PUTTING PEOPLE FIRST
Without an active population and a strong civil society a true democracy can never exist. That is why one of the most important tasks of our time is to mobilize people's latent and blocked resources. It is important for us even today to strive to make society more democratic. Without an active population there can only be a false democracy. This is a central position in the development of humanity and society.
It is in this context community work and community development enter the stage. Community work is a strategy and certain methods for mobilising local communities. It is a grassroot organising and development of collective forms of working and cooperation among oppresed and politically poor groups with the aim of developing human resources and all possible local and regional resources to achieve a wide variety of improvements - economic, social and cultural - in the community.
Putting people first means that the focus is deliberately on the process of participation of the local people themselve in their efforts to improve the conditions of living and at the same time the development of peoples competence, critical thought and consciousness about the powerstructure of society and about peoples own strength. One may say that it is the pedagogical importants of participation, cooperation, learning by action, collective struggle, that gives a wider meaning to community work. Mobilising the local community is a way of encouraging ordinary men and women to be active, creative and learn together with fellows to take control over their lifes and future, and to create a more human and democratic society. This introduction chapter deals with the point of putting people first in community development.
The welfare state society cannot be built up without the involvement of people. People's knowledge and consciousness are developed in an interaction of experience and "studies", where knowledge based upon experience is fundamental. So long as people are not able to take an active part in the formation of society or of their own living conditions then we will continue to have a society run by one or more than one elite. In this context the term 'civil society' refers to the sphere of families, associations, voluntary organisations and communities. Private business and the public sector (the state) are not included in this definition. The emphasis is on collective movements and co-operation.
Top-down or Buttom-up approaches?
The strong welfare state (or so-called Strong Society, a social democratic expression for the welfare state) gives people a basic sense of security. Social institutions have been built up through active policy of reform and cover a comprehensive network. But our systems for solving problems also have their disadvantages. There are clear signs that an all too developed professional approach to solving problems tends to undermine and take away the population´s ability to do things for themselves. This creates a strong dependence upon public institutions (the Social State) with consequences both for human development and the influence of the development of society.
The politically poor, said to be more than a minority in society, usually have to put up with having an elite of professional problem solvers manage their concerns, based upon the values and reference points of an elite. It is also not unknown for the elected politicians to come into this dependency relationship with this expert group, too.
To enliven politics and democratize development it is important to have an active interest from the public at grassroots level. Naturally this assumes our belief in the capacity of people. This represents a considerable difference from the attitude of guardian which often characterizes the professional or expert-led problem solving approach. The spokespersons for the latter position often show how they defend power and privileges through expressing their disbelief about the judgement and qualifications of ordinary people. This enlightened elite group also often imply (whilst giving the impression that they represent knowledge and common sense) that they represent the welfare of the people; however their real intention is to legitimate political poverty.
The concept of politics is often understood formally: something going on in the Parliament, party politics etc. But politics is also about organizing people for power - empowering. In this chapter I am going to elaborate on the model that emphasize organizing and mobilizing at the grassroot level. By that I mean work with neighbourhood or local community groups to stimulate and increase the interaction and also the creation of some sort of basic organizations or local groups, through which oppressed people can formulate their demands and desires, cooperate and act for change. This is to show my approach to community work.
It is not unusual that one sees politics as something which only concerns formal political organizations, their programs and their actions. I think this interpretation is far too limited. Politics means to me all action which has power and influence in society, especially when it comes to the production and the use of resources in society.
The formal political organizations are often tied to the working parliaments and ”the games” played around this. The actions of such organizations are therefore often characterized by the frames within which the formalised political work is happening and by that could be considered party tactics.
Criticism against the political life often points out that our so-called representative democratic system forms political elites and creates passivity among the masses. The established political organizations are seldom ”alive” organizations, but a green-house for politicians concerned with their careers. The difference between non-democracy and democracy has thereby been reduced to a question about the power of one or more elites. The active participation of the masses is completely eliminated. Among the political elite it is an axiom which means that every concrete demand of active participation by the people is seen as an inappropriate involvement and a threat.
The knowledge and consciousness of the people is developed in the interaction between experience and ”studies”, where the knowledge based on experience is the most important knowledge. As long as the people cannot actively participate in the creation of the society and of their own living conditions, we will have a society which is governed by one or several elites.
Setting the goals
The aim of community work should be to stimulate an increasing capacity for action and cooperation among the politically weak groups in order for them to be better prepared to change their situation. I am strongly conscious of the fact that this purpose is not uncontroversial - in fact quite the opposite. There are problems that have to be reckoned with in this. However, without saying anything about different motives, it looks today as if community work and the mobilization of people´s blocked ability are being brought up more and more, partly through the crisis of the welfare state. This is probably partly due to the current political climate and partly to the realisation that the professional services cannot be expanded to the degree we earlier thought. All of us have felt the reorganisation, dismantling, insufficiency and the cut backs of the welfare state and in particular the financial crisis of the municipalities. Therefore this offers an opportunity to put resources into new concepts of organising and self help. Although we should be wary that this does not simply happen in superficial ways and fail to tackle the real, basic problems. Dealing with this problems all times means we are running into political questions and politics (although some community workers do not like to acknowledge this fact).
Self activity versus strong organisations
Perhaps here it is appropriate to make clear that it is not only my opinion that self-activity is a preferred alternative to alliances in strong organisations through which the oppressed can fight for their interests in society, that is to say nationally and internationally. Quite the opposite, an extensive mobilization at grassroots level should be the way for the large organisations to gain strength.
Sources of inspiration
During the 1960s authorities in different parts of the West, especially in the USA, England and Holland, used methods of action research and community work to tackle social problems.
In the USA the federal authorities started a war on poverty. The participation of the ghetto population was seen as one of the ways of beating their apathy and sense of emptiness. It was stressed that poverty was not so much of a question of the lack of material resources but of a lack of power. By letting the poor have control of their institutions they would gain self respect.
The authorities invested in educating and mobilzing the poor in order for them to improve their situation and use societal resources. The poor were to participate in city planning in which their wishes would be taken into consideration. Through the programme it was hoped that the poor could adapt to 'normal' American society.
In England the Home Office, in collaboration with local authorities and universities, developed an extensive regeneration programme in certain areas of deprivation (the CDP programme) at the end of the 1960s. This programme was inspired by the war against poverty in the USA. Community workers and action researchers were to organize and activate the local people and encourage a greater cooperation between the institutions and various voluntary organisations. The programme was based therefore on the mobilization of the local community and providing support for self help.
The breakdown of the local community was seen as a breakdown for the small groups. The aim was to strengthen the social networks and stimulate self sustaining processes. Through this people could be brought back to "stabilized" groups where informal social control could be recreated. This was seen as the socio-therapeutic aim with community work as a method. The aim was also to bring about better city planning by involving target groups of people in the process and thereby reducing the distance between the decision makers and the people affected by the decisions. The programme was also an attempt to find less expensive methods of tackling the serious problems of urban deprivation.
In Holland the authorities tried to mobilize the population within certain areas to bring about an improved social adaptation in the urban environments and to integrate immigrant groups etc. Through community work it was wished to bring in the people into the planning of social and welfare services. It was the wish of the programme to get the local population to make better use of the available resources or to develop new resources themselves, as well as to influence their attitude to their social surroundings.
As in the USA and England the community workers in Holland have gradually become a more institutionalized form of community work, aimed at making the local population more receptive to different welfare facilities and creating trust in the institutions.
The more public attempts at community work as the third method in social work in Sweden started in the late 60s. These usually go under the titles: "grannskapsarbete", neighbourhood work. "organisationsarbete", community organization, "byutveckling" community development, "social planering", social planning, "brukarmedverkan" participatory planning and "aktionsforskning" action research .
The methods adopted remin very much of those adopted in USA, England and Holland. As in these countries we also have different approaches - and some strategies and methods conected to Swedish traditions and history (as we will see later). In principal there are two main approaches. The first stresses the importance of communication and cooperation between public bodies, the public, and ideal organisations. For the public bodies it expresses a desire for efficiency. Mobilization is aimed principally at increased information and receptivity to information.
The other approach stresses organisation and mobilization at grassroots level. That is to say, working with local groups of the population in order to stimulate an increased interaction and the building up of some kind of base organisations or local groups. Through this the people can formulate their demands and wishes and work themselves for change. This approach has a connection to the long lasting popular movements in Sweden.
Sweden and its Welfare State
Before we go into a closer study of community work and community development in Sweden, I think it would be useful to have a look at Sweden and its famous welfare state. Sweden has a population of only 8.6 million people on an area twice the size of UK or as large as Spain or California (173 423 square miles). The main part of the area is in an artic region. Sweden extends from South to North at roughly the same latitude as Alaska and is one of the countries on earth located furthest from the Equator.
About 85% of the population live in the southern half of the country and about 80% of the inhabitants live in settlements (towns and cities) of 500 or more people. The most densely populated areas lie in the triangle formed by the three largest cities: Stockholm - Göteborg - Malmö. The interior of Norrland is very sparsely populated with less than three inhabitants on each square mile (Sweden as a the whole has 20 inhabitants on each square kilometer, the UK has 232).
Sweden has for a long time been a homogenous country, but today 13% of the residents are foreign-born. We also have two minority groups of native inhabitants: the Sami people (about 17 000) and Finnish-speaking (30 000) in north east. The Sami people are scattered throughout the interior of northern Sweden (Norrland). Once a hunting and fishing people, they developed a reindeer herding system, which they still carry out, though many Sami also have other occupations.
About 52% of the population constitute the labour force and over 80% of women are employed, partly due to the expansion of the public sector since the 1960s. 80% of all employees are members of a trade union.
Sweden has a parliamentary democracy - though we still have a King. The King has mainly ceremonial functions as Head of State. The Parliament (riksdagen) consists of one chamber, whose members are directly elected by proportional representation. The Social Democratic Party (Labour Party) held power from 1932 until 1976. After six years of non-socialist government they returned to power 1982 and remained in office until 1991. Today (1994) Sweden has a four-party, non-socialist government (regering). The Social Democratic Party is the largest party with more than 40% of the votes and more than 1.2 million members.
Sweden is divided into 24 counties (län) and each has a directly elected council (landsting) entitled to levy an income tax and is responsible chiefly for health and medical care, planning and transportation in its area. To enforce and facilitate the laws and administration of the national government policies on the regional level, we also have 24 county Govenors (landshövdingar) each with a Cabinet or executive board (länsstyrelse) elected by the County Council. The County Administration (under the cabinet) have experts on each of its fields of responsible: Regional economics and development, Transportation and communication, Education, Culture, Social services, Environment and housing, Natural resources, Agriculture, Fisheries, Civil defence, Veterianary and Reindeer industry (in the North of Sweden). A third type of region is the more historical Province (landskap) which today has no formal political task, but is important for people's sense of regional identity.
On the third political level Sweden has 286 municipalities or district councils (kommuner) each with a popularly elected council (kommunfullmäktige) and a district government (kommunstyrelse). The municipality is entitled to decide on and collect taxes, and operates public services such as schools (primary, secondary and upper secondary schools), social services (child care, old-age care, care for disabled, welfare, economic assistance, prevention and treatment of drug and alcohol abuse) town and city planning, housing, transportation, fire protection, recreation, cultural and leisure facilities.
The municipality or district is divided into local districts, often former smaller municipalities of their own. Until 1952 Sweden had more than 2600 municipalities and local government. These were merged into larger units and have now usually a municipal centre (centralort) and with a more or less huge surrounding territory, which in its turn is divided in to local districts (kommundelar) with local centres. In some municipalities these local districts have their own local cabinet or council (kommundelsnämnd), which is apointed by the municipality council. These local cabinets can decide on education, social services, recreation, cultural and leisure facilities. In the interior of northern Sweden many municipalities are as large as the counties in the South of Sweden. Compared with the UK municipalies are strong authorities in Sweden.
Parish councils (kyrkoråd) do not have much formal power today in Sweden. In the countryside it is not uncommon to find a fifth political level at the community level with "community councils" (byalag, byaråd, byastämma, byutvecklingsgrupp) though they are not a part of the formal parliamentary political system of the public sector. Community councils can decide on their own business and give advice to the local cabinet and the municipality council. When it comes to implementing municipality decisions, they may have more to say. Community workers are in most cases employed by municipalities (at the moment less than 400) and in some cases by voluntary and non-profit organizations.
State support for regional and local development
A municipality with weak tax base, is eligible for an equalization grant from the state, and areas of declining population receive special assistance for development and labour market policy, and for keeping up services and standard of living. In 1992/93 (one year of budget) county cabinets (county administrations) spent 295 million kronor (SEK) or 30 million pounds (GBP) of state money on special assistance to the sparsely populated areas and an other 700 million kronor (SEK) or 70 million pounds was for assistance to the Priority Areas in the North of Sweden. The special assistance to farmers in the North of Sweden was 995 million kronor or 100 million pounds (National Rural Area Development Authority, Marsh 1994). In 1994/95 the government will spend 3 billions (3000 000 000) SEK or 250 million pounds on reginal policy (traditional definition, not the Great Regional Policy). Two third are special assistance to the Priority Areas (Prop 1993/94:140)
A majority of employees will not pay national income tax, but county and municipal tax. A great majority will pay less than 50% of income tax. Municipal income tax is about 30%. Value-added tax (VAT) on most goods and services is 25%. Employers pay social welfare contributions total 40% on top of payrolls. The total earning from taxes to the public sector (state, county councils and municipalities) is 52% of GNP (1992).
