Mind the Gap! The growing chasm between funding-driven agencies, and social and community knowledge and practice
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The field of human services is increasingly adopting narrow practice approaches, driven by contemporary funding priorities. Such approaches reflect a reductionist understanding of human need, and run contrary to the wisdom, accumulated knowledge, experience, evidence and ethics of social and community development work. Drawing from a small group of refugee women's accounts of everyday challenges as well as their efforts to develop personal agency in resettlement, this paper highlights the mismatch between the complexities that such women face in everyday settlement processes and the focus of services available to them. It argues for a more responsive person-in-environment focus that could enable and enhance women's own efforts and aspirations for themselves and their children. The current tendency towards case management and away from community development is contributing to what we call the diminishing architecture of community development, and therefore represents a shift that is difficult to reverse. Refugee settlement work requires developmental actions within the cultural group, between new arrivals and the host community, and between new arrivals and the host society's resources systems and structures. Concurrently, the field needs to reclaim a broader paradigm of human service practice allowing for joined up, locality-based, capacity building work that is responsive to people, contexts and specific issues emerging over time. A broader funding paradigm that values social and community knowledge and practice, locality work and enables on-going, incremental, proactive changes is also needed.
Community Development Journal
Copyright 2014 Oxford University Press. This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Community Development Journal following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version: Mind the Gap! The growing chasm between funding-driven agencies, and social and community knowledge and practice, Community Development Journal, Vol. 50, Iss. 1, 2015, Pages 88-103, is available online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/cdj/bsu024
Studies in Human Society not elsewhere classified