Our community ! Understanding communities ! Dysfunctional communities
Characteristics of a community ! Characteristics of an institution
Building better communitiesAn alternative model ! Cartoons

What is community
Understanding Communities
Community life cycle
How does the community care?
Valued community roles
Building better communities
Explanation of terms

Community rights and responsibilities

An empowered community

Community rights and responsibilities

Growth and expansion

Community relationships


An empowered community:
"Community empowerment refers to the process of enabling communities to increase control over their lives." Community empowerment : World Health Organisation, 2010

An empowered community has the ability to effectively respond to the needs of its members.
This is NOT ...
... a sense of independence or dependence on other communities that it is a part of, or are a part of it - communities complement each other and need to work together in fulfilling the needs of their members.
... dictating to community members what they should or should not be doing - there needs to be a sense of shared ownership and responsibility within the community.
... dictating to other communities what they should or should not be doing - there needs to be a sense of shared ownership and responsibility within society.
... using skills and resources to the detriment of other communities - skills and resources don't get used responsibly or effectively.
... growing or expanding - is not an end, but a means to an end.

Empowered communities ...
... have shared goals, beliefs, values, cultures, institutions etc
... have ownership of their members
... provide valued roles for their members
... communicate effectively with their members
... can depend on their own resources
... balance their own needs
... can share and draw on skills/resources where needed
(See Understanding communities, Dysfunctional communities)

Having said that, communities are not perfect places. They are arrogant, dynamic, protective, stubborn, irrational, ungainly, bureaucratic, self centred, hypercritical, subjective ,,, and the list goes on and on. While communities may have some of these features, you can't really blame the community. Just as a chain is as strong as the weakest link, communities are only as strong as its leadership.

Strong leadership
... determines the direction of the community
... provides a valued role for the community and its members
... provides a set of outcomes which are measurable

Community rights and responsibilities:
Communities also have rights and responsibilities, both to the members of the community and other communities that they are a part of. An empowered community understands these relationships and how these relationships impact on the community, and other communities that are a part of it.

... the right to its own identity
... the right to set its own agenda, constitution and institutions
... the right to participate within the wider community
... the right to access skills and resources within the wider community
... the right to support its members within the wider community
... the right to protect its members from influences that disadvantage its members
... the right to refuse entry to members that do not fit into the community
... the right to evict members that do not accept the agenda, constitution and institutions of the community
... the right to refuse skills and resources to the wider community, where its members are disadvantaged
... the right to determine its own destiny

... to ensure the agenda, constitution and institutions of the community, protect and support its members, as well as other communities and their members
... to provide a safe, secure environment for its members, as well as other communities and their members
... to facilitate the development of valued roles and relationships for the community, its members, as well as other communities and their members
... to ensure that the community communicates with its members as well as other communities and their members
... to ensure the community does not disadvantage other communities or their members
... to responsibility use, and share, skills and resources to the advantage of its members, as well as other communities and their members
... to respect, protect and promote the rights, cultures and institutions of other communities and their members
... to engage with other communities in an interdependent relationship

We know from our own experience that the above rarely, if ever, happens. Most communities are reactive, rather than proactive. Its only when something happens that has an impact on all members of the community that anyone is inclined to do anything. Small issues can go on for years without being a threat to the community. It is only through some form of social activity that draws the attention of the community to the issue, that solutions can be found. There is also the problem that any solution is generally not representative of the community as a whole.

Issues such as ...
... poor leadership - lack of direction, lack of focus, power plays within different groups, lack of communication and negotiation
.... the institutions of the community - while important to the stability of the community, they often act as the breaks, where the community is not accepting new ideas or innovations that allow the community to effectively respond to the needs of its members. Cultures, class divisions, set ways of thinking, patterns of behaviours and expectations all determine the way the community treats its members.
... ineffective management of skills and resources - lack on coordination, uneven distribution, shortages, trying to do to much, or doing to little, competition of existing skills and resources
... ineffective planning - growing to big to fast
... competition with other communities - communities generally view other communities and groups with suspicion, or as threats, rather than allies and assets.
All impact on the ability of the community to provide for its own needs, the needs of its members, as well as the needs of other communities and their members.

 Growth and expansion:
Is not a goal or ideal that a community should aspire towards, but as a way to provide for the needs of a community. Growth and expansion is not an end, but a means to an end. As the member’s needs increase, the community needs to find new ways to meet those needs. It may need more space, skills and resources. Often growth and expansion works to the disadvantage of a community, where its existing resources are stretched to the limit. The community becomes unfocused and uncoordinated. Community growth and expansion is dependent on existing skills and resources that are within the community as well as the communities that it is a part of. As a result programs are substandard, or do not get finished. Communication breaks down. The community may become fractured where needs are not being met. Different groups compete for leadership which creates social unrest, and even the social dislocation of some groups within the community.

 Community relationships:
Community roles determine the relationships with other communities, and the way we interact with others within those communties. Interdependent relationships are mutually inclusive, where we share skills and resources to benefit all members. Rather than interdependent relationships with other communities, we see codependent, independent and dependent relationships evolving. Communities that are codependent, independent or dependent are often inefficient and ineffective in providing for their own needs. You may say that independence and empowerment are the same things, Nothing could be further from the truth. No one is truly independent. Independent relationships are mutually exclusive, where we do not share with others. Codependent and dependent relationships are about being dependent on each other or one person in a relationship. Communities are no different.

Competition encourages people and communities to aspire to greater things. Competition also unites members toward a goal. It inspires members to achieve things that they would not do normally. Communities also have the opportunity to learn from the achievements, and also the failures. How could things have been done better? There is also a sense of frustration in the community not achieving its goal. How the community deals with the frustration is determined by its social construction. Competition can also destroy communities. Where the goal becomes more important than the means of the community to achieve the goal, the community can fall apart very easily.

When providing the most appropriate care for people with high support needs ...
1) The community is not where the person is living, but where the person participates, shares experiences and has valued relationships with others.
2) People with high support needs (severe disability, aged etc.) will always need support structures as a part of their lives.
3) The amount of participation in a community (living, education, employment or recreation) is directly related to the skills and resources of the person, and, the skills and resources of the community that the person wishes to participate in.
4) Institutions are going to be around in one form or another whether we like it or not, It is the way that they are used that is the problem.
5) The institutions of a society towards a particular group determine the way the group participates in society.
6) The institutions of a particular government department, organisation, profession or service define the way the person is supported within that society.
7) Facilities that support people with high support needs do not need to be the nursing homes or prisons in the sense that they are today, but can become warm inviting community places that offer a range of services to the community, as well as be a part of the wider community within that society.
8) People with high support needs are a minority group in our society, and will have the same problems as other minority groups in being a part of society.

Peter Anderson