Manufacturing industry made progress
The success of the Swedish economy after the Second World War made Sweden known for its engineering industry e. g. AGA, Alfa- Lavall, ASEA, Baco, Electrolux, Ericsson, Nobel Industries, Saab-Scania, Skanska and Volvo, and for its high standard of living. This post-war economic success also made it possible to expand the Welfare State. This development appears also to be a result of strong labour movement and pressure for social rights from the dominant Social Democratic Party, and fostered as well by social liberals. The special Swedish situation has made possible a state which still can be regarded as one of the strongest in the capitalist world, known as The Swedish Model.
The Welfare State
The Welfare State covers traditionaly an advanced social insurance system, health care, education, housing, labour market policy, social services and perhaps regional policy. The social insurance system in Sweden covers insurance in case of illness, unemployment, accident, maternity, old-age, child protection, disability, dental problems, loss of income, etc. All residents are covered by national health insurance including: sickness benefit (60% of income for the first three days, 80% up to 90 days, then 90%), out patient services, hospital treatment, travel expenses, paramedical treatment, medical expenses, counselling on birth control, dental care, maternity benefit, care of close relatives, parental benefit (in connection with the birth 15 months paid leave, and through the first eight years and temporary care).
All children are entitled to child allowance and child care. Pre-school, after-school and children's day care, nursery school, are subsidized by the national government and usually run by the municipalities. All education, even at universities, is free. Universites and university colleges, totalling about 30, are operated by the state. Primary and secondary schools and usually also upper secondary schools (gymnasium) are run by municipalities and provide free instruction, books and lunches. The municipalities also run special programmes for adult education (Komvux). Adult education associations arrange study circles for 2.5 million course participants a year. These courses are subsidized by government. Most cultural institutions e.g. theatres, community halls, museums, artgalleries, are subsidized by the state, municipalities and public funds.
Students are entitled to study allowances. At university level, the main part consists of repayable loans. Low-income families (and single poor people and pensioners) are eligible for housing allowances. National work injuries insurance pays all health costs for work-related accidents. Working people have unemployment insurance through their trade unions. Workers without unemployment insurance may receive a smaller cash labour market assistance and poor people can get social welfare.
Through the labour market policy there are extensive programmes of job retraining, continuing education, sheltered employment and relocation grants. The government subsidizes workplaces for thedisabled.
National pension insurance
The national pension system covers the basic pension for all with Swedish citizenship from age of 65. A person who has earned income from employment and been credited with pensionable income, receives a graduated earnings-related pension on top of the basic pension. The old-age pension comes to 60% of the average pensionable income earned in previous years. Other kinds of pensions are: disability pension, survivor´s pension, child care allowance, pension supplement, wife´s supplement ,children´s supplement, municipal housing allowance.
The welfare state is, as you may see, very strong in Sweden. It covers almost all social services (child care, old-age care, family support, income maintenance, drug abuse treatment, home help service....) all education, most health and medical care services (regional, county and district hospitals, primary care centres, health centres, nursery homes and home medical care), social insurances and pensions, housing support programmes, public transport (roads, airports, harbours, railroads and bus companies, airlines, ferries, Swedish rail) labour market policy, regional policy and priority area assistance, recreation, cultural and leisure facilities (e.g. sport grounds, stadiums, bath, theatres, concert and exhibition centres, community halls, libraries, youth clubs, fitness centres, old-age clubs, crematoriums, churches - the Swedish Church is a state church), TV, radio, telecommunications and post . The state also owns big industrial companies in manufacturing, engineering, mining and forestry. The Swedish Welfare State (or the public sector) accounts for 41% of the labour force (1988 - Herlitz 1989 p. 39) and consumes 28% of the GNP (1985)1
The Social State and Alienation
Although most Swedes support our welfare state, one can also see some problems generated by this all embracing state - the social state. The specific problem I have been dealing with for a long time is the tendency to create social technocracy and social alienation (Ronnby 1981). Today most people are distanced from political life through its separation from day by day social life (only 5% of our grovn up population is active in politics). Politics is imprisoned by bureaucratic organizations and placed in the hands of a special cadre of political professionals. People therefore have difficulty in developing their political competence and are estranged from the complexity of the political establishment. When the relations of production are kept outside political life and the wage labourer is kept outside politics, it is difficult to organize work and leisure time in such a way as to make the influence of grassroots people a reality. The person on the street does not participate in ruling the country at any level. Consequently politics becomes something which is far from ordinary people's everyday consciousness. People are politically alienated.
In Swedish society the relations of production and the social order tend to destroy social bonds. Human personal relations and contacts dissolve and are replaced by a formal system of help and care under the auspices of the social state. Through state direction of care, human beings become objects for manipulation and control by bureaucratic organizations and social professionals. State direction, far reaching professionalization and specialization in the whole area of care and humanity further separate people from a comprehension of their social concerns and thus they become alienated from the complexity of social life. The great expansion of the social state reinforced this tendency at the same time that the alienation of the people furnished the foundation for the continued growth of the social state.
During the expansion of wage labour and intrenchment of social engingeering, developments have worked against informal social welfare activities and care. What is most striking here is that wage labour is becoming the dominant form of productive activity and that more and more of the conditions of everyday life have been transformed into objects for specialized wage labour and professional work. Today it seems almost impossible to do anything productive whitout a salary - and at the same time we can see a growing army of unemployed and unwanted people - many of whom are young!
At present it appears that we find ourselves in a situation where this developmental curve has reached its zenith. The current crises in economic, political, state budgetary and social areas have added something new to this picture. Today Sweden is facing a growing political interest in privatizing many functions of the welfare state. That may only mean that we are changing from political alienation to economic alienation. The person in the street will not have much to say unless we change the dominating system of wage labour to that ordinary people can have time and opportunities to be participating and creative human beings in societal life. Contrary to dominating forces trying to keep the social state intact on one side and on the other to privatize most of society, we also have a movement for a third way, which means more of people's participation at the so-called grassroots level, strengthening the democratic institutions and enhancing social competence among people. The question is then how to get a welfare state which is not alienating people. Here, in this book, as you will see, particular attention is focused on the possibilities of community development and community work to contribute to this latter movement.
Mobilizing neighbourhood people
A number of attempts have been made to get people to participate in city planning, for example. These, however, have turned out as failures as far as the mobilization and participation of the large groups are concerned. It was mainly the well-educated people who came to participate. My hypothesis is that this was caused by the lack of a social base for the participation of the politically poor, and that there was no serious intention to stimulate the development of such a base, i.e. a mobilization of these groups. Also people who were not accustomed to having any influence did not believe that they were going to get it. They did not believe that they could influence the result.
These experiments point to a lack of understanding of the conditions of the participants in some cases, or an unwillingness to take any consideration of them. On the basis of my own experiences from the work in Rosengård in Malmö, I will try to illustrate these problems. By doing so I hope to give a concrete form to my ideas.
Rosengård is a so called dormitory suburb (sovstad). In it can be found the social and environmental problems which often characterize such communities. When we started our work in Rosengård, many young families with children lived there. The contacts between these families were low. So were the contacts between children, adults, teenagers and between Swedes and immigrants. Housewives, single mothers, pensioners and people with disabilities had a tendency to being quite isolated. People complained about the so called "negative gangs", the trouble, the damage and vandalism and minor crimes.
The children were poorly looked after and there was a tough atmosphere between different groups of children and youths. A large number of immigrants lived in the neighbourhood, among them a number of gypsies. The number of welfare recipients was large and there was an increasing number of child abuse cases reported to the social department. The childrens´ psychiatric clinic also reported an abnormally large number of patients from Rosengården. The reports from the school and the police were negative as well. The picture of the social environment of the modern Rosengård community was very bleak. The physical planning of the area was also strongly criticized, especially in its shortcomings as an environment for children.
The goal of the community workers
The goal of the community workers was to contribute to a better milieu through stimulating the contact between people and building a base for organization. Through this organizing the people themselves should improve their situation and participate themselves in changing things to the way they wanted. The community workers believed that the problems should be tackled through mobilizing the people´s own resources, so that they could challenge in their own way what they thought to be negative conditions.
The initial phase
To start this mobilization process every opportunity had to be taken to let the people stimulate interaction. Through this interaction it would be easier to start making contacts and cooperate. However, since there were not very many natural meeting points in the area and since both the climate and the psychological mechanisms made it more difficult to make face to face contact, it was necessary to create the opportunities for people to meet and get to know each other.
The community workers used various methods. Trips for children,for example, were seen as a good way of getting people together (parents and adults). People met in a more relaxed way and being together made it easier to begin talking.
Things always happened which broke up the otherwise reserved atmosphere. During the trips people became more friendly to each other by experiencing things together. Trips were always seen as something positive by everyone and they were followed up with different activities designed to strengthen contact.
A meeting place in the block
After some discussion with Malmö public housing (MKB) the community workers was able to arrange for a number of empty flats to be used for activities by the people of the area. These flats, which the team called homebases (hemvister), were divided in such a way that every block ( the houses were grouped in blocks) had its own premises. The aim was to make this the natural meeting place in the block. The activities started by the immigrant groups (the Sofia group) were aimed at creating a more stimulating and safer environment for the children. At the same time contact between the adults and their involvement in the collective activities grew.
The initiative group
The community workers called the first groups of activity leaders and their families the initiative group. It was through the work of the initiative group that activities later developed and more people became involved.
The initiative group came from the organized trips and other meetings and activities which came about during the work of the community workers. The initiative group consciously worked at involving the participation of everyone to develop activities in the neighbourhood. They tried to make use of the times where people usually meet; in the laundry room, at the children´s sandpit, in the garage, at parent meetings in school etc. They tried to arrange situations to facilitate contact; street parties, meetings for mutual problems, looking after the buildings, garage thefts etc. Through the natural and easy contact with the children, they managed to involve their parents in one activity or another.
The neighbourhood´s premises
The neighbourhood´s premises were seen as very valuable. They were a neutral meeting point which did not have the same risks as when one invites a neighbour for a cup of coffee to one´s own house. The people´s lack of contact with each other meant them not having much information about each other and therefore they had difficulty in judging the results of invitations. It can so happen that they do not have very much in common with their neighbour, or that they want to continue to meet and the invitation will lead to various demands of sorts. In the homebases (hemvister) people had more opportunity to make the contacts they wanted. Closer relationships have a chance to grow under one´s own control.
It should be pointed out that the meeting places were ordinary flats on the ground floor of the buildings. This had a positive effect compared to meeting places placed in basements lacking windows. People can see that there is something special there with the homebase; pictures and posters in the windows, for example. People can go past and see what is going on, who is there. The people inside can see who is going by, wave to them, call them in for a cup of coffee. It is nice inside and people can just drop in for five minutes whilst on their way home.
Of course these are details of what went on there. But it is important to point out this broader way of creating contact instead of the activities which usually bring people with special interests together (such as weight-training or stamp collecting).
Conditions for mobilization
When people are given a chance to realize that they have problems and needs in common, they tend to cooperate more easily. Their problems and needs can quite often be traced back to the similarity in living conditions. This can also be the starting point from which they can formulate common goals for organized action. This assumes, naturally, that people have close contact, face-to-face, with each other. Many families in Rosengård realized that they meant something to each other through the activities together. There was a great number of tasks people could help each other with: babysitting, car repairs, watering plants during holidays, filling in forms etc.
They also learned that only when they got together to tackle bigger problems, such as the management of the buildings, the improvement of the local environment, couldthey achieve results. It is also a familiar experience that when a group of people are involved in a conflict, they are more likely to mobilize and stick together. It is through the conflict and the common struggle that the group realizes its common interest and need to help one another.
The Rosengård group´s constant struggle to survive and their fight for support from local government had at least one positive effect; it mobilized people. The groups carried out a demonstration through the city of Malmö to the city hall. The demonstration was about continued financial support from the municipality. Two hundred children, teenagers and adults took part in the demonstration, showing great enthusiasm and conviction of strength. It was a demonstration from all political sides, although it was aimed mainly against the Social Democratic Party, the only political party which was against continued local government support to the groups. This event was an example of a concerted action around a joint interest: to defend something people had built themselves.
Equality is important
It is also important for people willing to participate and cooperate that they do not risk becoming inferior in relation to others in the group. Experiences also show that organized groups cannot function if they are too large. Large groups tend to be impersonal and it is difficult to get everybody involved. There is nothing wrong in having many people working together; only that it happens in manageable forms. A constellation of small groups can take care of this.
A homogeneous population
Many young families with children with similar living situations lived in Rosengård. There was a common interest in children´s issues and there were many things the families could help each other with. They also had the same landlord to direct their demands towards. They had, furthermore, the same interest in the struggle for community resources. It was on the basis of this and in combination with some practical and tactical arrangements that mobilization could happen.
Concerning everyday problems
Mobilization must come out of the people´s or the group´s everyday problems and/or needs; problems and needs which concern them and problems they see themselves. The community workers had to begin talking about everyday happenings and concrete experiences. The community workers had to use a language which corresponded to the actual situation and the groups´s own experiences and way of expressing these. When bringing the problems into the light and discussing them, the problems become a challenge which demand further knowledge and action.
Mobilization is to get the group to respond to this challenge. The problem is how to break the feeling of paralysis which is seen among the politically poor who have the impression that action for change is useless. Many say there is no point in getting involved, or that it does not lead to anything. This pessimism is not without reason. The politically poor are nowadays often socially disorganized as well, and they have very little experience of changing their own situation themselves or together with others in the same situation. Usually, someone else from above creates the changes.
