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Local International Learning Project (LILP)

Tools for Community Development Seminar : 1st February 2006

Tunde Banjoko , Chief Executive, LEAP

So what is community development?

“a group of people with a common characteristic living together within a larger society”

  • community of place
  • community of identity
  • community of interest

Community development is a range of practices dedicated to increasing the strength and effectiveness of community life, improving conditions, especially for people in disadvantaged situations, and enabling people to participate in public decision-making and to achieve greater long-term control over their circumstances.“

Community development is based on certain principles:

  • It enables people to work together to influence, change and exert control over the issues that affect their lives.
  • It is about a collective focus rather than a response to individual crisis.
  • It challenges inequitable power relationships within society and promotes the redistribution of wealth and resources in a more just and equitable fashion.
  • It is based on participative processes and structures, which include and empower marginalised and excluded groups within society.
  • It is based on solidarity with the interests of those experiencing social exclusion.
  • It presents alternative ways of working, seeks to be flexible, dynamic, innovative and creative in approach.
  • It challenges the nature of the relationship between the users and providers of services.
  • It is a wholly positive endeavour which challenges the prejudice and discrimination faced by its community without being discriminatory to any other community.

Community Development – The Black Experience

  • Black presence in Britain since Roman times
  • 1601, Queen Elizabeth I called for blacks to be expelled
  • No large scale black immigration to Britain until 1950’s,
  • 1951 - 74,500
  • 1966 - 595,100
  • Self-funded
  • Churches
  • Saturday schools
  • Savings clubs
  • Too much focus on racism – not enough on self progression 
  • Ill-served by well meaning amateurs  
  • Inadequate community leadership 
  • Not enough long-term planning 
  • A lack of co-ordination


“for the benefit of the public in London and elsewhere in the United Kingdom and in particular for the benefit of those members of the public who may be unemployed by relieving poverty and distress through the provision of advice, information, training and education”

  • Help people into work
  • Advocacy
  • Community Centre
  • Community Activities

Panel Discussion

Chair: Dr Lis Porter, INCORE Research Director

Tunde Banjoko, LEAP

Brian Dougherty, Tullyally District Development Group

Peggy Flanagan, Community Work Education & Training Network

Eamon Deane, Holywell Trust

Brian Dougherty - Positive example of community development

  • Brian opened his remarks by describing the challenges of working in a rural interface area characterised by anti-social behaviour.
  • In order to combat anti-social behaviour such as young people drinking on the streets, Tullyally District Development Group launched a street lighting initiative. With a very small amount of money and some innovative architecture e.g. taking away a wall where young people tended to gather, this initiative solved a number of anti-social behaviour problems. The initiative also sparked a full community safety audit of the area that proved to be extremely useful.
  • Brian highlighted problems regarding accessing small amount of funding for certain activities e.g. it is often extremely difficult to find funding to employ diversionary tactics during times of heightened tension in interface areas i.e. to bus young people out of the areas at night time to avoid them being manipulated and contributing to riots and fighting in the streets.

Eamon Deane - Positive example of community development

  • Eamon described how Holywell Trust began as a ‘coming together’ of peace activists from the 1970’s. He noted the importance of having grand ideas but also of being very real about what we can achieve.
  • Two stories have particularly inspired Eamon and the work of Holywell Trust.

The first of these stories is that of Michael Lapsley, a Church of Ireland priest working in South Africa who was the victim of a letter bomb sent from the South African government. Michael subsequently developed a vision of two pillars supporting a threshold of light – with one of these pillars representing equity, justice and fairness and the other representing reverence for the past – even those ‘pasts’ that may exist in antagonism to one another. Lapsley suggests that it is the task of community development and peacebuilding to work on both of these pillars simultaneously. The second of these stories referred to Dan Boron and his work in bringing together family members of Holocaust survivors and perpetrators to hear each other’s stories. Eamon noted how these experiences resulted in both release and empowerment for participants.

  • These two stories inspired Holywell Trust to organise a series of residentials in Northern Ireland - bringing together ex-combatants from all sides and ex-members of the security forces. The residentials were not designed to bring about ‘closure’ or agreement, but were intended simply to encourage people to see the possibility of the ‘other.’ In this respect they proved extremely successful, and can be said to have built peace at the individual level.

Peggy Flanagan - Positive example of community development

  • Peggy described her work in Navan with Irish travellers on a year long empowerment programme. Throughout the time she worked on this programme, Peggy found that she was continually asking herself ‘is this programme of any use?’ ‘are we the right people to be doing this?’ Peggy felt her involvement in the programme was therefore extremely positive, because it forced her to constantly reflect on her own practice and prejudices.
  • Ten years later, some of those young travellers who participated in the programme are now in leadership positions in traveller organisations. This shows how long a process community development is, and how difficult it can be to demonstrate impact to funders at the time.

Additional points that arose during discussion

  • Different attitudes towards community development within protestant/unionist & catholic/nationalist were discussed. It was suggested that in the past, Protestants may have perceived community developed as ‘betraying government’ because they perceived the government of Northern Ireland to be their ‘community project’ and expected it to provide for them. In the early days, community development in Northern Ireland was also perceived as an ‘anti-government’ activity because it is about empowering individuals. It was noted that it is only in the last 5-10 years that Protestant groups have really begun to engage in ‘self-help’ and have begun to take advantage of the good will and knowledge/experience accumulated by community development practitioners in the nationalist community. There has been a gradual realization that people within very different communities may nevertheless want very similar things e.g. good facilities and services, appropriate training etc.
  • It was argued that communities can defeat themselves if they continually use discrimination as an excuse for not taking responsibility or engaging in self-help. Communities therefore need strong leadership and to be constantly challenged.
  • Tunde described differences in attitude within the black community in London e.g. between those born in Britain and those who come to Britain to work. However, he noted that it was still worthwhile to bring these different members of the community together in programmes despite their varying needs because, at the end of the day, all of these community members will have to live and work in a diverse society, and it is good preparation for this.
  • Tunde also pointed out that within the LEAP programme participants are encouraged to take responsibility for things that happen, rather than conform to stereo-type – ‘be a star of your own life story’. He also felt that the emergence of a new breed of communities is required ie need more actions rather than ‘shouting the odds’ or quick-fix solutions
  • It was questioned how much community confidence may relate to numbers. The exodus of residents from North Belfast was compared with the exodus of Protestants from Derry to the Waterside.
  • It was noted that since the ceasefires divisions within communities have become far more prevalent, with many different groups vying for territory and power – especially within loyalist communities. It is often difficult to deal with this e.g. PSNI may wish to avoid interfering in disputes within communities to preserve their support. This situation was compared to experiences in England and the U.S. where gangs vie for territory etc.
  • The advantages and disadvantages of mainstreaming were discussed, in particular, the problems of funding becoming very closely tied into policy streams.
  • The workshop concluded with a discussion about the need for the community and voluntary sector to take risks, stop being so territorial and to collaborate with each other.

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