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< prev - next > Social and economic development Social Development learning_from_practice (Printable PDF)
A community meeting on natural resource planning, Enamo, Kenya
problems and escape poverty. They vary in
degrees of formalization – some may be very
informal, small gatherings of acquaintances,
others more formalized, with written
constitutions, elected bodies, and audited
accounts – and in the extent of support and
funding from external agencies.1
Community organizations can be
categorized into two groupings (though these
may be more a continuum than a dichotomy):
1. Community-wide organizations: These are
community representative structures, for the
purpose of community visioning, decision-
making and community-wide change.
Frequently known as ‘Village Development
Committees’ they often conduct planning
and strategy to address the causes of
poverty in the community. They may be the
lowest level of government (e.g. Nepal),
traditional tribal structures, or sometimes
be established with outside project support
(e.g. Sudan). A large part of their purpose
is to represent the interests of community
members, particularly the poorest, to
outsiders (and often vice versa, mediating
contact of outsiders with the community),
and to make decisions on their behalf.
2. Interest groups or social institutions: These
are not fully community-wide, and are often
formed for a specific purpose. Though
voluntary to join, they may have restrictions
on their membership, so they will not be
representative of the whole community –
though they may be able to represent the
particular interests of their members, e.g.
women, youth, parents, fishers, farmers,
blacksmiths, or labourers. This grouping
may also include a range of other local
development or social institutions (e.g.
savings and loan groups, faith-based
groups, cooperatives, small NGOs, or
funeral savings groups), and groups formed
to carry out a range of communal activities
(e.g. seed bank committees, village
disaster management committees, or water
management groups).
These different types of organizations
share many characteristics and can overlap
– for example community-wide organizations
are frequently made up of representatives
from a number of interest groups in the
community. The approach to working with
each will be often very similar, except for
two important areas of difference. First,
community-wide organizations, because of
their representative role, can be expected to
fulfil certain obligations on representativeness
and legitimacy in their make up and actions
(even if this is an often delicate, not fully
realized, issue); by contrast, interest groups
whose aim is not to represent diverse
community-wide interests, may have no such
expectation. Second, interest groups can be
more fluid and flexible. An interest group may
be more effective in bringing about change in
a certain area, e.g. agriculture or fisheries, or