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Challenges of Community Development Problem Solution Essay

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In an ideal world, community development is predicated on principles of social justice and environmental justice (Ledwith, 2005, p.197). In other words, the end goal of a successful community development program should lead to sustainability and the creation of an ecosystem wherein everything flourishes (Ledwith, 2005). It is a force that could lead to positive change.

In fact, many people would agree that community development has a lot to offer the public and private sectors. Nevertheless, resistance towards community development is also a reality. It is imperative to acknowledge resistance to change and yet at the same time community leaders must strive hard in order to deliver change within their sphere of influence.

The Importance of Community Development

A mild form of resistance to change is seen in the way people choose not to get involved in the transformation process. However, those men and women who did not participate in the community development program are considered as untapped resources. With the right leader, they are able to “bring new human capital, ideas, and diversity to the community development process” (Robinson and Green, 2011, p.95).

Any potential solution in dealing with apathy or the refusal to get involved must start with information dissemination and education. These people must be taught and they must understand the importance of community development. Leaders on the other hand must not assume that the members of the community are already familiar with the benefits of community development.

Members of the community must be persuaded that community development is a positive force. If one takes the practical approach, the members of the community will realise that there are two basic aspects of community development that they can focus on, and these are related to infrastructure and crime prevention (Bel, 2010, p.47).

If the people are aware of the benefits, it is not only the residents in a given area who will realise the importance of community development but also private companies serving in that particular area (Brown and Trevino, 2006, p.595). As a result, there would be a direct community engagement of private service suppliers.

The collaboration of the private and public sector would result in improving services such as garbage collection. At the same time, more people would be involved in the monitoring of the delivery of services financed by public funds.

The participation of talented people in the community could lead to a chain-reaction of events (Nohria, 2004, p.20). Many of them would come to realise that the sustainable development of a community is not always dependent on the delivery of basic services but also on crime prevention.

Members of the community would realise that an area riddled with crime could never develop a sustainable engine of growth (Crane and Matten, 2007, p.10).

Many residents are indifferent to the idea of community development because they rely on the local government for many of the things that they need. For example, they rely on the local government to develop an effective law enforcement and litigation program. They believed that the combined elements of law enforcement and the public prosecutors would create an effective deterrent against crime.

They also believed that their local officials would be able to apply certain strategies in order to significantly reduce the crime rate. They believed that the existence of a law enforcement group and the availability of public prosecutors are enough to strike fear into the hearts of criminals. In the present time, criminals are brazen enough to conduct their illegal trade on broad daylight.

It is not enough to point the obvious that conventional means of crime prevention are no longer enough to defeat the rising criminality in towns and cities.

The community needs the participation of residents in order to develop viable solutions in dealing with crime. They have to be educated about certain concepts such as Crime Prevention through Environmental Design or CPTED (Norbutus and University, 2007, p.14).

As a result, ideas could be forwarded to the planning committee such as the installation of lighting facilities in public places and improving crime deterrent strategies such as installing closed-circuit cameras in certain areas.

Aside from securing the services of volunteers who are talented enough to contribute in the creation of strategies, community development is also made possible by empowering community members. For example, livelihood programs may help provide a steady source of income for some of the members of the community and it could be a major catalyst that would lead to change.

Conflicts in Community Development

The end goal is collaboration. According to one commentary, “the active participation and engagement of diverse local citizens is essential to the development of community and collective capacity building” (Robinson and Green, 2011, p.95). However, the opposite is true in communities around the world. In reality, comprehensive involvement as outlined earlier is unlikely in many areas all over the globe.

In fact, the behaviour of the members of the community is often, “marked by apathy, disaffection, and a lack of understanding of their potential role in social change, many citizens remain complacent and uninvolved in the actions shaping social life” (Robinson and Green, 2011, p.95). The first thing that has to be done is to acknowledge this problem. The second step is to figure out why people are complacent and uninvolved.

The root cause of the problem could be traced back to how people perceived change and according to a commentary, “Change is nothing new and a simple fact of life. Some people actively thrive on new challenges and constant change, while others prefer the comfort of the status quo and strongly resist any change.

It is all down to the personality of the individual and there is little management can do about resistance to change” (Mullins, 2010, p.753). Change is important for the positive transformation or renewal of a community ravaged by crime and poverty. However, residents are oftentimes unwilling to embrace change. One of the primary reasons identified in related literature is the inability to absorb the impact of change.

Even if the members of the community are not open to change, community leaders must persuade them. Needless to say, leadership is the key to an effective and efficient community development process. Leaders must help them understand that the community could be compared to a business entity that requires change and innovation.

Without a doubt, political and civic leaders believe in the concept of community development. However, their belief and enthusiasm are limited to the conceptual level only because they are committed to the ideals of community development but not the process. In reality, even leaders oppose change and they are not willing to embrace change because there are so many things to consider.

The unpredictable nature of change may affect their political careers. At the same time, real transformation requires hard work. Many people are unwilling to provide such level of commitment. According to the study made on the transformation process, change can be seen as the cause of “unanticipated delays, costs, and instabilities” (Chew, Cheng, and Petrovic-Lazarevic, 2006, p.59).

