With the voice of this calling: The experience of community development practitioners in the organisational context of bureaucracy

Lynda Shevellar (2008). With the voice of this calling: The experience of community development practitioners in the organisational context of bureaucracy PhD Thesis, School of Social Work and Human Services, The University of Queensland.

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Author Lynda Shevellar
Thesis Title With the voice of this calling: The experience of community development practitioners in the organisational context of bureaucracy
School, Centre or Institute School of Social Work and Human Services
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2008-09
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Total pages 259
Total black and white pages 259
Subjects 370000 Studies in Human Society
Abstract/Summary This thesis aims to understand the experiences of community development practitioners who are located in the organisational context of bureaucracies. Over the last decade there has been a revitalised interest in community development as a means of addressing social issues within Australia. Local, state and federal governments, as well as large non-government organisations, have developed policies and programs aimed at building, strengthening, renewing and revitalising communities. At the same time, a set of ideologies have emerged that have given rise to a global neoliberal welfare regime, and that have shaped ways of thinking and behaving within bureaucracies. Whilst much has been written about these two broad trends and their impact upon Australia, what appears to be missing from these analyses is an understanding of the impact upon the actual practitioners operating at the intersection of these forces. This research addresses the gap in the literature between the academic discussion and the personal experience of undertaking community development in bureaucracies. This investigation adopts a qualitative approach. Twenty-two semi-structured interviews were conducted with community development practitioners from federal, state and local government and from large non-government organisations in Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). The interview transcripts were then analysed utilising a framework known as Causal Layered Analysis (CLA) which enabled the responses to be examined through multiple lenses: social, discursive and metaphoric. What this study reveals is that community development practitioners have a largely negative experience of bureaucracies: the work is difficult to do, it is not well understood, and it is not well supported. Whilst this is not particularly surprising, what IS of interest is the level of shock and frustration felt by practitioners, and their lack of preparedness for these experiences. Whilst community development workers have a very good understanding of the content of their practice, what appears to be missing is a critical analysis of their context and themselves as practitioners, and this invites a more negative experience of the work. Practitioners respond to these experiences by distinguishing between themselves as bureaucrats and what they name as their true and authentic selves. They articulate a difference between “working developmentally” from within bureaucracies and undertaking what they call “real” community development, which occurs “in community”. The acts of distinguishing an authentic self and authentic community development are both forms of resistance. However, I suggest that such constructions are largely unhelpful as they construct false binaries which render practitioners ineffective. The work of community development practitioners is compromised because the context in which they are operating is compromised. I also argue that community development students require greater preparation for the organisational context of bureaucracy, which includes understanding not only methodology, but also the objectives, arenas and structures for practice. Practitioners need a deeper understanding of relations of power within these contexts. This requires workers to be clear about their motivations, their commitment and their analysis. Finally I contend that what is required is the creation and sharing of metaphors that articulate a relational rather than individualistic and heroic form of agency. In this way community development theory and practice can shift away from a modernist narrative of development to a discussion of mutual transformation.
Keyword community development
human agency
Additional Notes Landscape pages: 31 103 104 105 106 110 201

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Created: Thu, 26 Mar 2009, 09:48:41 EST by Ms Lynda Shevellar on behalf of Library - Information Access Service