IACD members in Victoria, Australia, discuss the role of Community Development in this New World
The Victorian branch of IACD in Australia [IACD(Vic)] revitalised in 2012 and started off with a refreshing seminar on 14 March. The seminar was led by Dr. Sue Kenny on the topic of ‘In the Spirit of Mutual Learning – what is the role of Community Development in this new world?’ This was followed by discussion and suggestions by participants about the activities that the Victorian branch could undertake.
Dr. Sue Kenny has been involved in many diverse community based and community development projects since the 1970s, in Australia and overseas. Her involvement includes activism in the Coalition against Poverty and Unemployment; the development of one of the first databases of community organisations in Australia; comparative studies of third sector organisations in six countries; working on the reconstruction of post tsunami Aceh and organising with the Wahid Institute in Jakarta. She is the author of 'Developing Communities for the Future', co-editor of 'Challenging Capacity Building' and has published written articles on community development. Sue is Emeritus Professor at Deakin University.
In the IACD (Vic) seminar, Sue raised the fundamental point that community development is not about distinguishing recipients from givers. That is, ‘if you come here to help me, then you are part of the problem’. Additionally, she stated that much of our community development work is not in the spirit of mutual learning, especially because we work in an environment of enormous upward accountability. This type of environment does not allow for mutual respect and trust. Sue impressed upon the audience to consider working with more curiosity and with a willingness to learn from the community that they are working with. Sue also stated that community development practice in this century must be with a cosmopolitan approach and not only locally based.
The audience then joined in this discussion and suggested ideas for IACD (Vic) to undertake for 2012. Ideas and topics included:
• Offering community development courses to government officials
• Presenting case studies of good practice at IACD (Vic) meetings
• Creating small groups where we can address our ideals and genuinely talk to each other
• Organising social actions
• Community Cultural development
• Professional development activities
• Collaborative forums /discussions on topical issues such as youth suicide, community connectedness, reciprocity of learning
• Women and CD critique
• Skill exchange
• Broadening CD praxis in the digital age
• Discussion on policy and impact on local and international CD practice
• Ways to better engage with local communities
The second seminar for this year was held on 11 April, where the guest speaker was Dr. Supriya Pattanayak who spoke on the theme of ‘The Impact of international aid funding from western countries on community development at the local level.’ Dr. Supriya Pattanayak is the State Representative in Orissa, India, for the British government’s Department for International Development. She has previously worked with multilateral organisations, National and State Governments of India and non-government organisations. Her research interests are in the areas of women’s studies, education and exclusion, in which she has published extensively. She continues to teach in a variety of programs - community development, research methodology, gender and development and is involved in the design and implementation of various professional development programs.
In the IACD(Vic) second seminar, Supriya presented on projects that were funded by British aid in the state of Orissa, India. These projects have assisted towards drastic reduction of infant and maternal mortality. However, there are still huge challenges, especially access to clean water and sanitation. Supriya stated that where there is greater ownership of the projects by the community, then there are more positive, sustainable outcomes. Success is when there is a common focus and harmonisation amongst partners (less duplication). Concern was expressed about the new trend of using Randomised Control Trials (RCT) as a new way of designing and evaluating projects.
The third seminar for IACD (Vic) will be held on 30 May, which will be on the theme of ‘Local to local connections’. It will include speakers from local community groups in Melbourne who are directly working with local communities in developing countries, thereby bypassing international aid agencies. The panel of speakers will speak about their successes and challenges.
Photo: Dr.Sue Kenny presenting at the IACD (Vic) seminar on 14/3/12 (photo courtesy of Jorge Zaldivia)
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