One has to believe in what one does
Mobilization must begin with creating a belief that it is possible to change things. If one does not believe in change then it is, naturally, useless to start planning for it. However, when one experiences the strength of the group as a result of getting together and getting organized, one becomes aware of one´s own capability. Self confidence begins to develop. Getting together helps the politically poor to realize what help they can give each other. It creates a basis for their activity.
Starting with short term solutions.
The activity is developed preferably around important and urgent questions and goals which can be realized within a short term. While being involved in this work for change the participants start believing in themselves, experience their own ability and the feeling of " us together" etc. What can be spread to more and more people in the area is this experience of the group. Through this activity these people also become positive examples for themselves, an example of their own possibilities.
For a broad mobilization it is necessary for the movement to have many current issues to work with. Having one or only a few issues does not give enough base for mobilization and is not enough for permanent activity. Mobilization around a special issue is over when the issue is lost or won. There has to be a "rainbow" of issues to act upon in order to keep the level of activity going. However, the group must start with the easy tasks in order to reach quick results. Concrete results are important for keeping the group going. Tactics which take a long time to carry out become a burden for the group and should be avoided, especially in the initial phase.
The group gets to know its reality.
As the group develops its activity and tries to achieve changes, it gains more and more knowledge of its reality. Through this the group can also develop actions and try out new possibilities which cross the group´s earlier experiences. This is also a way of creating alternatives to the traditional ways of solving problems.
How does one get people to start a dialogue?
The problem of mobilising people in our society, especially in the estates, is usually one step before the phase just described. The difficulty is getting people to start a dialogue in the first place. The powerlessness of the politically poor and the societal oppression they suffer has often resulted in them internalizing a picture of themselves as less gifted or clever, lacking knowledge, and immature. The language of the people in power is what is spoken to them. Their way of expressing themselves and other non middle class cultural expressions are looked down upon and ignored.
The problems are usually tackled from completely different starting points than their own. They experience that in reality their own experiences are not worth much. It is possible that they often see their situation through the eyes of the people in power and this is a self fulfilling prophecy.
Social disorganization has also made it difficult for people to start a dialogue. In the suburbs private family life or people living by themselves dominate and these often make talk between different partners few and far between. In workplaces it can be just as difficult to start a dialogue between workers. In other words it has become very difficult to really talk together.
In our often depolitized society people barely dare to talk about their concerns, as these are almost always of political dimensions. This does not stimulate people to develop a critical and enquiring attitude. They are not interested in examining the fundamental conditions of life. However, this can be changed if people start meeting and talking in groups where a dialogue around people´s problems and future concerns is carried out.
The technique of getting people together
To get people to meet and talk in the first instance the community workers used, as earlier mentioned, different methods, such as trips and meetings. The community workers first often spoke to children or young people in the block when they wanted people for a trip and the children got their parents involved. The group built up contact people who in their turn found people whom they knew. By these second hand contacts it was possible to visit people.
The group experienced that it was important to have a good reason when contacting people. This was also important in the continued work. They had to give a reason for their participation and contact with the group. They also had to have something which the group could have use of. In some way one had to be a resource person for the use of the group. Otherwise, there was no special reason to keep the contact going.
Maso´s tactics for arousing interest
The community workers learned a number of tactics from a Dutchman called Maso to get people interested in something. His technique can be summarized in four keywords: observation, curiosity, interest and action. First the community workers tried to make people notice if something was happening in the area.The group made it obvious, but the people did not really know what the situation was about.
By this technique their curiosity was aroused. The community workers tried to build upon this initial curiosity to create a serious interest in what was going on. By spreading hints and puzzling messages they created uncertainty and worry in the neighbourhood which turned into anger. The idea behind it was to make people see what was to be done to stop their worry, curiosity or even anger. The technique could only be used once in every neighbourhood. However, the community workers had relatively good results with the simple means of Maso´s technique.
An even better, although very demanding way to reach people is through personal contact. It can start with people daring to exchange a few words in the lift, or when collecting the children from the day care centre or other ways when meeting neighbours. These contacts can be built up systematically. Putting leaflets through people´s letterboxes only worked with the people already involved in the activity or who already had some previous contact. It was better to go round and knock on people´s doors and talk to them. After this face to face meeting the people could decide whether to go together to the meeting or party, or whatever was organized.
One has to feel safe in the group
It is important that those who come are made to feel welcome, that people care about them, and that they receive personal contact and are shown an interest for their problems and questions. The people already active must involve themselves in person with the newcomers so that the latter feel at home and safe in the group. Anyone who has had to sit by themselves and listen at a meeting and has more or less been received formally seldom returns. This entails getting people attached to the feeling of togetherness from the beginning. It is vital for further involvement.
Motivation through togetherness
The level of motivation for participation depends, of course, first of all on whether the issues are of concern or not. There are many things competing for people´s time and involvement, and the issues must therefore have high validity and the group support must be seen as necessary. An example of this is when tenants go on rent strike or other situations which are important for mobilization to get people involved. This is an old experience from people working in the popular movements, although these conflict situations are nowadays seldom used even if they can stimulate mobilization. Starting from a similar situation people can become involved in a more extensive feeling of togetherness. A social togetherness is needed for the activity to be a natural part of everybody´s daily rhythm. This can develop into a social togetherness which can give satisfaction. The problem is that few people have experienced this and feel insecure and afraid of being dependent. They are afraid of losing their "freedom", a freedom which for many people is a freedom to be isolated.
As more and more people got engaged in the activities in Rosengård, they also started groups through which they themselves ran activities of their neighbourhood. The activities were based on their own needs, knowledge and interests. But the principle of self activity is hard to be accepted by the establishment. The traditional decision makers very much like to rule and decide. They are more hesitant to let people´s organizations handle public grants themselves. But it is very important that the groups have control over the grants so that they can take initiatives and responsibility. One has to show trust for the people. They should not be ruled from above. Otherwise the professional way of solving problems is developed by others and they take responsibility for them. Letting people develop their own activities creates developing self confidence and the people learn to handle their joint concerns.
The groups or organisations in Rosengård did not follow the traditional routines. They relied on their own resources and built up something according to their own wishes and methods. The initiating group had the advantage of being in the centre of the issues concerned. They lived in the neighbourhood and shared the same problems and resources. They were deeply and personally involved, which was another prerequisite. This was not something which could be managed by bureaucratic distance Monday to Friday between eight and four.
In Rosengård the community workers were the initiating group. Their job was to make contact easier and to encourage good initiatives and be supportive in different ways, perhaps mostly psychologically, and to help get community resources out to tbe used by people.
Local use of resources
The work of the group brought with it a broader local use of resources. Through the different groups within the neighbourhood the resources of the neighbourhood could be used to a larger extent by the people. The premises and the equipment in the school, the library, leisure areas, etc could be used by the people in their own organised forms. This was thanks to the people who organized groups. They were able to ask demands and take responsibility themselves for their activities. They won respect from the institutions and were met with less restrictions and fears. A cooperation came about which had given the citizens access to the resources in a way not previously thought. But, more importantly, it was the personal development of the participants which was noted.
Changed living environment
One of the criticisms made towards the neighbourhood from the inhabitants concerned the poor physical and social environment for children. The outdoor playgrounds were meagre and there was a lack of indoor playgrounds. When Rosengård had received money from the government to improve the environment, the groups started a campaign to get the landlord to build a playground within their block. Several confrontations and discussions took place before the landlord agreed to having a playground built.
When there were active citizen groups, the people themselves could (not all of them though) participate in the designing and building of the playground. They formed working groups and made their own designs and a large group used a weekend to help with the actual building. Because of the participation of the inhabitants the playground was built to fit the needs and wishes of the local people.
In cooperation with the construction workers and the foremen they could (not without some friction though) make some corrections and adjustments while building and could use their concrete experiences of what worked and did not work.
There was also the psychological importance that those who would be using the playground also helped in its building. Later, the youngsters behaved differently to this playground than to a playground they did not help in the building of. The group´s playground was not just a playground for children; it was also built for adults.
The human development.
The group activity in Rosengård resulted in a personal development for the people involved. Abstract concepts such as cooperation, social togetherness, mutual aid, etc, turned into concrete reality. These concepts became integrated with their personal experience and therefore became important for judgement and the attitude of the individuals. The participants realised themselves the relevance of the ideas and the interest they had and their collective capability to do something about their own situation. This resulted in a growing belief in themselves and also in a wish to go further.
Examples of the conscious-raising process.
There are many examples of how the active members reach greater consciousness through their activities. The Rosengård groups can be studied as an example of a struggle for community resources.
Who delegates , who decides and who gets the benefit of the community work? Time and time again the inhabitants of Rosengård had gone out and fought the local government for funding of their work. During these actions the people involved gained an insight into the relationships of local government politics. They learned about how local government administration functions, how the various political parties and the politicians work, how different community interests fight for community resources etc.
The people of Rosengård acted by trying to create public awareness for their cause. They made petitions, called and wrote to the local politicians, made contact with the press, organized press conferences, took part in radio and TV programmes, took part in various committee meetings, printed their own newspaper, leaflets and posters. Through making contact with key people within bureaucracy they created publicity. This can be described in the practice model; people have a problem or problems, they discuss how they can tackle the problem, they decide on a course of action, they try out the course of action, gain experience which can lead to further discussion, the individual is drawn into a process which makes him or her think about the things he or she wouldn´t otherwise have thought about, people´s individual experiences are brought together, people begin to analyse the events and situations, people want to gain more knowledge and information, lay down the lines for new plans, make new attempts and draw their conclusions from this.
By coming together the people of Rosengård acted together and fought their fight in a way which the individual could have not done alone. Their earlier experiences taught them that alone the individual is weak. Individual complaints and enquiries to the landlord, the authorities or politicians seldom resulted in the kind of change which coincided with their wishes. They gained the experience of seeing that something can be done if they acted collectively. The inhabitants also increased their awareness of the political meaning of collective work - making power.
Through confrontations with the political system they also gained a better understanding of political games, of whose interests carry most weight, how the various organisations operate. They also felt a need to systemize their knowledge and to get deeper into the subject and therefore started study groups in the issues. Finally, they made through their actions contacts with other people and organisations with similar problems and experiences and they began to see different allies in society.
Another encouraging example was the involvement and development of women. I believe that the activities of the community groups in Rosengård had a special importance for women, especially the housewives in the area.
The driving force in the first group was all women. Since then women began to play an active role in the work.Through their involvement in local organisations many women were able to break the role of a traditional, passive housewife, and become extrovert, aware of society and, in the meantime, were able to build up their self confidence. This mean they could speak up at smaller and larger meetings and take on tasks which traditionally the men did.
Many good initiatives came from the women. Above all the activities in the neighbourhood social clubs took place during the daytime and gained a new social basis for the women. In many of the committees of the local organisations women were the majority, which is not one of the usual practices in organisations ( apart from women´s organisations of course).
Politics in the centre
In the above example of the city environment from Rosengård we can see that community action meant the local community having some kind of control over local resources. To a larger extent it would be possible for the local people to use the resources from their own needs and interests. What characterizes Rosengård as a public housing estate is the fact that the inhabitants on a local plan had no control over anything except their own private assets (which were not many as Rosengård is a working class estate). The houses and the facilities in the estate are owned and controlled by MKB (Malmö Kommunala Bostadsaktiebolag), a public housing company. And all the other facilities are owned and controlled mostly by the municipality or private companies.
Politics in the sense of influence and power over the public sector at district level was quickly to be in focus. When the people had gathered in groups and had began to organize themselves by finding out what they wanted, a large part of the work was focussed on creating opinion for their cause, winning sympathizers and supporters, and influencing politicians and bureaucrats through various actions. This is a normal strategy in community action.
Turning the tide of deprivation
To continue the introduction of the theme ”mobilizing local communities” let us now look at a few different examples from the rural areas in the north. Here in the countryside in County Jämtland the conditions are enormously different to those in Rosengård. In the two following examples we can find clearly defined local communities where the people have to rely on their own strength and ability to a greater extent - very often relying on their own resources too. Roads, lighting, water, community halls, the green, snow clearing etc, are very often taken care of by local associations which the villagers have created. In the south of Sweden and the more urbanized areas it is always the municipality which looks after these things. Even social services and care have, to a certain extent, to be organized locally by the villagers themselves. Otherwise, they are only availabel in the district centre or towns. However, let us first take a look at Norderön.
Almost in the centre of Sweden, and out in the middle of a large lake lies Norderön, or ”Njords Ö”. In winter you drive over the ice road to the place. At other times of the year you take the ferry, either from Isön if you´re coming from Östersund and the east, or from Håkansta if you´re coming from the west. It takes five minutes driving over the ice and ten minutes by ferry. Before, you took the Thomée steam boat from Östersund when the steam boat traffic on The Great Lake was at its height. If you were lucky, you might even catch sight of the Great Lake Monster! The modern ferry was opened in 1952 from Isön (Ekerwald 1985). Nowadays, the Thomée steam boat docks at Norderön quay very occasionally with tourists.
The name Norderön comes from Närdrö, as the island was previously called and goes back to the god of Vaner, Njord. He was a god of the farmers, while the more known asagudar were gods of war. Njord´s wife was called Ondur in the mountain/fell world and she is the godess of skiers. One of their sons was called Frö (or Frej), the god of fertility and brother of Freja. Ondur and Frö also have islands in The Great Lake and the names of gods are not unusual in the area (e.g Odensala and Torvalla, Ekerwald 1985, p13-14).
