Wednesday, 05 August 2009

Empowerment, evaluation and the C word again When I worked at Community Development Foundation I tried for years and failed miserably to stop my colleagues and others abusing the C word, or using it uncritically at best. Now my old buddy Gabriel Chanan has written for the South West Foundation a characteristically clear guide to empowerment and evaluation in which he recognises that it's not just authorities and professionals at national level who do this: Community activists and workers, who do understand the internal dynamics of local people’s relationships, are often equally guilty of fudging the use of the word community. They are inclined to designate the small numbers of people and community groups they work with as ‘the community’, because these are the people closest to them, and to ignore the question of how to establish whether the views and experiences of these small clusters of people do or don’t reflect the views and experiences of the numerical majority. With some notable exceptions, most evaluations and project descriptions in this field start off by describing problems affecting a whole locality and end up by describing the actions of a small group, without ever checking back to see what difference this made to the whole locality, or indeed if the project’s existence was even known to most residents. The active group or project is described as ‘the community’, and its career is then taken as automatically indicative of the state of the whole locality. This is good stuff not least because more people will take notice of a Gabriel text than of me mumbling on about it. The document explores how the national indicators might get reconciled with local experience, - using both government indicators and project-based methods together; - linking the official indicators to small-scale local experience - extracting lessons from evaluation to improve practice. Checkout Gabriel's parallel paper on making the business case for community empowerment. Previously: The C word has a companion Not the last word on the C word

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