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What is Community Development?: Using participatory action research to change power, poverty and inequality Margaret Ledwith Emeritus Professor of Community.

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Presentation on theme: "What is Community Development?: Using participatory action research to change power, poverty and inequality Margaret Ledwith Emeritus Professor of Community."— Presentation transcript:

1 What is Community Development?: Using participatory action research to change power, poverty and inequality Margaret Ledwith Emeritus Professor of Community Development and Social Justice University of Cumbria, UK

2 Epistemology and ontology z‘…action research should aim not just at achieving knowledge of the world, but achieving a better world’ (Kemmis, 2009)

3 PAR research spawned radical community development z1968: ‘revolt, reaction and rebellion’ zUrban Programme: response to social unrest zCommunity Development Project, 1969 z‘Cycles of deprivation’ theory zAR exposed flawed analysis zPolitical/structural vs personal/pathological zGramsci, Freire, feminism zGrassroots social movements – theory in action

4 CD Praxis: a contested space between top-down and bottom-up zCD principles: social and environmental justice zCD vision: just and sustainable world zCD values: ideology of equality zCD process: popular education for participatory democracy, practical projects and collective action for change zCD theory: analyses of power and discrimination

5 Power in the research process zEqualising power: outcome and process zIdeology of equality = mutual respect, dignity, trust, reciprocity in action zDislocates researcher as external expert zCo-researchers in mutual inquiry zResearching with not on people zProcess becomes participatory zExperience becomes empowering

6 Participation: a radical concept! My points: zA participatory worldview versus a competitive worldview zTransformative concepts - participation, empowerment, social justice – hijacked, diluted My questions: zWhat are the challenges that this presents in practice? zSwimming against the tide? zMovement for change?

7 Hegemony pathologises: Participation as empowerment

8 Becoming critical: ‘extraordinarily re-experiencing the ordinary’ (Ira Shor)

9 Creating critical dissent dialogue: ‘questioning answers not answering questions’

10 Collective action in community: Scholes Community Garden

11 Collective action on policy: Migrant Rights Centre Ireland’s campaign for policy change on work permits

12 Local to global action: local projects link to movements for change

13 A better world is possible! My point: Unless PAR moves out in iterative cycles from the personal/local to the political/structural nothing will change. My question: What are the challenges to PAR to move beyond the specific to the general in iterative cycles of co-creating knowledge for collective action?

14 The true measure of a nation’s standing! z ‘The true measure of a nation’s standing is how well it attends to its children – their health and safety, their material security, their education and socialization, and their sense of being loved, valued, and included in the families and societies into which they are born’ (UNICEF, 2007: 1).

15 Child poverty: PAR contextualised in its political times z : child poverty increased from 1:10 to 1:3 in UK zState of the world’s children: Childhood under threat (UNICEF, 2005): one in every two children of world in poverty zUNICEF report (2007) on child well-being in rich countries: UK bottom of 21 countries

16 Poverty discriminates zLone-parent households zLow paid households zHouseholds without an adult in paid work zMinority ethnic families z‘Dis’abled children or those with a ‘dis’abled parent zLooked after children

17 EQUALITY: are all children at equal risk of poverty? z27% of children from white families z36% Indian z41% Black Caribbean z47% Black non-Caribbean z69% Pakistani and Bangladeshi Source: Child Poverty Action Group (2008) Child Poverty: The stats, London:CPAG

18 POVERTY KILLS: And reduces life chances zLow birthweight, infant death, childhood accidents zUnderachievement at school, truancy or exclusion zLow self esteem, low expectations zTeenage pregnancy zYouth suicide zMalnutrition zUnemployment and low wages zHomelessness zLong-term illness (morbidity) zPremature death (mortality)

19 From ‘no such thing as society’ to ‘the big society’ z‘Poverty’ implies injustice zChild Poverty Act, 2010, embedded ‘pledge’ in law zInstitute for Fiscal Studies: child poverty will rise by 2014 due to ‘big society’ zHigher in UK than comparable countries zEntrenched inequalities – wealth and power z‘Povertyism’ pathologises poor people zResistance to redistribution of wealth zDestroying the hopes and life chances of generations of young people

20 World crises of social justice and sustainability zWidening gap between poverty and prosperity within and between countries zStrange phenomenon of increasing poverty in rich countries zGlobalisation – neoliberal free-trade principle prioritises profit over people and planet zStructures of oppression reproduced on global scale

21 Politics of disposability

22 Critique and analysis My point: ‘inadequate action research’ is decontextualised from social, economic, political structures’ Kemmis (2006) My question:How can we ensure that PAR is contextualised within the structures of power that it seeks to change?


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