Norderön, or Öja as people call it, is four kilometres long and two kilometres broad. Buildings are to be found mainly on the island´s central parts. Nearly 300 people lived here at one time. Today, 130 people live here. On a beautiful day, as often the case on islands, you have a fantastic view from the island. On the left you have the Oviksfjällen. They seem so close here, despite that fact that they are thirty or so miles from here as the crow flies. It is the most beautiful in spring when it is in full bud and the fells are still white with snow with a few dark patches here and there. The view across The Great Lake over the other islands of Ondursö (after Ondur) and Frösö (after Frö) is also captivating. These two islands are now called Andersö and Frösön.
To the north you have the wide stretch of water, Storsjöflaket. Far in the distance you can see some blueish mountains. There are seven small villages on the island. The ferries land at Jälsta or Västanede. Just to the north of Västanede is Tivarsgård which may mean Tyrs gård (Tyr was a god of war, the god of victory). The church lies in the centre of the island, but not in the middle of the village. It is situated by the ”big road”, which cuts across the island. Hov is a kind of centre and it´s there that the old school lies. It now houses the child care cooperative of Öbarna. Twenty children are enrolled there, 12 of them are under seven and eight are of school age. At present, 12 families are cooperative members (10 active and 2 passive). The staff consists of two full-time and three part-time people. Öborna is the main reason for our visit to the island. Interesting things are happening here.
It all began at the end of the eighties
-We discovered that we were a group of women on the island who needed to have the chance to meet. Otherwise you can become isolated, being at home with the children. So we made contact with Vuxenskolan and started a study circle called ”Women who win”. That was in 1989, says Inga Alke, one of the leading lights and now one of the full-time workers in the cooperative.
-When we were involved in our study circle we got the idea to open a summer café. We wanted to do something together. We started the café in 1990, rather simply in the village hall down by the church. Then we made contact with two women at the Agricultural Board in the County Administration who offered us a chance to go on a study course about small businesses. Ten of us took part, and we went to Aapua in Norrbotten, among other places. There we met a group of women who had started a combined handicraft and child care cooperative. We thought the idea of having work and child care in the same premises was very interesting, says Inga.
The village of Aapua lies in Tornedalen near the Finnish border and is part of the municipality of Övertorneå. The village is famous from 1979 when militant villagers stopped the spraying from the air of the bare land and the berry picking area by sitting in the way. The action was successful and it also strengthened the spirit of togetherness in the village. The attention caused by the action led to new life in the village. The village association life flourished , 15 new families moved in to the village and the school, threatened with closure, was saved (Bull 1991, p7)
Some of the women from Aapua, who had job creation work, were tired of this and began the idea of starting their own business, buying looms and weaving curtains. With support from the municipality they started a cooperative for hand weaving and wood carving in 1985. The municipality had organized a course on cooperatives and they got money from the Development Foundation to buy three looms. The problem of looking after the children arose when the women began work in the cooperative. Therefore, they started a day care centre run under the cooperative. The municipality came in with premises (ibid p24 - 25).
When the women of Norderön visited Aapua they saw what was being done there - weaving and making leisure wear while some of the women worked in the day care centre. It was here the women from Norderön got the idea to start a similar cooperative back home on Öja.
The need for being together
-We didn´t actually have such a great need for child care, but more than those who had their children at day care centres on the mainland. There wasn´t any day care centre on the island. Many of us were at home with the children and we had continued in that way. But we felt the need to be together, to be able to do something together. It was fun when we got together, says Inga. We needed contact with the other adults and it was good for the children to play with other children. The cooperative was to become an important meeting point for us.
- From the beginning we thought of having something similar to Aapua. We travelled home from the course and called all the women on the island to a meeting. We told them about our trip and our ideas. Three working groups were formed: one to work with the planning of a handicraft cooperative, one to work with the child care part and one to work with planting. The handicraft cooperative was first to get off the ground and then the child care cooperative got going. Nothing came out of the planting, says Inga.
- It was about the same time that we learned that the municipality was planning to sell the school. The school had been closed since 1984 despite our protests, says Elisabeth Larsson, one of the women working for change.
-In the seventies the post office and the shop had gone the same way - closed down! There was an atmosphere of crisis. We strongly felt that something had to be done to break the negative development that was going on. If the school was to be sold to a private person then we would lose an important meeting point in the village. Therefore, we contacted the municipality and managed to stop the plans for the sale when we told them what we wanted to do, says Elisabeth.
Katarina gave us inspiration
We then contacted Katarina Grut at the Cooperative Advice Centre in Ås and she visited us. She told us about other parents´ cooperatives and we were really excited. She really gave us the inspiration to start. Katarina made sure we got started. We started with a study circle called ”Our Day Care Centre” (Vårat Dagis). It had lots of practical tips and we got going with the coopertative really quickly. Infact, we started with the cooperative before we were finished with the study circle, which hasn´t really been finished off, says Elisabeth.
- We contacted the social services authorities. Leif Persson was the director. He and a few others came out to us and they said there was no problem. They were positive about the idea and inNovember 1990 we got a positive decision. Perhaps they thought they would be a little for forthcoming now that they have closed they school and that there was no child care facitlities on the island - not even run by the municipality, says Elisabeth.
The village club buys the school
- The village club bought the school and we rent it from them. We got started in February 1991. There were eight families in the beginning and now there are eleven. At the beginning we had many ideas for the cooperative. We had been insipired by Aapua, but we also wanted to save the school. We also set up a handicraft cooperative. Some of up worked with making Christmas decorations, such as candle holders decorated with small father Christmases and lucior. But, after a while, some of us were beginning to think it was too much work working with the handicraft side a couple of nights a week as well. We couldn´t manage to do everything. So there aren´t many of us who are active in both cooperatives. We have concentrated on the kids on the island having good child care. And we also keep our normal jobs. The cooperative has brought five jobs, says Elisabeth.
- All the families with children of the right age ( one to twelve), apart from two, are in the cooperative. The two not in the cooperative are farming families, the wives working at home. The fee is 200 SEK per month for the first child and then 100 SEK for each child after. The parents also have to work one day every three weeks here, too. In practice it works out about 1000 SEK, says Elisabeth.
- Our teaching is practical - the children learn practical things. The island´s traditions are also important to learn and the children come and help with the island´s annual activities, for example. The villages on the island are divided into four groups, each with specific tasks each year, for example bonfire building on April 30 (Valborgmässoafton), the midsummer feast, auctions, the Lucia celebration (December) and Christmas celebrations. The auction for the mission is held in November. They sell things which people have made etc, at it and it´s a great event on the island, says Elisabeth.
-The aim with the cooperative is to give the children a creative environment filled with activities. This can mean helping out with the daily tasks in the cooperative, for example. They learn to take responsibility for the daily running of the cooperative. We also want to teach the children how to live with animals and nature, so we are often outside with the children. In the cooperative´s regulations it is also written that one of the aims is to strengthen the feeling of solidarity among the children on the island and that we shall contribute to the feeling of unity among the islanders, says Inga.
Most of us believe that the cooperative has become what we thought it would be. We have a meeting place here now and we do things together. The cooperative has been a basis for many activities for the children and adults together. The children are always there helping out at the traditional celebrations and they put on shows with songs and music at them. Everyone helps out, both the kids and the grown-ups, says Inga.
I also believe that it is important that we are a cooperative in which everyone has a say in things. It is important for everyone to take part and for us to agree. You can´t make a majority decision in an organization which is based on everyone´s participation and responsiblity. The cooperative is an ideal form for this kind of work and we do everthing together. It has strengthened our feeling of togetherness, emphasizes Inga.
Norderön´s village club
The village club, which now owns the school building, has been here for a long time. In connection with the fight to keep the school, the village club organized the sale of seven plots of land. This was to be a way of bringing more families with children to the island. Four houses have been built (before the downturn in the economy), and we built one of them, says Inga. My husband and myself are newcomers to the island, we´re not from Jämtland. But we have been accepted, even people from Sundsvall could be accepted here!! We came from much closer - Frösön, says Inga.
- Since then there haven´t been any new houses built. It isn´t the right time for house-building, perhaps more will be built when things in the economy get better, thinks Elisabeth. She also means that more families with children are needed to secure the child care cooperative on the island. The village club has also bought Midgården, the old Good Templar Lodge, which they are renovating with the help of some builders on a working life development project (ALU). The women´s summer café has been in Midgården a couple of years. Midgården lies on the crossroad on the island, and as the word implies, it lies in the middle of the island. The village athletic association is also going to have its premises there when the renovations are complete.
The social economy
Norderön has many associations with long histories to them. There is ahembygsförening , a street lighting association, a water association for the provision of water, a roads association and a mission association. In this area people are used to organizing things themselves - even those areas which we from the urban areas expect the municipality to organize. In most of the small villages in Jämtland they have had to organize the street lighting, for example, as well as the roads and the water provision. There are many street lighting associations here, and they work almost like a village club. That is to say a power which brings people together in the village. The meeting halls (fritidsgårdar) are owned and usually run by the local associations.
These associations are often economic associations. But they have not been formed to make money. The social economics are about meeting the direct needs of people. That is to say, people´s living conditions and how they work with their resources ( human, material and ecological). The associations (or ”small businesses”) come into being to preserve or improve the living conditions and the quality of life for the villagers. People´s ability to work together, develop their knowledge and competence and use their resources are the focus for the associations.
The handicraft cooperative
The handicraft cooperative on the island of Norderön has its premises in the old mission building. Six people work with the production of mainly ornaments and fancy goods (for example, the Norderön doll with the traditional Norderön costume). Apart from that there are not many jobs on the island. In the past, most worked in farming and agriculture, but now there are only seven farmers left. Most people do not have their jobs on the island. And the children go to school in Orrviken on the mainland. They have not got to the stage of starting their own opted-out school (friskola), but there is talk about it.
The best thing on Norderön, says Elisabeth, is the positive spirit and the solidarity. And it is so peaceful and quiet here, she says. It is a rural area, but Östersund is not far away.
Inga agrees with Elisabeth. They are nice people on the island and the feeling of unity and solidarity is strong. We have become even closer to each other through the cooperative, and we work well together, concludes Inga Alke.
We take the ferry from the island on The Great Lake to Frösön. Firstly from Norderön to Isön, over the roadways to Andersön and then on to the mainland and ten miles or so along the lake to the ferry at Vallsund. We then drive over the Frösö bridge and take highway 80 north for fifty kilometres. We turn in at the village of Ollstad along the gravel road which takes us through the forested area to the village of Högarna. It is there we find Byssbon. Byssbon is a very interesting example of village development in a cooperative form. It is a collaboration between the villages of Ollstad, Högarna and Fagerland. The villages have a total of about 130 inhabitants.
A dark time
In the beginning of the 80's things looked dark for these villages. As the number of pupils decreased the school was threatened with closure; there was also a risk that the store would close. The bus connections were to be drawn in; the gravel roads in the area - there were only such roads - were in a miserable condition. The mood in the village was one of gloom and few seemed to believe in a positive future.
Then, when the situation seemed darkest, a handful of leading lights, with Evy Johansson at the fore, called together some of the villagers for discussions around what they themselves could do to turn this negative trend around. While attending the economics course at Östersund University, Evy Johansson was exposed to some new thoughts concerning rural development. Her self-confidence grew. We meet Evy in the village store, which she is running now, with support from the villagers.
Inspired by the new co-operative ideas
- My studies, as well as my contact with cooperative ideas at the university, gave me a lift. It inspired me to try to start a new development in this village. We began a dialogue with the newly established cooperative advisors ( at the Co-operative Development Centre in Ås, serving the county of Jämtland - more about these advisors later) to develop our ideal and get support for a start, says Evy Johansson.
New village projects
- In 1985 our discussions led to the founding of a village club (byalag) and we started up of a study circle on the theme "Living countryside". New ideas for how one should organize the village's collective obligations came to the surface. The interest increased and the potential of the initiative unfolded. Soon a number of projects were in full swing: the old school was renovated to serve as a meeting hall and all-activity centre; premises for weaving were made ready, and also a new hut for baking together. You know, thin-bread baking has a long tradition here, says Evy. Get-togethers and dances were arranged. A new spirit began to bud in our villages. We also managed to get some money from the Östersund municipality. We got some money from the Farmers Association and the County Administration. Several new projects have started as time has gone on, in the tourist field, among others, says Evy.
Since the summer of 1987 the activities have been organized through a co-operative (a cooperative economic association) It is called BYSSBON. Bysson which means the villager, is a so called "village co-operative" covering several projects in this villages. The co-op has 42 members to date. The aim of this community cooperative is primarily to contribute to the development of the surrounding rural society.
- We are very much aware that creating jobs is necessary for our villages' survival. We must also keep, and hopefully increase, our population in order to maintain and develop our services, says Evy. Housing is then a problem. When neither the municipality nor a nation-wide housing association showed interest in the task of building homes in the villages, we, our co-op, started building our own. We chose an old-style house in the village as the model for a small home. An architect was so inspired by the idea of building several such houses, that he donated his time for the drafting of the blueprints, tells Evy.
The support which was offered from Östersund came about through the positive contacts established with the municipal counsellors for living accommodations in the community. They were invited to the village meetings and festivities. That the villagers themselves sought contact with the politicians proved to be a successful general strategy. This gave a mutual understanding of needs and possibilities which enhanced the work-sharing process.