In other words, leaders must change the perspective regarding the benefits of change. Leaders oftentimes resist the implementation of certain because it is not to their advantage. In other occasions, a leader failed to deliver because of the inability to overcome problems placed before him (Gallos, 2006, p.50).

Community leaders must come to realise that, in order to reap the benefits caused by change, they must be ready to make sacrifices. They have to make the necessary adjustments in order to satisfy the requirements of a particular strategy (Bradford and Burke, 2005, p.35).

It is important to point out that the change process begins at the top. Leaders must be persuaded first, before the followers are expected to embrace their programs. In the case of the leaders, the change process begins in studying the intricacies of the change process.

Without a high-level commitment coming from community leaders, change is merely wishful thinking. Leaders demonstrate their commitment by learning how to develop a cost-efficient operation. It is not enough to simply talk about the desire to do something. It is imperative to develop short-term and long-term projects that residents of a community could feel, hear, and see.

After residents of the community are involved and funding has been released, the next step is to look for ways on how to improve the change processes. It is a prerequisite to efficiency and waste reduction (Huczynski and Buchanan, 2004, p.23).

Hiring Consultants

Strong leaders may not relish the thought of asking help from outsiders. However, an effective leader knows the value of asking assistance from experts. Strong and effective leaders are not only knowledgeable about the probable conflicts and resistance that may arise due to the implementation of a new program. At the same time, they are also proactive in mitigating the effect of resistance and conflicts (Cummings and Worley, 2009, p.5).

Hiring consultants make leaders aware of the problems areas that they need to focus on. In addition, consultants help leaders understand the various stakeholders that would be affected by a proposed change in the community.

Consultants could also help leaders when there is a need to communicate community development strategy to all stakeholders. Consultants can help them develop a more appropriate message that would in turn help them reach out to a greater number of people.

It has become clear that leadership plays a major role in reducing conflict but at the same time it must be pointed out that incompetent leaders increase the probability of conflict. Incompetent leaders increase the degree of resistance towards a particular project.

Therefore, planning must become a major part of the change process. It is quite obvious when leaders are not serious in their desire to implement change. The first thing that one would notice is the absence of focus.

The second glaring flaw is the lack of commitment towards sustainable development. If an evaluator wants to find out the presence of sustainable strategies, the first thing that he must examine is the presence of a system geared towards knowledge transfer and knowledge sharing. It is impossible to have continuous growth if the change process is dependent on one person.

The strategy would likely fail if there is no one in the community who understands how to maintain or sustain the development plan. Finally, an effective leader is someone who has the desire to improve the efficiency of the system (Cummings and Worley, 2009, p.15).

There must be continuous improvement. At the same time, leaders must be on the lookout for talented people and build a team that would handle critical projects for the community (Bradford and Burke, 2005, p.8). Needless to say, leaders must always think a few steps further down the road and invest in training the staff and other team members.

A significant part of the change process is data gathering. Conflicts arise because leaders make decisions based on faulty data. For instance, it is imperative to find out the socio-economic background of the members of the community. It is also critical to determine the cultural background of the members of the team.

Understanding Culture and Diversity

Another important source of conflict and resistance to change is the lack of understanding with regards to cultural diversity. According to one commentary, a community is a complex system of interrelationships “woven across social differences, diverse histories, and cultures, and determined in the present by political and social trends” (Ledwith, 2005, p.34).

It is an example of ineffective leadership a leader designs a plan without consulting other members of the community. There is a great chance for success if the leader consults all stakeholders, especially in a community that is a melting pot of cultures.

The lack of understanding with regards to different social backgrounds could give rise to inappropriate strategies. It could also create a lot of hurt feelings because of a poorly handled issue. A leader must seek to learn more about the different aspects of conflict resolution.

Another major reason why leaders should study cultural diversity is based on the realisation that diversity is an asset rather than a liability. In fact, diversity should be considered as an important component of collaborative leadership.

According to one commentary, “Research has consistently shown that diverse teams produce better results, provided they are well led” (Ibarra and Hansen, 2011, p.71). In a globalised world, wherein immigrants are free to live and work abroad, it is easy to find communities filled with families that came from different parts of the planet.

At first glance, diversity seems to be a liability considering for instance the language barriers and other problems caused by different beliefs and values. However, if the leader could help team members set aside their differences, then, the leader could harness a pool of talent comprised of different skills set and different worldviews.

Imagine for instance the effect, if a team of engineers trying to construct a bridge in Mexico and not a single one of them knows how to speak Spanish. There is no need to employ a Mexican, but they need someone who speaks fluent Spanish.

Diversity does not only mean racial difference but it could be about the social and economic background of the members of the team. A person who works in Wall Street may have little experience when it comes to carpentry and landscaping.

In a global context, it is important to have different team members that compliment each other in terms of different experiences, education, and even cultural values. If community leaders are considering hiring professionals and consultants, then, they must also consider the cultural diversity issue.

They would be courting disaster if they hire people who do not know how to deal with cultural diversity. However, assembling a team composed of people with different socio-economic and even cultural background is not an easy thing to do.

