Archive for the ‘Social Capital’ Category

Community Development

August 25, 2009

Community Development means different things to different people.  This is what it means to me.

I was born in Sydney but moved to Nuriootpa in the Barossa Valley in 1956 so my father could take up the position of Secretary with the Nuriootpa War Memorial Community Centre. The work of the Centre was held up as a model of community development in post world war two reconstruction.

Much of the development in Nuriootpa owes its existence to its major benefactor, William Coulthard, who donated extensive land and money to the community in the first half of the Twentieth century.  There are many other individuals who came together, who shared a common cause, to build a community. The story of the Community Centre has been told in a video “Realising Visions”.

The community owned, and still owns, the Vine Inn, which in 2007 celebrated 70 years of community ownership, and had used the profits to fund community projects, schools, kindergartens,  parks, gardens and facilities for the elderly.  Read more about the Vine Inn herehttp://bit.ly/rqV7a

The community also owned, and still owns, The Community Store seehttp://bit.ly/1ytycx which has grown from a 7500 pound capital base to a turnover close to $60 million and over 12,000 members today.

So the Nuriootpa community had a strong financial base from which to operate.  But it also had something else – a strong sense of community, a sense of belonging.

I remember the community pool, the working bees to construct community facilities, and then the declining involvement of the people in community activties that accompanied the advent of television, the closure of the local picture show and the drive-in.

I went to University and used some of that time to understand the change in community, the decline in social capital, so ably decribed almost 30 years later in “Bowling Alone” by Robert Putman (http://www.bowlingalone.com/), but previously discussed  in “The Eclipse of Community: An Interpretation of American Studies” by Maurice Stein.  Industrialisation, urbanisation and bureaucratisation are all present in the history of the Barossa Valley and its major towns.

My father played an important role in establishing the Barossa Valley Public Library, a contribution which was acknowledged shortly before his death in 1981.  Information, and access to it, is a powerful force in community development.

The counterpoint is that the development of such services also contributes to less reliance on self and acceptance of responsibility (that I have a part to play in developing social capital) and more dependence on service providers and others to “do it”.

So community development requires a financial base, supported through the endeavours and contributions (financial, a good strong back, the gift fo the gab) of the members of the community.  It requires strong organisations or strong networks to contribute to good works. And finally it needs the contribution of a wide variety of skills to bring it all together and make it work.