Built new houses
- We built the first house in 1989 and at present we have three. A fourth is on the way and we have plans for another three. We managed to get a status for our co-op, when it comes to building projects, similar to public housing. The houses are built of raw lumber and by craftsmen, all from the area; the other materials are purchased as often as possible in the county (Jämtland). This houses are not more expensive than prefabricated models. And because among other things the land was purchased for one crown (SEK) (about one penny )/square metre, the living costs are reasonable, especially for such fine houses, with large lots on good sites, says Evy convincingly.
- Our activities have also led to the starting up of several new businesses, mainly thanks to the so-called returnees, who have come home with fresh business ideas. New arrivals together with people in the area have started new companies, for example: a mechanical shop, production of natural-remedy products, greenhouse cultivation and a thin-bread bakery. These new businesses have created about 15 new jobs on a full- or part-time basis, says Evy.
Took over the village store
- Communications have improved and the school is no longer threatened. We have 35 pupils in the school now. When the village store was to be closed down, we took it over and run it now with suport from the villagers. This was possible due to the reliability of organization, unity and solidarity in the area. Customer loyalty is close to 100% now that the villagers themselves have contributed economically to the store's survival. We are now planning to build new store facilities in order to expand our products,says Evy.
Cooperative living for the old
We have just completed our new building for the home for the old folks. The building has nine flats and the first people moved in on 1st April. They were two men in their eighties and a woman. They are able to look after themselves at this stage, and we have only employed a part-time caretaker. But for the old people to be able to continue to live here when they cannot look after themselves, we will have staff to look after them, says Evy.
-There are several reasons for puttng efforts into housing for the elderly in the village. The first is that they want to stay in the village and don´t need to move to a residential home in Lit, the nearest town. The second thing is that they are a resource! And thirdly it makes it easier if the old people can move into a new modern house and let the young take over their old houses and farms. It gives the opportunity for the village to develop, to grow. However, the old folks wouldn´t move if there weren´t any good alternatives for them, says Evy.
Newcomers and people moving back
- One family is already coming and I hope we can attract more here. We´re planning to have a home care assistant office in the village for us to be able to organize and plan all the home care in this area, says Evy. And the building of a business centre (företagarhus), which we have had plans for a while, will soon be getting off the ground. We´ve been given building permission, but 1.5 million SEK are still needed for the building work to begin. The business centre will aslo house a new shop as the old one is far too run down.
Energies into computer training
- The latest project we´ve started is a computer training course. A returnee to the village, who together with the cooperative advice centre in Ås started this course in computing and economics. There are 55 participants and they study at the old school. So now we hardly have any room for our dances, laughs Evy. We have funding from the Home Office and Mitthögskolan in Östersund is also involved. This means that the participants do not need to pay anything for the course. And we´ve organized lunch in the school dining hall in the new school for them. Of course, we hope that the course can lead to some new jobs in the area, says Evy.
- But first we have to get Telia (the Swedish telephone company) to lay new lines here. The old ones just don´t have the capacity. We need fibre optic lines. At the moment, we are working with Telia to get them to do this expansion work. As we have terrible roads, the ”electronic motorways” are the chance for rural areas, says Evy.
We want to run the roads ourselves
-We also have plans to take over the running of the roads ourselves. Farmers and forestry businesses ahve the necessary equipment for road works in the area. If we were able to take over the funding which the National Road Authority uses for repairs in this area, then we would certainly get better roads as we would run them ourselves. The roads are terrible just now at the beginning of springtime. You can hardly use them and they are closed for heavy traffic. During winter we also have problems with the time it takes to clear the roads of snow. If it has snowed heavily during the night, then they won´t be here with the snowploughs until well into the afternoon the next day, says Evy annoyed.
-At the moment we are planning a rural alternative (or even a complement) to the Kvinnor Kan fair in Östersund this May. We´ve invited a number of women here to stay in our houses. That means they can be with us and see what we do here, letting them see that the women are active. We have a lot we can show them, smiles Evy.
- We are also setting up experience tourism on a small scale. People can come here for horse riding on Iceland ponies out in the countryside or they can take a canoe trip in our fine lakes and rivers. People interested in shooting are catered for, too, says Evy, as we have just completed our new shooting range.
Conquering the Jantelagen/ Gaining their confidence
- Through the cooperative and our fine collaboration we have conquered the Jantelagen. We know that we can do things. You just need to look at the activities we have here. Working together to mutual goals has strenghthened our feeling of sharing in the villages. Strangely enough, there isn´t any problem in us being three villages infact. It works well, says Evy Johansson and hurries to run the shop.
The initiative's potential and sense of self-reliance have been raised through the villagers' engagement and proven capacity to work together and attain practical and significant results. Through sharing the work for the area's development they have come closer to one another and this sharing gives in turn strength to go on, even to tackle the most vital problems. Self-confidence increases with competence and vice versa. The local communities have themselves created new conditions; they develop their abilities to the full through the process of organizing and participating in the manifold activities. Rosengård, Norderön and Byssbon can serve (and have served) as a source of inspiration and guidance for many other local communities in urban respectively sparsely-populated areas and otherwise deprived districts. They are interesting examples of development of the civil society, even when the preconditions are not the best.
A human being develops through changing his or her situation. If one really wants to understand one´s reality and gain knowledge about alternatives, one has to test it while changing it. It is only then one gets a wider view of reality. In itself one can gain knowledge indirectly through other people´s experiences. But if one really wants to know how a peach tastes one has to take a bite of one. Without personal experiences the alternatives sound like abstract ideas. For this reason it should be clear what the difference between self activity and professional help and service is important. The experience from the neighbourhood development in Rosengård and community development in Byssbon and Norderön is inspiring when we talk about strengthening civil society. We as community workers have to work together with the people and not for them. Now, let us take a closer look at the "philosophy", ideas and theories behind community work and community development.
1 The sources for this section is mainly Fact Sheets on Sweden: General Facts on Sweden, The History of Sweden, Geography of Sweden, Social Insurance in Sweden, Health and Medical Care in Sweden, Swedish Labour Market Policy, The Care of the Elderly in Sweden, Child Care in Sweden, all from The Swedish Institute in Stockholm 1991.
THEORIES FOR MOBILIZING
My approach to community work is, as you have seen in the first chapter, that this first and most is about strategies and methods for mobilizing and organising people to action, through which they can have an impact on their preconditions for life and at the same time create themsleves as citizens and persons. Because community work, as a concept and work within social work, does not have a long history or tradition in Sweden, uncertainty reigns about its position. There is often a lack of knowledge and confusion concerning the theoretical, ideological, ethical and methodological importance. That is why it is of current interest to try and analyse this.
Community work as a method in social work has come to Sweden above all from England and USA for its inspiration, and to a certain degree from Holland. However, there are also ideas and conditions in the Swedish organisations, people´s movement´s and folk educational tradition which are in line with certain principles and methods in community work. The aim of this chapter is to present certain basic concepts, ideas, principles and aims which make up a theoretical frame of reference for community work in Sweden.
The meaning of community work
As already known there are a series of English or international names for community work (samhällsarbete). The concept came to Swedish from English community work. This is a more general term or a collective term for others used in English to cover community work.
The Swedish translation of community work as samhällsarbete (samhälls-arbete) can in practice be misleading, since it can result in the thought that it deals with the life of the society (samhälle) in its whole: "society work". But it would be more correct to call it lokalsamhällsarbete (local community work) or likewise.This is, however, a heavy and clumsy term in Swedish. Brian Ashley, a community worker in Stockholm, calls it "närsamhällsarbete" (neighbourhood work), and Ole Hermansen, lecturer in community and social work in Denmark, calls it "socialt arbejde i det lokale felleskab" (social work in the neighbourhood, i.e. he has no term) (Ashley, 1985 and Hermansen, 1975). Perhaps working with assemblies (samfundsarbete) would be better (the term used in Norway. Samfund,(assembly/congregation) also has the meaning of being together and would be a fitting title for community work in Swedish. However, in Swedish this is also a little misleading, since samfund is usually connected to some kind of formal organisation or more usually connected with a church or congregation. At the whole samhällsarbete may have the best sound in Swedish ears, and will be OK, if we keep in mind that it means local community work.
What is community work?
In a well known report, community work is defined as follows:
"Community work includes: helping local people to decide, plan and take action to meet their own needs with the help of available outside resources, helping local services to become more effective, usable and accessible to those whose needs they are trying to meet, taking account of the interrelation between different services in planning for people and forecasting necessary adaptions to meet new social needs in constantly changing circumstances." (Gulbenkian Foundation, Current Issues in Community Work, London 1973, ref. from Milson, 1974 p. 17)
From this definition it is evident that community work refers to work in which community workers help local groups of people to plan and act in order to satisfy their own needs with the help of external resources, as well as helping local services to become more efficient in meeting people´s needs through increased cooperation, for example.
In international literature about community work there can often be found various other names for community work. Four types are most commonly used. These are: community organization, community development, social planning and social or community action.These terms also represent more or less different variations of community work. But it can be said that community organization and community development nowadays largely stand for the same thing if we do not get tangled up in details. The term which is used depends most on who is writing and where he or she finds himself (for example in Canada, USA or England). Social planning has a different background and meaning, and is tied more to the endeavours of planning in the modern welfare state.
These three models of community work are usually regarded as consensus models, that is to say that they build upon the basic view that society, despite certain conflicts on the surface, rests on a common foundation of values and mutual understanding. In contrast to this conception is the conflict perspective which means that there are deep rooted conflicts in society. It is a class society, or in any case strongly stratified, in which the conflicts cannot be annulled until society has been changed entirely. The term community action often refers to community work which rests on a conflict theory. To summarize, the following can be said about the different international lines in community work:
Community organization (or community organizing) has a background in an endeavour to coordinate social services, to increase the cooperation between public institutions and voluntary organisations, to improve information and to discover problems, as well as to make the welfare institutions more efficient. This effort is developed as the so called third method in social work, with the emphasis on helping people to help themselves. Little by little interest was directed more and more on the development of the local community and on the strengthening of local and social networks. With that community organization has also concentrated more on processes. In his classic definition Murray Ross formulated the content of community organization as the following:
"Community organization is a process by which a community identifies its needs or objectives, orders (or ranks) these needs or objectives, develops the confidence and will to work at these needs or objectives, finds the resources (internal and/or external) to deal with these needs or objectives, takes action in respect to them, and in so doing extends and develops co-operative and collaborative attitudes and practices in the community." (Ross, community Organization, New York 1967, p. 39, ref. from Specht & Vickery 1977, p. 168).
From Murray Ross´s definition it can be seen that community organization is concerned with the community worker stimulating a process through which a group of people identify their needs and objectives and develop strategies to reach these objectives, and at the same time the members in the group also develop their own competence during this process.
Community development is an attempt at broader participation of the local community´s inhabitants in development and work for change. There is a UN definition to base this:
"The term community development has come into international usage to connote the process by which the efforts of the people themselves are united with those of governmental authorities to improve the economic, social and cultural conditions of communities, to integrate these communities into the life of the nation and to enable them to contribute fully to national progress.
The complex of processes is thus made up of two essential elements: the participation of the people themselves in efforts to improve the level of living with as much reliance as possible on their own initiative, and the provision of technical and other services in ways which encourage initiative, self-help and mutual help and make them more effective. It is expressed in a variety of programmes designed to achieve a wide variety of specific improvements." (United Nations, European Seminar on Community Development and Social Welfare in Urban Areas, Geneva 1959, p. 1, ref from Specht & Vickery, 1977, p. 171).
An UN definition
According to the UN definition community development can be defined approximately as a process to reach economic and social success for the local community by the people being activated and by the community workers having trust for the local inhabitants´ own initiative. It can be said that it is about developing participation and democratic processes and through this mobilizing the local community or the social group´s own resources for self-development and self-help. Both community organization and community development work according to one of two strategies: either an umbrella strategy or a grassroots strategy. That is to say either organisation from above with coordinated contributions or an organizing and mobilization from below with development of people´s own resources.
Community action, sometimes also called social action, is mostly associated with the radical streams which student revolts started. But it also builds on old traditions in radical political work. The term usually refers to an organization from below made up of neglected and oppressed groups so that they, through a collective struggle, can develop resistance, take care of their own interests and place demands on changes in society consistent with ideas of social justice and democracy. Two well known community workers from England, Marjorie Mayo and Ray Lees, have written the following about community action:
"Since the mid 1960s there has been a growth in community action of various forms. This has included the welfare rights movement, resistance against planning and redevelopment, the squatting movement, strategies to form alliances with trade unions, the local organisation of ethnic minorities, the development of feminist groups and demands for the devolution of decision-making in industry, politics and government. The guiding spirit of much of these developments has been the view that people should make decisions for themselves and have more control over their everyday environment." (Lees & Mayo, 1984, p. 11.)
Community action bases itself on an analysis of problems and society which says that unemployment, poverty, deprivation, and apathy are not caused by the individual´s lacking characteristics, talent or ability, but by social imbalance, class society and oppression. These phenomena have to be understood by a radical analysis of societal relationships and the powers which keep and reproduce these structures. It is only through collective struggle that the oppressed can obtain a larger part of the welfare they themselves are part of and produce and get a more equal placing in society. Jack Rothman has the following to say about social action:
"It aims at making basic changes in major institutions or community practices. Social action as employed here seeks redistribution of power, resources, or decision making in the community and/or changing basic policies of formal organizations."
