Table of Contents
The Glebe Community Development Project is an Australian initiative based, which was started in 2004 through a cooperation between Housing NSW and the University of Sydney (University of Sydney, 2019). The aim of the project is to outline, assess and enhance community-based initiatives in public-housing communities. The project was setup for the residents to work side by side with willing organizations to build community capacity and create unity within the public-housing communities of Glebe and Camperdown. The project is geared towards the identification and evaluation of local initiatives in the area and strategies to improve the public-housing communities.
One of the important goals is to foster effective communication among all parties involved so as to efficiently bring about the desired change. It also aims to support any and all partnerships, which are of importance to the community and add value to it and to each other. Another goal is to bring about change, oversee the adoption of need-based initiatives and to promote the inclusion of residents in the making of decisions that have an impact on their lives or have an impact on their community.
This is the conscious process of solving social problems encountered by a community. It is the planned and organized action taken to assist the members of a community to acquire skills, the required attitudes, and concepts that they require to improve their livelihoods by arriving at group decisions. Hardcastle, Powers, and Wenocur (2011) identify two types of community, the vertical also known as the geographical one, which takes up physical locations of street or neighbourhood, and the horizontal also known as the non-geographical which is enclosed in social boundaries and roles such as professions and social classes. Community is territorial and is constituent of similar elements, which usually lead to the creation of boundaries to define itself and monitor the crossing of these boundaries.
The process requires that the community under consideration for improvement and its boundaries are clearly defined and identified. It is also necessary to acknowledge the community’s problems and the challenges being faced that necessitate external assistance. This ensures that the community development workers feel welcome to the community they are assigned to and are not viewed as intruders who impose unwanted change. Sociability and good communication skills on the part of the workers may, however, ease members of the community into the development process. The workers are facilitators of the development process and perform a statistical assessment of the community to prepare for the development process to be undertaken. The process is characterized by community member involvement in problem-solving and decision-making, a growth and learning process that is geared toward a change in behaviour in order to improve individual and consequently communal capacity to manage their affairs and a grass-roots approach to social action. To attain success, the process takes these characteristics into account and results in community capacity building, empowerment and the achievement of communal goals and objectives.
Values and Principles of Practice in Community Development
With the continued practice of community development, various principles and values have evolved over time and become acceptable in its implementation as appropriate guidelines. The most important principle in practice is the principle of self-help. This outlines the most successful way to bring about development to a community. The highest success is attained when the development is brought about by the community itself, through a self-propelled desire for the change and a sense of self-responsibility to see it through. This is also upheld by the notion that no one knows better, what should be done to improve a community, than those who live in the community themselves.
Successful community development is also pivoted on the principle of free and open participation in decision making for any and all members of the community without bias. This participation should be sought after throughout the development process to ensure that all members’ views and opinions are taken into consideration at all times before decisions which affect them are made. This also ensures that all members of the community have the right to be heard which may either be a hindrance when differing opinions are presented or a point of strength when these opinions are synergistically combined through consensus, to produce even better solutions. In this case, consensus-seeking champions for the creation of an alternative solution which all parties can rally behind and support. In retrospect, every activity undertaken in this process should also aim to be sustainable. Sustainable development is a pattern of economic growth that utilizes the community’s available resources without compromising the future generation’ ability to make use of those resources to meet their own needs.
The community development process is directed by social theories, which help to explain the nature of communities, the individuals who make them up and their behaviour. Theories also help to describe the frameworks within which community developers can work, and take o neither macro or micro approaches. Macro-approach theories explain the world at a community level, while micro-approach theories explain the world at a more personal or interpersonal level (Gamble & Weil, 2010). The process, from the perspective of social theories is comprised of three vital concerns; structure, power, and shared meaning,
Structure in sociology refers to the distinctive and stable arrangement of people and institutions within society. Structural Functionalism is a macro-approach theory that presents society as a complex system of parts which work together to promote cohesion and equilibrium (Vincent, 2015). These ‘parts’ are interdependent structures and each performs certain functions which contribute to society. The Glebe project has been established within the Glebe community and has been implemented with the help of local organizations and agencies. These entities function as independent structures. The structures vary in reference from organizations or institutions in place such as law enforcement agencies to informal groups such as home-owner association groups. The project has played a major role in facilitating the interdependent coordination of these entities and has catalyzed their efficient and effective relationship to improve the community. The project’s success can be credited to the cohesive functioning of the Faculty of Education and Social Work in the University of Sydney, Housing NSW and, the broad range of stakeholders they both enabled to buy-in.
Power and Empowerment
Power refers to the control over resources within the community or the consequent effect of this control, to influence the actions of others. Conflict Theory is a macro-approach theory that addresses the issue of a power struggle in society (Brennan, Birdger & Alter, 2013). The dynamic of power in the Glebe community is through the objective to bring empowerment to the residents, by encouraging members of the community to take up leadership roles. This can be observed through the Concerned Older Women’s group, which was enabled by the creativity of the community development workers to develop skills and confidence in advocating effectively on issues that impacted on them. The members of the group reported that the workers were patient and understanding and encouraged them to take leadership roles in activities and projects acting as facilitators in the process and setting clear boundaries regarding what they would do and what residents could do to drive a project. The workers encouraged the residents as a result were empowered to take on a range of advocacy projects ranging from negotiating with the shopping centre on Broadway for the use of shopping trolleys to carry their shopping home, to a change in bus connections along Glebe Point Road, to the organization of the Mitchell Street Fair.
