I've been reading a lot about the values and skills involved in asset-based approaches to community development. I would like to use this discussion group to explore what these values and skills look like in practice.
For example, one of the values that I've been seeing a lot is that of being transparent and accountable.
Many would argue that an asset based community development framework encourages and requires government, NGOs and any other outside involvement in community development to be transparent, accountable, and participatory. In turn communities hold each other to the same values of transparency and accountability, expecting no less of each other than of external agencies.
Do you agree with the way this value is framed? What is your opinion on the key challenges to transparency and accountability for community groups, NGOs or local government? Thoughts on how this translates into everyday practice?
It is possible to value transparency but fail to translate this into practice. I could see a number of explanations for this in a project or business context where there is an element of competition. However, I would suggest that the failure might be explained by a lack of skill or experience on the part of those running the initiative whether they are workers or part of the governance group.
Most will readily agree that community development needs to start from the position of making its values explicit and then work to make these evident in practice.
If a group holds to the value of transparency a good community development worker will explore what this means, how far the group will take it, what areas,if any, are to be treated as exceptions either for reason of business/commercial interest or because they effect personal and perhaps contractual relationships.
The skill is in being able to facilitate this dialogue, achieve consensus amongst the stakeholders, record this and then translate the agreement into practice.
In many cases community development work takes place in situatons where there are different views between groups.
In situations where there is competition for resources and differentials in power, transparency can quickly be compromised.
Adherence to transparency can assist in ensuring an initiative stays true to its stated purpose, but may not achieve consensus.
The skill lies in the ability to work with a group to create the understanding necessary to deal with these dynamics. This means helping the group to understand how it make decisions? how it deals with dissent? who is it accountable to? and how it hold itself accountable to its stated values?
Hi Debi: yes transparency and accountability are easy to agree to but it's a lot of hard work to deliver them in practice. I think Stewart makes some good points in his reply to you. In practice each community group might need to appoint one of their number as the 'transparency' person, whose job it is to ensure that the work of the group is communicated as widely and as openly as possible. Perhaps the same is true of accountability.
The tensions Stewart refers to reminds us that moral issues quickly creep up on us, and we need to live with integrity. I have argued elsewhere on this site that another 'asset' communities need to foster is 'virtue capital', a genuine altruism which sees the wider good of the community as more important than your own individual interests. I think successful communities have a lot of this, and where it is missing community development is very hard to achieve. If we just jump the hoops with transparency and accountability, it will not deliver genuine community development. We might as well be open about that with people, and invite them to rise to it.
Values inhabit a space between subjectivity & objectivity. I may think I am very open to participation, but my friend may know that I am not from previous expereince. In the expereince of ill health we all accept the value of caring but in practice caring is a fine value provided it does impinge too much on something that is valuable to me. Being involved in community I sometimes have to stop myself and realise that I spend so much times at meetings about what a good community should be doing that I have no time to call into my neighbour which is the basic pratice of good community.
Instiutions of government expose values but practice differently.
I suggest that your question can only be trually addressed at the most local and, having alligned values and practice at the local it can widen out to more areas.