(Rothman, 1974, p.22)
Social planning develops as a result of, or as part of, increased state or public investments or programmes to meet social problems and create social welfare. This approach is also an expression for the belief in scientific-technical rationality. Its reasoning says that through research, producing knowledge and planning as well as developing the suitable tools, we can plan and create a society with the optimal conditions for a good social life under certain conditions with sufficient knowledge. Simplified it can be said that social planning is about building up banks of social knowledge and by developing communication, collaboration, and systematic action from analysis of problems and objective formulation, we can achieve efficiency in all the organs and systems which supply welfare. Social planning is, as a phenomenon, a concept and an activity associated with broadening out the welfare state and its ambitions. Jack Rothman defines social planning as follows:
"The social planning approach emphasizes a technical process of problem solving with regard to substantive social problems, such as delinquency, housing, and mental health. Rational, deliberatively planned and controlled change has a central place in this model. Community participation may vary from much to little, depending on how the problem presents itself and what organisational variables are present. The approach presupposes that change in a complex industrial environment requires expert planners who, through the exercise of technical abilities, can skilfully guide complex change processes. By and large, the concern here is with establishing, arranging, and delivering goods and services to people who need them. Building community capacity or fostering radical or fundamental social change does not play a central part." (Rothman 1974, p 24)
According to Rothman, social planning is an organisation of technical knowledge and the ability to manage bureaucratic organizations in order to reach greater efficiency in social policy and to adapt the resources in a better way for the needs of the population. The aspects of coordination and collaboration are often stressed in this model for mediation of social services and welfare. Simplified, we can say that social planning is in the first hand a planning and administrative technique for collaboration between public actors and for changes in public and collective bodies. The local population, which is the target group, are consumers of social services and the strategy for change is often of an umbrella nature. The service organizations open out their umbrella of measures over problem areas and target groups, extend their range of services and develop work for the people, rather than with the people. But with the development of ideas around participation in social welfare programmes interest has increased for user participation, and it is not always easy to draw a sharp division between community organization and social planning.
There is also the aspect that in such a complicated society as ours user groups need expert help to understand which strategies of change have to be developed and used - a view which, amongst others, is associated with the term "advocacy planning" in the English language literature (England, USA, Canada, etc).
The Federation of Community Work Training Groups in England has a more general definition of community work (not connected to the above presented four legged structure) which contains three important elements:
"Community Work is about the active involvement of all people in the issues which affect their lives. Firstly, it is about the ability of all people to act together to create environments where they can reflect and act on their collective concerns to challenge inequalities and influence and assert control over social, economic and political issues. Community work aims to change the balance of power which will facilitate local democracy. In this sense community work focuses on relations between people and those institutions (both public and private) which shape their everyday lives.
Secondly, community work is about acknowledging the specific experience and contribution of Black people and women whilst involving the experience, and developing the skills and knowledge of all people, to take collective action for change. Thirdly, community work must take a lead in confronting the attitudes and behaviour of individuals and institutions which discriminate again all powerless groups. Community work is a process which encourages participatory democracy. This process focuses on a wide range of issues affecting the poor and disadvantaged, these include employment, housing, health, finance, work with young people, etc. But whatever the issue the work will always combine the above three elements." (Training for Community Practice 1990)
This is an excellent definition and fits to my view of what community work is about, except that the passage on Black people is not relevant in Sweden. We may talk about oppressed, disadvantaged and exposed minority groups.
A distinctive approach to development
It may be a bit confusing that different terms are used for sometimes or many times express almost the same thing. For me it is not important if we use the expression "community development", "community action" or "community work". It is more important what we mean, include and do in this kind of activity and work. What we are in to, is a certain kind of development of people, communities and society. I want to propose the idea that development should be a question of development of human resources and not a one-sided concentration on economic development and expansion. Another basic idea is that development work must have its starting point in local conditions - we can call it the local perspective. This means that we must try to see the world from the local community's standpoint. We must ask ourselves: Which are the local community's traditions, social and economic structure, resources, problems, common concerns, etc? As well as: What consequences do the activities of the State, the county and other parties have for, or on, the local community?
In certain strategies for development it is mainly the material resources and economic prerequisites which are exploited. All interest is directed towards revealing which dormant, undiscovered and unexploited material assets and natural resources are present within the area. This approach is based on the belief that development and prosperity are above all concerned with economic expansion. The result of this strategy is that some places lacking natural resources which can be exploited or lacking industrial traditions or activities and capital are branded as doomed.
The sustainable development must be central in the discussion and regarded with all right as the fundamental condition for the community's existence. With a broadened perspective, many are now interested in the social and cultural aspects of community development as well. Human needs must be satisfied: physical and mental health and well-being; social belonging and enjoyment. Young, modern people are not willing to stay on if life becomes altogether too complicated in their community. They will move because of inadequate services and a weak infrastructure. Their unwillingness to remain may stem from the landscape showing signs of pollution, or their personal freedom being threatened in some other way.
A sustainable development
When the ecological and ecosophical aspects are drawn into the discussion, attention turns to the fact that "nature" is not an infinite resource which can be exploited without serious consequences for the total environment. Nor does nature exist merely for "our sake" or for exploiters who believe they have the right to handle it on the basis of economic efficiency and profit interests alone. We human beings have a moral and ethical responsibility to treat nature in such a way that it can reproduce itself, and not to contribute to its destruction.
John Davis summarise assumptions and beliefs for sustainable development of economies: "Economic activity should not only be efficient in its use of all resources but should also be socially just, and environmentally and ecologically sustainable. The purpose should be to satisfy all human needs - physical, mental, emotional and spiritual - through personal responsibility, mutual aid and governmental enabling, with minimum consumption of scarce resources. Communities need to develop economic self-reliance as a basis for dignity and self-determination. Inter-trading should primarily be for an exchange of materials and skills that are naturally maldistributed. Activities that do not involve financial transactions are no less important than those that do. Consequently there is no justification for the maximizatin of financial transactions. The interests of future generations, and of other communities, must not be jeopardized" (Davis 1994, p23).
We should use technologies that are environmentally harmonious, ecologically stable and skill enhancing, design complete systems in order to minimize waste, and we should reduce as much as possible the consumption of scarce resources by designing long-life products that are easily repairable and can be recycled and finally we should maximize the use of all the services that are not energy- or material- intensive, but which contribute to the quality of life (ibid p38)
If we agree that the development of communities should have its point of departure in the local community, then we must have knowledge of and insight into the essence of social life there: traditions, culture, social harmony and antagonism, etc. Such insight is essential if the community is characterized by, among other things, stronger social bonds and living traditions, more closely knit social networks and family cohesiveness as often is the case in rural settlements. In this communities the networks often reach across work and leisure, social and professional activities, private and public life, politics and business, and in this way form an interface of great importance in the spread of new ideas and strategies for change.
From a socio-anthropological view of reality, it is essential to include the areas' interaction and value systems in the analysis and the strategy discussion. A comprehensive perspective is required for an understanding of how human beings develop both life and survival strategies. A person is not only a labourer or production factor and a consumer. Existence includes many other activities and events essential for welfare and quality of life: from love, warmth and fellowship to the beer by the fire or fishing on an early summer morning. Strategies for development, then, should also be based at least in part on a comprehensive perspective which encompasses the interaction between vital ingredients of the individual's workday and holiday life.
My conviction is that community development should entail an effort to create a more differentiated, self-aware and competent "blossoming" community. It should have the ambition that as many as possible of its inhabitants take an active part in the development task as well as have due respect for their vital interests and needs, for the ecological balance and for coming generations' prospects. The point is that development progress and improvements should embrace both the individual members with their activities and the total environment.
Partnership for democratic life
Marilyn Taylor defines community development very much the same way I like to do: "Community development is a way of working which seeks to do two things. First, it seeks to release the potential within communities. It does this by bringing people together to address issues of common concern and to develop the skills, confidence and resources to address those problems. In doing so, it can strengthen relationships within the community and encourage people to use their energies and resources more effectively at local level. Secondly, it works where necessary to change the relationship between people in communities and the institutions that shape their lives. Its aim in doing so is to ensure that communities and the people within them are recognised as partners in production, service and democratic life rather than the objects of decisions and policies made elsewhere. Indeed, by developing community strengths, community development may release energies and ideas that lead to new kinds of enterprise and new kinds of service delivery, based within these communities themselves" (Taylor 1992 p 2).
In many communities these activities happen more or less spontaneously or at least with out any intervention by professional organisers and community workers coming from outside. But, as Marilyn Taylor states, "While some communities may already have within them people with the experience, confidence and skills to set up successful organisations, many do not. And it is those with the least confidence and resources, often those seen by outsiders as problem areas or apathetic, which most need to develop the strength that community organisations can provide. Here, community development can help people develop the confidence and skills to get community activities going and to build the networks that will give them more control over the quality of their life and environment"(ibid p 5)
We can finish this section about a distinctive approach for mobilizing local communities by quote the Standing Conference on Community Development in UK 1990: "Community development is concerned with change and growth - with giving people more power over the changes that are taking place around them, the policies that affect them and the services they use. It seeks to enable individuals and communities to grow and change according to their own needs and priorities, rather than those dictated by circumstances beyond their boundaries. It works through bringing people together to share skills, knowledge and experiences, in the belief that it is through working together that they will reach their full potential.............. It aims to promote participation in the democratic process on the premise that policies and services will be immeasurably improved if people traditionally at the receiving end are able to play a central part in their development...........It is often through talking to others in a similar situation that they begin to realise that their experience is shared. From this foundation, many people begin to gain the skills and confidence to take an active part in the services they use and the environment they live in" (from Taylor 1992, p6)
The local community a core issue
Because the community is there community work is to hapen, it is important to understand the meaning of community. Let us try to find out what the object of the work is - or better the acting subject. Community can have many different meanings, from covering the small,homogeneous, social and cultural unit to the large international federations such as the EC. It is confusing to say the least. That is why it is often necessary to put various prefixes to mark what one is referring to (such as Redfield in little community). Other examples are local community, rural community etc. In his ambitious study, G. A. Hillery has tried to work out what the term community stands for. He found that the most usual meaning of the term community was that: "community consists of persons in social interaction within a geographic area and having one or more additional common ties" (Hillery, 1955, p.53).
The term community is used in community work in reference to a social group where there is a relatively strong feeling of belonging together. This means that a group of people have something which binds them together and they feel the experience of being a group (Milson, 1974, p.11). Usually, the group is found within a certain geographic area. The border does not need to be clearly defined, such as when one thinks of a village, a clearly defined urban area or a district of a town. The group can be spread over many districts within a town or city (for example, a group of immigrants from Turkey who live spread out over a whole area but who still keep in contact with each other on the basis of their cultural and social links).
Community in this connection can therefore be defined approximately in the way Hillery meant in his basic meaning.
In community work one attaches special weight to the fact that there is a group consciousness - or that it can be created by community work. There is a great difference in saying that there is a grupp i sig (i.e. a number of people seen from the outside regarded as a group) and a grupp för sig (a number of people who themselves experience that they are a group) The latter experience the feeling of "us together" and strive for common goals.
A classic definition
Local community (lokalsamhälle) refers to the small unit or microstructure of material, cultural and social conditions.The first thought one has is of a small , defined community such as the village in the country, for example. In contrast to the large community (storsamhälle) the local community is a more closely defined geographical unit where the people make up some sort of togetherness, "face-to-face contacts" and where the inhabitants have a certain degree of culture in common. The classic definition of lokalsamhälle by ethnologists and social anthropologists is: a geographical area where the inhabitants have feeling of belonging together both objectively and subjectively. Within the area defined by the lokalsamhälle most of the community´s inhabitants live and work there and also spend their free time there. Changes happen slowly and many of the social and cultural activities are carried out within the community, usually at very little economic cost. The inhabitants´ field of interaction has a tight network of many different kinds of relationships. Neighbours can be both relations and colleagues, members of the local football club or in the local choir (Sundbo, 1972, p.18). Also within the social anthropological definition of lokalsamhälle there is the idea of it being more or less independent and self-supporting.
Geographic or social context?
The term lokalsamhälle, which is sometimes translated by community in English, has a much stronger concept of a geographic area in Swedish. Therefore, it is not "just" a social and cultural unit. The concept of lokalsamfund, lokalsamfunn, and lokalsamhälle in Scandinavia is made up of two words. The word lokal refers to a geographically defined area and the word samfund/samfunn/samhälle refers to the fact that there exists a network of social relations and social interplay between the inhabitants.This gives a strong feeling of being together and solidarity.
In Sweden more importance is stressed on just a geographic area, compared to the Norwegian samfunn. Sometimes the term lokalsamhälle can refer to a small village in the country without it also meaning, of course, that there is a social unity. The importance is clearly in the geographic limit. In Norway the idea of lokalsamfunn is more of a group of people who make a cultural and social community. The Norwegian social anthropologist Ottar Brox says: "lokalsamfunn means that people consider each other as total persons. the "ego" is never just a worker or a handicapped person or different in relation to the "alter". He/she is also a brother/sister/relative/religious brother. The people consider each other within different sectors/categories at the same time" (Brox, 1971, p.50).
The little community
The concepts lokalsamfunn and community seem to be more synonymous than community and lokalsamhälle. When Robert Redfield discusses "the little community" he points out the characteristic of the group consciousness: a "community" is a group of people who experience that they are a group in relation to others. There is the feeling of "us" (Redfield, 1967, p.4). His definition is more of the social anthropological view. Other characteristics of "the little community" are that it is a homogeneous social unit, surveys ideas and is self-supporting. It should be seen as a whole with its special character (ibid, p.9).