In the previous discussion, conflicts were identified with regards to cultural diversity within a community. However, conflicts can occur within a workgroup or teams.

It is therefore important for leaders to study how to diffuse the tension and conflicts within culturally diversified teams. It is inevitable for conflicts to occur because of their different worldviews; nevertheless, leaders must have an insight into the dynamics of internal relationships within a team.

Leaders must be prepared during critical moments of the project’s life cycle. During moments of significant stress, team members may not be able to cope with the pressure. At the same time, deadlines and other pressures could push them to the brink. As a result, words are spoken that could lead to conflict.

Community leaders will benefit from studying the various theoretical frameworks with regards to dealing with cultural diversity in the community and within project management groups. One of the pioneers in this field is Holfstede. He was able to articulate the significance of cultural diversity. He said that leaders must be sensitive to cultural diversity so that their respective organisations will survive and thrive in a globalised economy.

In one of his discourses, Holfstede said that Asians and Westerners have different worldviews and they have different interpretations when it comes to power (Rhee, Uleman, Lee, and Roman, 1995, p.142). Holfstede said that it is imperative to learn about these things because leaders must be able to work in harmony with their subordinates and vice versa.

For example, in the United Kingdom, a subordinate could approach the team leader or the CEO of the company and talk to him as if they were equals. The same thing cannot be said of Asian bosses and Asian workers. Social conventions do not allow workers to talk directly to the owner of the company.

In Asian societies, there is a need to observe social ranking. In other words, the age difference of the team members and their respective social status play an important role in the way they interact. Knowledge of Holfstede’s cultural framework enables a leader to steer clear of cultural landmines that may weaken the team due to internal conflicts.

Possible Solutions

As mentioned earlier, community leaders must hire consultants that could help them manage the change process. The consultants help leaders develop an effective plan related to community development. Nonetheless, a plan is just one of the components of a community development process.

One of the major goals is to create a collaborative culture within the community. The development plan is merely the guide. It is the members of the community that must contribute their time and talent in order for the plan to work.

One way to reduce conflict is to focus on one project at a time. It is not practical to work on several projects at the same time. However, it is much worse if the leader and his team continue to talk about vague ideas and abstract concepts with regards to community development and yet unwilling to work hard to accomplish the goal.

Project selection must start with a need. If one takes time to examine the headlines, the most important thing that communities should focus on is disaster awareness and how to develop an Emergency Plan to deal with man-made and natural disasters.

If community leaders focus on this type of project, then, it is easier for the members of the community to trust them and follow their lead. It has to be made clear that people are inspired by hard work and tangible results (Tidd and Bessant, 2009, 30).

Conclusion

An overview of community development leads to the conclusion that leadership is the primary key to success. Everything is dependent on effective leadership. Leaders must anticipate conflicts and resistance to change.

At the same time, they need to figure out how to deal with conflicts within their team. One of the things that they need to focus on is cultural diversity. They also need to study how to inspire people and encourage them to get involved in the change process.

References

Bel, R 2010, ‘Leadership and innovation: learning from the best’, Global Business and Organizational Excellence, vol. 29 no. 2, pp. 47-60.

Bradford, D & Burke, W 2005, Reinventing organization development: new approaches to change in organizations, John Wiley & Sons, California.

Brown, M, & Trevino, L 2006, ‘Ethical leadership: a review and future directions’, The Leadership Quarterly, vol. 17 no. 1, pp. 595-616.

Chew, S, Cheng, S & Petrovic-Lazarevic, S 2006, ‘Manager’s role in implementing organizational change: case of the restaurant industry in Melbourne’, Journal of Global Business and Technology, vol. 2 no.1, pp. 58-67.

Crane, A, & Matten, D 2007, Business ethics, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Cummings, T & Worley, G 2009, Organization development and change, Cengage learning, Ohio.

Gallos, J 2006, Organization development: a Jossey-Bass reader, John Wiley & Sons, California.

Huczynski, A & Buchanan, D 2004, Organizational behaviour: an introductory text, Prentice Hall, New York.

Ibarra, H & Hansen, M 2011, ‘Are You a Collaborative Leader?’ Harvard Business Review, vol. 89 no. 7, pp. 68-74.

Ledwith, M 2005, Community development: a critical approach, The Policy Press, Bristol.

Mullins, L 2010, Management and organisational behaviour, Pearson Higher Education, Harlow.

Nohria, N 2004, Lecture text: what really matters, Harvard Business School, Massachusetts.

Norbutus, D & University, R 2007, Exploring the experience of organizational transformation: contrasting episodic change with continuous change, ProQuest, London.

Rhee, E, Uleman, J, Lee, H & Roman, R 1995, ‘Spontaneous self-descriptions and ethnic identities in individualistic and collectivistic cultures’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 69 no. 1, pp.142-152.

Robinson, J & Green, P 2011, Introduction to Community Development: Theory, Practice, and Service Learning, Sage Publications, London.

Tidd, J & Bessant, J 2009, Managing innovation, integrating technological, market & organizational, John Wiley & Sons, New Jersey.

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