Effectiveness at what? The processes and impact of community involvement in area-based initiatives
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Community involvement is seen both as means and as ends in contemporary urban policy, and although increasingly popular with policymakers it is not universally welcomed. Incredulous opponents assert that it does not improve the position of poor people and that it distracts attention from structural inequalities, whereas sceptical believers hold that it boosts social cohesion, and improves the position of powerless groups. The authors provide a framework for understanding these conflicting accounts of the processes and impact of community involvement in area-based initiatives (ABIs). They draw on a review of the relevant literature commissioned by the Home Office. The work is grounded in theories of democracy that claim both developmental and instrumental benefits for participants. A third rationale is found in 'due process' claims for involvement as a fundamental right. This framework suggests that answering questions about what works in community involvement in ABIs requires an empirical focus on aims, processes, and effects. The evidence shows that believers are justified in being sceptical but optimistic, and that opponents will remain incredulous in the light of weaknesses in the practice and outcomes of community involvement in ABIs. The authors conclude by discussing the implications for policy and future research.
Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy