Why Community Partnering? Guiding Ideas of Community Partnering Community Partnering in Indonesia and the Philippines

Guiding Ideas of Community Partnering

Idea 1: Shifting Focus From Needs To Assets

Is the glass half empty or half full?

Many of us conclude that the glass is half-empty. This seems to be the more realistic view. It's like that with our communities as well. When we look around we see all the problems that require solving and the needs asking to be met. Our communities can easily be seen in terms of what they lack. The focus on needs and problems can lead to a sense of helplessness and the belief that experts should be called in to assist in overcoming barriers to development. Starting with a needs assessment usually ends up with a wish list with money at the top. Money is hard to come by, so people begin to see themselves as dependent on gifts and handouts from those in power.

Half empty or half full?
Half empty or half full?

But what if we saw the glass as half full?

What if we saw our communities as full of strengths and assets? They might be hard to find, but they will be there. What if we were to focus on these as possible building blocks for a different kind of future?

Guiding Idea 1 of Community Partnering is to shift the focus from needs to assets. With an analysis of strengths and assets as a starting place for local development people can be encouraged to become drivers of their own distinctive development process.  Outside experts, finances and resources might be called upon, but they are enrolled as and when needed. Their initial absence does not prevent the development process from beginning.

Idea 2: Building on Existing Community Economic Practices

Some of the assets in local communities that are often over-looked are the community economic practices that produce well-being directly. These practices are distinctive cultural elements that help to define the community and keep it resilient. Just like the large mass that hides beneath the waterline of an ice-berg, this important economy of care  is often  hidden from view.

Overlooked economy
The economy as an iceberg

The overlooked economy includes:

  • gift giving 
  • volunteering
  • sharing the work load
  • reciprocal labour exchange
  • gleaning
  • offering credit with no interest
  • rotating credit circles
  • sharing food
  • community celebrations
  • caring for the environment
  • mutual aid associations
  • caring for the young, weak and disabled

Guiding Idea 2 of Community Partnering is that these practices must be safe-guarded, built upon and strengthened in any local development initiative.

Idea 3: Community Members as Action Researchers

CER enterprise field trip
Community researchers on a field trip to visit other community enterprises

Action research involves finding out about a situation and working to change it for the better. Community members know a lot about their local place and people. Though they are usually not formally trained, local people can become researchers of their own situation. They are crucial to any process of change. Community Partnering puts people at the centre of the research and development agenda. Guiding Idea  3 is to involve local people in changing their situation through research and subsequent action. Anyone can become a researcher and a change agent.

Idea 4: Growing Community Enterprises

Community enterprises are businesses and organizations that produce direct social benefit as a primary output rather than being driven to maximize profit for benefit of shareholders and owners. Social benefit can take various forms, such as

  • employment of people who are marginalized from the mainstream economy
  • reinvestment of surpluses into the community  
  • extending markets of  local producers
  • supplying high quality and fairly priced goods and services to local people

Community enterprises are socially, not privately owned. Their material sucess is shared by the community and helps to strengthen it. Community enterprises become assets that form part of the commons that a community makes and shares.

Guiding Idea  4 of Commuity Partnering is to support and experiment with the development of different kinds of community enterprises.

Idea 5: Accessing Partners

One of the assets that can be built on are the organizations and individuals who can offer partnership to local people. Partners are best sought when people have identified what ideas  they are enthusiastic about and are  ready to explore for feasibility and potential development.  Consider approaching the following for partnership:

  • individuals with particular knowledge or experience
  • technical experts in industry or government
  • government training officers
  • organizations  that might offer markets eg schools, church communities
  • local governments
  • NGOs local and national
  • universities
  • charities
  • businesses
  • international aid agencies

Guiding Idea 5 of Community Partnering is to access partnerships to help bring community projects to fruition.  Remember that partnership does not mean leadership. Partnership involves an equal relationship of mutual respect and collaboration.