The small village in the country is the best picture of a lokalsamhälle. However, the mistake of thinking that there is consensus in the village should not be made. Such villages are very hard to find and it is an unrealistic demand to be made on a lokalsamhälle. It should also be remembered that the word village does not always mean a group of people and a collection of houses near each other (for example, a distance of about 200 m between each home). People can well believe and feel that they are part of a village even if they are spread out further within an area. A person coming from outside can perhaps find it difficult to see where the village starts and ends. However, the villagers generally know where they belong.
The community workers do not follow the social anthropological definition of lokalsamhälle, since it is not very useful in Swedish conditions. It is very unlikely to find these small, local communities with the characteristics of being homogeneous, clearly defined, independent and more or less self-supporting. Instead, it is of more interest to study the lokalsamhälle in its relationship to the storsamhälle (society), its success in surviving and developing, not because it is an isolated unit but because the people there have chosen strategies that work in its connection with the world around it.
The Swedish term lokalsamhälle can be interpreted much in the same way as Hillery and Milson use the term community. However, at the same time it must be remembered that it is a group of people in a certain geographic area. If we refer to a group of people who have something in common which binds them together but are more spread out on a geographical plane, then it is better to talk about a social group or social unit. It goes against the feeling for language and logic to talk about a lokalsamhälle which does not have the idea of lokal as discussed above.
Grannskap usually refers to an area of housing or part of a town or city. It usually means nothing more than a collection of people living within a certain geographical area. It can also possibly mean that there is (or can be) a certain closeness and contact between the people in the grannskap. There can also develop an informal social control and a network for help and support in a restricted sense (Olsson, 1990, p.85). Within the organised free time activities, such as local community groups and employed community leaders, there is more of a tradition to talk of neighbourhood work (grannskapsarbete) than community work (samhällsarbete) The idea is not to isolate the work going on to just the community centre or its equivalent, but rather to go out to the neighbourhood and its people. the community leaders and community groups go out and try to activate and make the people become involved, to develop leisure activities which are of both interest and importance to them. The leisure activities should be developed from the needs and the interests of the people, undertaken by their own active participation. The centre can be seen as a kind of resource base in such work in order to create interesting activities and a feeling of being together amongst the people in the neighbourhood.
With such an approach and plan grannskapsarbete or områdesarbete can be synonymous to community work. At the same time it is not a concept or term that generally replaces community work, since it does not refer in the first hand to a social unit but rather a geographically limited area.
Områdesarbete has more greatly been associated with the people´s activity around common interests and activities in the area than grannskapsarbete has.
The little neighbourhood
With the concept "little neighbourhood" (det lilla grannskapet), Sören Olsson, associate professor in sociology at Gothenburg University, has wanted to give a more realistic picture of this kind of neighbourhood in today´s society. The little neighbourhood refers to people who live closest to each other in a certain area. Qualities such as contact, closeness, acquaintance, safety etc are found more in the little neighbourhood than in the big neighbourhood (Olsson, 1990, p.91). The physical layout of the area is what determines the little neighbourhood. For example, in an area with bungalows and houses it can be a part of the street, and in an area with terraced housing it can be a group of houses which make up a block, or even perhaps a block of flats, a stair or just a floor in a block of flats.
Det lilla grannskapet consists of 10 to 40 people and it is characterized by social contacts on a kind of middle ground (close friend relationships in which people come in close contact with each other, and superficial contacts when people are unsure about greeting each other). In the little neighbourhood people always greet each other when they meet, perhaps exchange a few words or stop for a chat. People keep each other informed about what is going on in the neighbourhood, and they exchange their views about common problems. Through these contacts certain norms are upheld and developed (for example, the state of the area and how to meet each other). This creates a certain feeling of safety in the block.
When the little neighbourhood functions well it can also lead to the people exchanging certain services , helping each other with small jobs and meeting around common tasks (such as the cleaning up of the laundry area or playground, the setting up of traffic barriers etc.) The little neighbourhood is of special importance to people with families or elderly people, i.e. people who are often in the neighbourhood.
It should be pointed out that within the neighbourhood, block or other geographically defined area that there can be several groups which the community worker can direct himself/herself to. This can mean working with each group in itself or several groups together to create cooperation and a greater effectiveness in their work. As to which group the community worker turns to depends on the nature of the problems and questions as well as the ambitions and strategies of the group. Community work does not need to encompass all of the community (lokalsamhälle/grannskap) or neighbourhood. It can revolve around certain groups with interests within these. In reality it is most usually the case that community work deals with one or several interest groups within a certain part of the society ( which sometimes can be a town, or county or even region.) In fact, local interest groups are that kind of organization which are most expending and progressing in Sweden at the moment. An interest group can be a group of youngsters or a group of retired people, for example. What is common for them is either a problem or something which binds them together and makes them care about each other. Therefore, it means a group organizing for action and working for change seen from common interests and questions.
The local community
When trying to develop and practise community work the five concepts and perspectives on social units presented above (community, lokalsamhälle, grannskap, especially det lilla grannskapet and interest groups) are of importance. The essence is that community work is aimed at and is concerned with groups of people. The characteristics of the local community are:
Characteristics of a local community
* there is a certain social interaction between the members
* there is something which binds them together (e.g. common needs, problems, interests, visions, dreams, etc)
* they experience (or shall experience) the feeling of belonging to a group, with some kind of common interests
The term chosen here for this is the local community. To be able to work as a community worker in a local community one has to know and undrstand how if functions culturaly and socialy. The community worker has to understand and make use of the concept of culture and the cultural context.
Culture and subculture
In my work I try to see the local community from a sociological and culturalistic or socioanthropological perspective. This means that we community workers try to understand people´s actions, values and views of reality from their conditions of existence: that is, a material and social view of the whole perspective. We should be investigating what the physical, social and cultural environments look like where social workers live and work. What kind of community is it? What is the local community like? What are the usual kinds of social relations? How is the people´s daily life organized and what are the stresses upon them and the opportunities given to them? It is also interesting to try and see to what extent traditions, manners and customs and values influence people´s interpretations of reality and their words and actions.
What is culture?
According to socioanthropologist Ulf Hannerz, culture means communication between people in a certain social context in which the individual assimilates experience from others and gives his own a standardized form. The term subculture refers to a group of people who interact and who are placed in very similar situations. In this process similar perspectives of reality are developed. Experiences and perspectives are the message which build up the group´s collective consciousness (Hannerz 1982, 60 - 61).
The term culture encompasses the idea of a human being´s view of the world, his conceptions and values such as the practical everyday and material manifestations of human work in a certain existential context, as Nils Bringéus puts it. Culture refers to both many people´s various ways of seeing things and the values and expressions of human activity. Human beings organize their own impression of the world around them from their own frame of reference and scheme of understanding, and construct their own reality from this. From these pictures and material prerequisites they organize their lives and interact with the environment around them. According to Bringéus culture is that which manifests itself through human beings´actions and that which finds expression in manners and customs, taste and opinion, language and gender roles, just as much as in buildings, organizations etc. (Bringéus 1986, 11).
Subculture refers to a more limited group of people who, by their position in society, are placed in similar situations and share experience through interaction. The group members develop almost the same perspective of existence from these relationships. They get similar frames of reference, interests, norms and values. Looking at ourselves as community workers we can assume that we are part of such a subculture. And this is reflected in certain common norms and values which we have as community workers, as well as our way of reasoning , thinking and interpreting reality and how to act in certain situations.
When I use the term culture I refer to a group of people´s common value systems: norms, values, ideals, moral, perspectives, patterns of thought, symbols and interpretations and the importance given to events and phenomena, as well as the expressions this achieves through the group´s action. This is shown in attitudes, patterns of behaviour and in that which human beings create around themselves - as a background for how life is formed. This means people having living conditions and experiences which they share with others and, this in turn, is the basis for a common interpretation of the world - and to a large extent - also shows how people create their own world. Subculture is concerned with a limited group with common norms and patterns of action.
Ways of life
The term way of life refers to an overall perception of how life turns out for a group of people: their material conditions, social relationships, view of the world and thought processes. In a general sense it is not greatly different from the term culture. However, similarly to Thomas Höjrup, I would like to state, and place greater weight on, the material conditions which a group of people live under, and especially what their form of supporting themselves takes. I have the impression that these aspects may have taken up little roon in ethnological and socioanthropological studies, where value systems and social relationships have been the focus. From the basis of my view, which is an attempt to look at the conditions from both a sociological and culturalistic perspective, I mean that greater weight should be placed on the conditions for production and the conditions for supporting oneself, as well as how one´s daily life (or life itself) is oranized within the physical environment. The analysis of ways of life should also contain these components. The components of ways of life can be seen in the figure below:
Components of ways of life
The organization of daily life
Family relationship Household
Central values of life Moral
The conditions for production and for supporting oneself
Social networks Social interaction Power structure Language
Traditions, customs and manners
The physical environment and surroundings
Belonging to an organization
Perspectives, thoughts and scheme of interpretation
For me, the difference between the terms culture and ways of life used by the culture term refers more to social relationships and value systems as central to the understanding of life patterns within a group of people. By starting with the way of life term one attaches greater importance - and perhaps decisively so - to the material conditions under which the group lives. However, with this definition of the term it becomes a more demanding task to analyse ways of life, rather than analysing culture, since more variables have to be examined (see ch5).
Three basic ways of life
My overall perspective on the conditions is, however, this: we can talk of three main types of ways of life (on the basis of Höjrup); the entrepreneur way of life, the wage labour way of life and the career way of life (Höjrup calls them: den rurale livsform, arbejderlivsformen, and den karrierbundne livsform).
The entrepreneur way of life
The entrepreneur way of life is recognized by the fact that the producers own and control the work or business themselves. They usually work in the business themselves and are able to carry out the work which the business is built on, i.e. they know the practicalities of things involved in the work. They have often started the business themselves, built it up themselves or have taken over from parents or have worked in the family business together with other family members or relatives. Usually they are all on the same footing in the business. They identify themselves with their work and often do not distinguish between work and leisure time. Work is their life and they are always occupied by it. There is often a close family feeling and the family members are involved in the business in one way or another. Characteristic qualities recognized in their value system are: prudence in financial matters and resources, the ability and will to work hard, dilligence and initiative, a strong feeling of determining their work. This way of life is dominant in many places in the countryside and rural areas (see ch5).
The wage labour way of life
The wage labour way of life is characterized by the worker selling his ability or receiving a wage for it. The wage is a determining source of supporting oneself. The wage earner has very little influence upon the work in regard to what, when, how and why something is produced. Since the wage labourer has taken up employment he or she does not generally decide on how their ability/competence will be used. In this way of life there is a clear distinction between work and leisure. Work only has the aim of supporting oneself, a necessary evil where the wage earner does not principally have any interest other than his wage packet and that he has relatively good working conditions. The wage earner works to be able to live and it is during his leisure time that he can decide how to run his life and give it meaning and content according to his interests. Ideologically the wage earner is collectively based, since he is one in a large group and knows that he can improve his conditions only by organized action and collective demands. This way of life is dominant in the working class areas of the towns and cities (such as Rosengård).
The career way of life
The career way of life is characterized by the civil servant on the career ladder, having visions of advancing up the ladder or getting new, interesting and well paid work. This means improving oneself and bringing out one´s own abilities and competence. Work is connected to private interests and personal involvement in the work or business. Leisure time and work merge in similar fashion to that of the entrepreneur way of life.
Career minded civil servants are very busy working, and work stands for a great part of one´s personal development. He or she identifies him/herself with the work and workplace and takes personal responsibility in it, without being a direct owner. Dilligence, initiative and individual effort are what matter and these are expected to give opportunities for advancement. Here, it is not only a question of collective membership but the ownership of personal qualities and an investment in oneself. Backup and support from family members can have a decisive role in one´s career. A wife, or more exceptionally a husband, is expected to be there during functions of a representative nature and during other occasions when one must show oneself. Both private life and career are intimately linked (for a closer study see Höjrup 1989, 196 - 207).
Of course, these short descriptions of the three main categories of ways of life only give a rough picture of what they stand for. If we were to look in much more detail at the real ways of life, we would find that each category has variations within itself, depending upon whether it exists in a rural or urban milieu. This means that certain typically rural, respective urban, patterns of life will have their mark on the ways of life. Or to put it another way, to give yet another dimension to the three main types.
Of course, we also have to consider the fact that there are different forms of living in between these. These cannot be clearly assigned to the main categories. It is misleading to only talk about a rural way of life, for example, as if it included everyone in the countryside or rural areas, or talk about an urban way of life which included everybody in the towns and cities. It is possible to say that there are certain cultural characteristics typical for the countryside and some that are typical for the towns, without disregarding the local differences.