The community also experienced empowerment through a computer literacy program that was established in the Old Fire Station. This has empowered residents by enabling them to develop skills and confidence in working with computers. It has also enabled the workers, through their own initiative, to communicate with residents via email and regularly receive feedback and questions from them. The Glebe project has enabled and encouraged confidence and leadership within local residents over time and has been reported by residents and representatives from organizations as a significant outcome of the project.
Symbolic Interactionism is a micro-approach theory that is based on the symbolic nature of human interaction as opposed to a more structured and mechanical interpretation and addresses the concern of shared meaning (Clark & Fast, 2019). The meaning of events is not fixed but can be broken down into the contribution of participants. Symbolic Interactionism provides insight into the nature of community solidarity, which is achieved through shared meaning and value in communally-owned goals and visions, places, cultural practices or beliefs.
Shared meaning is created through strong long term relationships, which with Glebe residents, has been the key focus of the project. Evaluation of the development process reflects the success of the project with older women and the Housing NSW tenants in the Glebe community. The Mitchell Street Fair is an example of a valuable and sentimental event which is shared among the residents, which allows them to spend time together, interact and form deeper bonds as a community.
Public Participation and Inclusivity
The Glebe Project provides a credible and trusted local forum for bringing people together from various groups to address ongoing issues within the community. Community development should occur in a setting of democratic participation. Deliberation occurs through communicative action, whereby the members of the community examine the available alternatives and their potential impacts and ensue in public talks through various networks. Habermas argues that communicative action is shaped at the seam of a system and lifeworld. Systems involve macro-economic and political forces that shape housing, employment, racial and class divisions in a particular community. By its very nature, development in any area involves the participation of networks, groups, and individuals whose diverse voices are part of the lifeworld. All diversity should be included in order to explore problems, test solutions, and make changes to policies when the community finds flaws. The objective of participation is to empower people to gain mastery over their affairs by emphasizing people-centred social development. This empowerment improves efficacy, addresses inequities and enhances individual and collective capacities. Community participation also contributes to wellbeing as it helps to gain an understanding of self and the community, develop a collective identity and solidarity, achieve equity and enhance capacity to sustain their achievements (Schulenkorf, 2012).
Giddens’s Structuration Theory
Alternate to both micro and macro theories, Giddens A. offers a more fluid and process-oriented approach to community development social theory by introducing a third and in-between level of analysis. Giddens’s structuration theory revolves around cultural traditions and societal norms and how these influence an individual’s behaviour. These normative patterns of society are empirical and are characterized by thought patterns and cultural molds such as the notion of reciprocity. Culture and traditions are of high priority because the social structure is held through divisions of society through these mental molds.
Impacts and Outcomes of the Project
The project has had many positive impacts on the community and has improved the overall standard of living. It has brought about the development, facilitation, and support of both formal and informal local networks. The project has also facilitated the Concerned Older Women’s (Group) who reside in Glebe and who have taken on a range of issues and has been proactive in the local Glebe community. Their achievements include: successfully gaining public seating on Glebe Point Rd, gaining better street lighting, changing bus routes and raising money for TEAR (who provide relief and aid in third world countries).
The project has also supported the Pathways project, which offers an alternative and innovative educational program and curriculum, which is designed to engage students, especially those from the indigenous community, who have dropped out of school (Hayes, 2016). The program allows such students to return to school and undertake a broad-principle based parallel curriculum via a ‘Learning through Interest’ (LTI) model. The project has demonstrated the capacity for young people who have dropped out of school to re-engage in learning and the capacity of a broad-based communal collaboration to address the needs of marginalized people and rehabilitate them.
The Glebe Bytes project is another outcome in partnership with groups and organizations throughout the City of Sydney. The bytes project was initiated to engage the residents of the public housing community in Glebe to gather, record, create and perform stories from the community, which expresses diversity, challenge stereotypes and connects with the broader community. Bytes builds the relationships and participation levels within the community and nurtures connections and networks established during the festivals held to showcase their works as well as on community forums, libraries, schools, community centers.
Community development in Glebe has established strong and trusting relationships between residents and the stakeholders involved in the project. It has also established a practical and continuous relationship between the community of Glebe and the University of Sydney, which has encouraged the university to take on the role of educators and developers in the community to build on their skills and contribute to the community.
The Glebe Community development Project is a long-running project that has been in operation in Glebe since 2004. The project has been successful in its implementation through support and funding from the Faculty of Education and Social Work, University of Sydney and the Housing NSW. The resulting public housing project has also been successful in transforming what was previously a concentrated public housing area into a socially mixed community and has enabled the conditions to give many people better opportunities in life. The project also creates affordable housing to allow for a cross-section of society to thrive within a community and not become exclusive. The project has achieved sustainable capacity through affordable public housing. It has also demonstrated inclusivity through the rehabilitation of young people who have dropped out of school to re-engage in learning. It has empowered the community with leadership and literacy skills through the computer program, and therefore improved communication and networking within the community.