Doing it Differently
- Networks of Community Development Agents
This document is written for practitioners and professionals interested in the processes and methods of establishing and stimulating networks of Community Agents. Such networks are a potential mechanism for strengthening the participation of local people. However, their development within Scotland is relatively new. Like community, the terms network and agents are in danger of losing their meaning through becoming phrases used to cover any loose association of people. The value of defining and drawing the parameters of Community Agents and their networks is to give legitimacy in terms of their value in enhancing local involvement. These mechanisms need to be understood by people involved in the practice, training and funding of community development.
The starting point is the appreciation of people's participation, and the
realisation that this rarely happens spontaneously. It is not brought about
through theoretical and mechanical arguments about its usefulness. What it does
involve is social preparation. This is a process of supporting people to:
Social preparation necessitates a systematic pattern of action-reflection-action
which is the fundamental core practice of participatory development.
How does it all get started? This paper provides a discussion of the various ways of observing known 'good practices'. Information is replica watches provided about why and how to support the development of local Agents, both before they start to network and during the early phases of growing into a free-standing organisation. Within any part of the process many location and issue-specific concerns will emerge. This is what makes each network and people's process both particular and unique. There is no single answer or model to promoting participation through networks, there are only frameworks and guiding principles.
The document begins by reviewing the general issues involved in networks and capacity building of local activists. It then looks in detail at organisational issues, training, contracting and self-management.
Finally, although this document portrays the process of establishing community networks as linear, in reality it is not. The reader should use it as a general framework and not a step-by-step guide.