIS), which is a computer-assisted method to acquire, store, analys and display land-based data on Palawan. It was used to map the terrain and through satellite imagery, they were to delineate the areas of the logging concessions. The project also supplied rangers and NGO volunteers with jeeps and motorcycles to allow them to efficiently patrol the forest, properly enforce logging boundaries.

Further, local communities were provided with transistor radios to keep them in touch with current events. They were also educated in the importance of the forests and introduced to livelihood that complemented forest protection. Customs and traditions were considered which made them feel significant. The framework of the Palawan Tropical Forest Protection Programme was aimed to break the vicious cycle of poverty through education and community empowerment, in order to achieve the two-fold objectives of sustainable development of the local communities and the protection and preservation of Palawan’s forests.

Environmental and development efforts of forest protection and institutional strengthening only became possible through the involvement of local communities. [34] ———————– [1] Community. http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Community [2] Smith, M. K. (2001) ‘Community’ in the encyclopedia of informal education, http://www. infed. org/community/community. htm. [3] Ibid. [4] http://education. yahoo. com/reference/dictionary/entry/tolerance [5] http://education. yahoo. com/reference/dictionary/entry/reciprocity [6] Smith, M. K. (2001) [7] Ibid. 8] Ridley, M. The Origins of Virtue, London: Penguin. 1997. [9] 1981 Census estimates the total population of Yugoslavia is about 1. 2 million people. Yugoslavia- Ethnic Composition. http://www. mongabay. com/history/yugoslavia/yugoslavia-ethnic_composition. html [10] Ibid. [11] Yugoslavia. http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Yugoslavia [12] Ibid. [13] Cavaye, Jim. Understanding Community Development. http://www. communitydevelopment. com. au/Documents/Understanding%20Community%20Development. pdf [14] Ibid. [15] Ibid. [16] Community Development. ttp://maaori. com/develop/commwhat. html. [17] Ibid. [18] Dennis O’Neil. What is Culture? http://anthro. palomar. edu/culture/culture_1. htm, 2006. [19] Ibid. [20] American Indians. http://www. indians. org/articles/american-indians. html [21] Culture. http://en. wiktionary. org/wiki/culture [22] Ibid. [23] http://www. people. vcu. edu/~jmahoney/culture. html#Values,%20Norms,%20and%20Social%20Control [24] Lawrence, KS. National Standards for Foreign Language Education Project. Standards for foreign language learning in the 21st century.

Allen Press, Inc. 1999. [25] Dennis O’Neil. What is Culture? http://anthro. palomar. edu/culture/culture_1. htm, 2006. [26] Lawrence, Karen. What defines local culture? Memory. http://klcreative. wordpress. com/2011/07/24/what-defines-local-culture-memory/ [27] Quizlet. Chapter 4 – Local Culture, Popular Culture and Cultural Landscape Vocab. http://quizlet. com/3113884/chapter-4-local-culture-popular-culture-and-cultural-landscapes-vocab-flash-cards/ [28] Cultural globalization. Encyclopedia Britannica. http://www. britannica. om/EBchecked/topic/1357503/cultural-globalization#toc224995 [29] Brennan, M. A. , Courtney G. Flint and A. E. Liloff. Bringing Together Local Culture and Rural Development: Findings from Ireland, Pennsylvania and Alaska. European Society for Rural Sociology. January 2009, Volume 49, Number 1. [30] Ibid. [31] Ibid. [32] Brennan, M. A. The Importance of Incorporating Local Culture into Community Development. University of Florida IFAS Extension. 2005. [33] Farming method where trees are cut and burned to make way for agriculture.

Over time soil fertility is lost prompting farmers to move on to other areas and begin the process anew. It is the predominant form of agriculture in the Philippines, and that it is responsible for deforestation. (Lawrence, Anna. Kaingin in the Philippines: is it the end of the forest? Rural Development Forestry Network Paper. London, 1997). [34] Villasor, Bryan A. (1996). Environmental cooperation between the Philippines and the European Union on the Palawan Tropical Forest Protection Project. TU08649

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