Community Development Practice Methods

Community Organizing

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The Community Capacity Building (CCB) framework is a social approach to solve a given community's collective problems and improve or maintain the well being of that community (Chaskin, 2001). Community organizing is a strategy for the collective to facilitate social change, and in this way it ties in with the Community Capacity Building framework. So, why would community developers be interested in community organizing?

Changing the balances of power

The major contribution of community organizing is to change balances of power. There are two types of power, conceptualized by community organizers: organized people and organized money (Capraro, 2004). Community organizing focuses on the power of organized people. The collective and organized voice of the people represents a type of power that can generate influence.

Collective Efficacy

One way of understanding community organizing is through the theory of collective efficacy. So what is collective efficacy, and how does this concept inform community developers?

A Definition:

Collective efficacy is the people's shared belief in their collective power to produce specific changes. Collective efficacy is based upon the social capital of a community and a shared expectation for action, towards social change (Sampson, 2004). Collective efficacy is not a generalized construct--'something' that people either 'have' or 'don’t have.' Rather, collective efficacy is task-specific—the level of collective efficacy is dependent on what specific changes the collective wishes to make.

"Perceived collective efficacy will influence what people choose to do as a group, how much effort they put into it, and
their staying power when group efforts fail to produce results"
(Bandura, 1982, p. 143).

The promise of collective efficacy:

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Collective efficacy falls under the CCB framework because it reaffirms the social approach to the collective issues and the well being of a given community. The theory of collective efficacy, argues that the best way to look at social issues, is through a social lens. Collective efficacy is an important concept to the CCB framework because of its focus on capacity building, human agency, empowerment, and social change. The utility of collective efficacy is to fill in the gaps, where formal institutions and systems fail to address the issues that affect the collective well being of a given community.


Components of Collective Efficacy:

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Social Capital (social networks) A prerequisite for collective efficacy to flourish is the existence of social networks. However, it is important to note the existence of social networks alone, is not sufficient to facilitate collective efficacy, as the social networks must be activated towards a specific purpose/meaning for the given community (Sampson, 2004). Civic participation and mutual agreement among the member's of a given community are also critical to understanding a community's collective efficacy.


Social Trust
Collective efficacy is also based upon the working trust among members of the community—the belief that actions will be taken by members under various scenarios (Sampson, 2004). Shared values by the members of a given community impact the level of social trust. Social trust is a level of measurement of a community's collective efficacy (Sampson, 2004).


Underminers of Collective Efficacy (Bandura, 1982):

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The "Experts"A pervasive dependence on technologies to manage major aspects of our daily lives, gives rise to the "experts"--those with a very focused lens to analyze and make judgements, based from their particular area of study (wikipedia). The judgements of experts are accorded greater authority and status, and this can undermine the development of collective efficacy. Collective efficacy is dependent on the decisions and judgements of the collective rather than individual experts.

The "Red Tape"
Red tape is the expression that describes bureaucratic structures, and this can pose as an obstacle to the development of collective efficacy, by obstructing social action.

Transnational Interdependencies
In our globalized world, people, communities and nations are increasingly interconnected and interdependent. Transnational interdependencies mean that actions and changes in one part of the world can impact a given community in another part of the world.  

Importance of Collective Efficacy

Social Change
The concept of collective efficacy informs community developers in the area of social change (Bandura, 1982). Perceived collective efficacy acts as a potential mechanism to transition social discontent to social activism (Bandura, 1982). If a given community's collective issues/problems are rooted in inequalities created by the structure of society, then facilitating social change may be an important role of the community developer.
 
Evaluation Frameworks
Understanding the components of collective efficacy can assist community developers in the design and development of evaluation frameworks. Evaluations can provide information about the collective efficacy of a given community to a specific task or goal.

Role and Responsibilities of Practitioner

Understanding the factors that impact collective efficacy, such as the underminers listed above, sensitizes community developer to these factors. This can assist practitioners to reflect on their own role in the community development process and clarify their particular responsibilities. This can also assist practitioners to reflect on how structures and systems can impact the development of collective efficacy. Understanding the underminers of collective efficacy, such as transnational interdependencies, also highlight the importance of being knowledgeable of factors that are beyond the community, and extend to the national, transnational and global level.

A critique:

Trap of Local Determinism

The underminer, transnational interdependencies, do point to factors beyond the community that impact collective efficacy. However, the wider political-economic context still shapes communities, and collective efficacy does not link the interactions of the community with these 'extra-social' forces (Sampson, 2004).

Social Good
 

The development of collective efficacy, builds a collective voice and actions towards change, but that change does not necessarily mean it is towards a ‘social good’ (Sampson, 2004). The theory of collective efficacy does not draw attention to this necessary link between the development of a collective voice and action, and directing that development towards a social good (Sampson, 2004). The collective efficacy of communities to block residential entry of ethnic minority groups is an example of the development of collective efficacy that is not motivated by change for a social good.

Power Relations and Structures


The theory of collective efficacy does not include a discussion about the power relations and structures within a community. These factors can influence the development of collective efficacy. Unequal distributions of power can negatively impact the development of collective efficacy, acting as an impediment to social action and change.