The ways of life have, in practice, certain local variations dependent upon factors such as urban or rual milieu. Moreover, certain cultural characteristics can occur and they are more or less special for the rural area or urban environment. However, they are all generalizations in an attempt to point out a number of general patterns. Local conditions can, in a number of cases, appear strongly with certain expressions in the culture. For example, this can be seen between the larger villages and outlying villages in rural Jämtland, or concerning the Sami people and their own special culture
An action theory
Praxiology is a philosophy and theory about the prerequisites for human beings to be able to manage and change the conditions of their lives. The theory - attempts to unite material, structural and psychological circumstances in a holistic understanding of human action and the development of competence and consciousness. The theory holds that we act on the basis of our intentions and interpretations of practical situations in order to achieve our desires. We learn about the world through maintaining an active relationship with it, and by confronting and working with it. Through these processes - learning by action - people become more competent and knowledgeable. We develop ourselves and our world through our conscious activity and collaboration with others. This is the basis of self-knowledge. The consequence of the theory is that we try to view people´s resources, purposes and possibilities for action in a concrete situation. The aim is to guide and encourage people to act on their own assumptions and viewpoints in order to proceed with their lives constructively. To deal with people from this perspective is more useful than to see them as bearers of problems. When people begin to work at changing their life conditions, they also change as people and become more capable.
Community work needs action theories, and an understanding of how people can create a good life for themselves, a life worth living. Sometimes we reject the old ”fix-it” role where the community worker is the preferred problem-solver and people are more or less passive subjects for us to manipulate. Or do we?
We are taking an increasing interest in processes and structures (psychological, social-psychological and sociological) which encourage readiness for action and a fighting spirit. We ask ourselves what in the social context creates good conditions or opportunities for human beings to change oppressive and degrading situations and to mould their lives in a better manner. This chapter describes a philosophy and an action theory which have become increasingly interesting for community work as we make efforts to shake off the ”fix-it” role.
Praxiology is primarily an action theory developed on a philosophical base by a number of Marxist intellectuals who turned to the young Karl Marx´s writings and thoughts as well as to other sources e.g. Aristoteles. Praxiology´s prominent early figures were found in Eastern Europe, for example, Tadeusz Kotarbinski in Poland, György Lukács in Hungary and Karel Kosik in Czechoslovakia. A group which appeared later in Yugoslavia included such renowned critical Marxists as, for example, Svetozar Stojanovic´ and Mihailo Markovic´ (editor of the magazine Praxis International) all of whom have a philosophical Marxism which attempts to deal with the Stalinist orthodoxy in Marxist thinking. Well-known praxiologists in the West are Erich Fromm, Roger Garaudy, Paulo Freire and Jean-Paul Sartre.
Praxiology builds on ”praxis thinking”, i.e. thinking around the concept and phenomenon praxis. Praxis is not interchangeable with practice. Praxis tries to express or describe a perspective which views human action as creating the object and thoughts and ideas surrounding this object, and all are parts of one and the same indivisible process. The person develops her/his thoughts concerning her/his actions at the same time as she/he develops the action, and vice versa. The process itself includes the conditions for both intellectual and practical action, which cannot be separated from each other without negative consequences. This means, for example, that ideas concerning democracy, humanity and equality must develop and find meaning for human beings precisely within the processes in which the persons themselves actively try to create these conditions in their own social life. One can say that this is a central theme in a Marxist theory of social life: self-realization through praxis (Fromm, 1966).
Creation of person
According to this theory a human being tries to realize her/his dreams in the process of confronting and working on material reality. At the same time he/she develops, as an inherent effect of this process of confrontation and revision, new ideas and visions. It is fundamentally a constantly advancing, cumulative process which has only one beginning and one end for each individual - in birth and death respectively. Praxis is also a concept used to describe and understand the development of human knowledge. The development of knowledge is seen as a continuous reshaping of the reality we confront. We create our understanding of reality by working actively on it. The human being´s ideas, values and motives merge with her/his practical experiences and proficiency in this analytical and transforming process which is praxis. The human being thereby creates her/himself (as a person) and her/his own world through her/his actions and in co-operation with others. This is also the base for her/his understanding of an option of her/himself.
Purpose of life
Above all, praxiology is interested in human beings as active subjects (as opposed to manipulated objects). A human being is not just in the world - he/she is not just a robot reacting to the impressions and demands of his/her surroundings. A human being has his/her own motives and aims in life.
That is why he /she must use his/her life to be a human being, and not simply to exist as, for example, being an object for others. Simply put the message is that people act from their own different practical and theoretical conditions when they try to reach their goals. And life gains a meaning through human beings giving it an aim. In a certain sense, therefore, the person is responsible for her/his own life. Perhaps an individual´s anguish stems from a life without meaning, from being only ”a reed in the wind”, blown out into universe! Even the oppressed and meek can gain greater freedom to act and change their situation or look after their own interests if they use their resources in the right way. The dialectic of this argument can be illustrated in the following way as described below:
Praxiological action theory
The act of possibilities and interests
Göran Ahrne (1981) in his book about everyday realities, building upon the ideas of Alfred Schutz, discusses other aspects of action theory which are also of interest here. The human being plans actions on the basis of her/his motives and the possibilities he/she sees. One can add from Scotoni (1980) that strain, effort and anxieties inherent in the action must be in reasonable proportions to the expected results.
From a praxiological starting point it is claimed that people go into battle only when the cost or the efforts of the struggle are in reasonable proportion to what one believes one can achieve. People make history only when they experience it to be the wisest choice and then it seems to be relatively easy to succeed (Scotoni, 1980). If this idea holds it is the job of the community worker to put himself/herself into what the group members see as "the world within their reach", That is to say, what they believe is possible to bring about from how they see the situation against the backdrop of their own experiences, knowledge, competence and available resources.
Motivation and participation
A point of departure for the strategy of encourage a group of people in a programme, is found in the assumption that people participate in projects when they believe they have something important to gain from it - so that this wins over other ways of using time and energy. They participate when the "costs" of the engagement are in reasonable proportion to what they believe they can get out of their participation - as well as seeing they have something to come with from their conditions. People, therefore, have to experience that there is conditions for participating - and that they do not risk making a fool of themselves. The work to be done must be attractive in some way and they must have a reason to believe in the project to be involved.
Through their actions humans try to protect their interests and that which they value. We act on the basis of what we know, can do and have control over. We act out of experience and competence, and usually realistically, that is, trying to reach the goals we believe lie within our own capacity. Our values and motives are thus essential, as are our perceptions of the possibilities for action in our environment. Human beings are reluctant to venture into the unknown, to launch into projects that lie beyond our experience. Organizer Saul Alinsky (1972) also uses this as his starting point: that which has apparent relevance for a person is also what engages her/him most and gives meaning to action.
Begin there people are
This in turn tells us that in a theory for action it is important to start from the situation in which people (e.g. clients) find themselves, and include in our thinking their background experiences, values, interests and motives. It is also important to try to understand how people interpret the situation, the inertia phase of structural and situational possibilities and the restrictions which they confront. (The practical inertia phase is a concept which Sartre (1978:71) uses to describe the resistance towards the human will which is offered by the structures and organizations which human beings have themselves built up.)
We can see that the discussion treats at least two types of action: (1) the person acts in order to obtain that desired something, acting with intent because of a given goal; (2) the person acts because forced to do so; he/she acts on the basis of an outside pressure; he/she acts under compulsion. We can of course say that the person also acts on the basis of a goal when acting to avoid compulsion. The point here is, nonetheless, whether the person acts on the basis of his/her own ambitions, vision and plans, or if the action is ”only” an evasion. There is an essential difference between these types of action.
Praxiologists are engaged in attempts to understand how the human being develops consciousness and competence (conscientisation), how the person develops the capacity to shape her/his world in an intentional manner. They are thus also interested in the principles and practical conditions under which the individual acts and changes her/his situation - and whether such experiences in any way, or in certain respects, can be seen as universal knowledge.
We have seen that in praxiology there is an assumption within the theory of cognition (which is also a normative standpoint and behaviour) of essential character and scope. Using Sartre´s words, we can say that the assumption is that experience will spread its own enlightenment (Sartre, 1984:21). This could be interpreted as sheer empiricism but means that the concrete thinking should emerge out of praxis and return back to praxis, in order to communicate information to the same. Experience must be given information through self-reflection and dialogue: careful consideration and exchange with others in searching discussion. This philosophy and reflection can give us distance from our everyday experiences. Daily life is the source for the most fundamental of our experiences, but it can also be a source of illusions. The monotony of daily life, firmly established and mechanical routines, easily create a blinding semblance of reality, or a superficiality in which we cannot distinguish the essentials because they are so close to us. Through reflection and discussion we can achieve a degree of distance from reality and at the same time discover patterns we did not see at close range.
Synthesis of experience and theory
In Greek philosophy praxis was the activity through which the good life could be realized. Praxis was thus the merging together of the practical - knowledge necessary for material production (the skill and the craft) - and the moral - the values, ideology and ideas (perhaps meaning of life). Aristotle´s Praxis is the synthesis of Theoria and Pronesis, that is, a fusion of reflection (afterthought or theoretical knowledge) and practical knowledge (handiness or skill). We can also, in principle, see praxis in this way. Praxis is then a process in which experience, know-how and competence join with our dreams, goals and visions and moral position, in the tangible transaction. What we can do and what we want, our habits, tastes and our position, form the background for how we meet actual situations and plan for the future.
Our actions are of course dictated also by many factors other than our experiences and our ambitions. Action is influenced, furthermore, by the social context and the material and structural conditions, forces and counterforces, as well as the situation´s general complexity. We can influence these conditions under certain circumstances and to a certain extent, but we can never control them completely. Whether we apply a short-term or long-term perspective to this discussion also makes a difference, as does, of course, the type of questions at hand. Each individual´s possibilities for influencing larger questions and long-term changes are for the most part exceedingly small. If her/his ambitions and knowledge are part of a mass movement, however, it is quite another matter. Structures are supported by collectives and can also be changed by collectives.
Be aware of the possibilities
To go beyond one´s boundaries requires insight into what exists. That is, the actions through which human beings step outside the established order of things and achieve a new situation require insight into which possibilities are implied in the given situation. A person chooses actions within the framework of historical evidence. Deviating from the established order is therefore not a neutral act or solely a question of will. The situation the individual is confronted with bears within it certain possibilities for and limits as to possible deviation. The individual must understand correctly and make the most of these possibilities and limits.
Paulo Freire and Myles Horton
Paulo Friere describes praxis as a continuous, dialectic process through which human beings gain greater consciousness of themselves and the world. The process consists of: over-reaching actions through which a person makes new experiences - reflection and new thoughts around the experience - dialogue in which an exchange of thoughts takes place with others about the experience and their own thoughts- new thought processes - new boundary-crossing actions - new experience - etc (Freire, 1972) This means that human beings, for example in local cooperative and development groups, gain an increased knowledge, competence and consciousness about themselves and the world around them when they are involved in new projects and new actions and so to speak test the world then they carry out changes. The new project gives birth to new thoughts from the people acting. And the discussions in the group stimulate an exchange of experiences, a reasoning of the experience and the development of new ideas for the solution to problems and action.
The theory around praxis tries to express or describe a perspective which views human action as creating the object and thoughts and ideas surrounding this object and all are parts of one and the same indivisible process. The person develops his/her thoughts concerning his/her actions at the same time as he/she develops the action, and vice versa. The process itself includes the conditions for both intellectual and practical action. This means, for example, the ideas concerning democracy, humanity and equality must develop and find meaning for human beings precisely within the processes in which the persons themselves actively try to create these conditions. Johan Galtung, who paraphrases Ghandi, expresses the same idea as follows:
"There is no road to self-reliance - self-reliance is the road." (Galtung, 1980, p.22)
The title of a book about the work and pedagogy of Myles Horton and Paulo Freire has the same connotation:
"We Make the Road by Walking"
Consciousness is, according to this idea, not a quality passed on but an active and working relation to what consciousness is about. It is a process where human beings gain knowledge about the world by having an active relationship to it. The boundary-crossing and the opportunity of implementing new actions presupposes an insight into that which is and the ideas about a different relationship. The situation in question creates certain opportunities for crossing over, but it means seeing these. And it also means having a perspective about where one is going. This is what consciousness is about, amongst other things.
If we are to give meaning to our lives, it is essential that we have the ability to live lives in which we can shape our existence on the basis of practical requirements and dreams. We need to be able to control our situation and to understand the context of which each of us is a part. In a praxiological perspective certain circumstances stand out as especially interesting for study in an attempt to understand our possibilities for acting intentionally and shaping our lives. It is a matter of distinguishing those factors which are of special importance as we choose our strategies for action. In the points presented below the variables can apply to both individuals and groups.
Background: history, experience, frame of reference, attitude (practice, customs and usage) and expected effects of an action.
Intention: purpose, motives, interests, ambitions and visions.
Perspective: the world within reach, how one perceives the possibilities (theories and assumptions), example and models.
Situation: confrontation with reality, how this reality is interpreted, the actual questions and problems, the social context (the social and physical space).
Means: the activity sphere, knowledge, competence, that which controls, tools (resources).
Counterforce: opposing interests (power and counterpower), the material and structural conditions (the ”inertia sphere”).
In line with earlier discussions of a knowledge approach, it would not be out of place to note that investigations of the above circumstances do not primarily aim at gaining retrospective knowledge about why something has happened. The interest is instead directed forward in an effort to understand the circumstances and conditions for change. It is not in the interest of oppressed and victimized people to preserve the established order but to change it to what will be, for them, a better order in society. Changing circumstances of life means among other things, that oppressed people have to organise to gain power. But this empowerment goes hand in hand with learning and developing competence of people. The process of learning - learning by action - is central in community work and some of the pedagogical ideas can be describedwith the term social pedagogy.
The social pedagogical approach has developed from theories and thinking about the social aspects of knowledge production and consciousness. At the end of the nineteenth century the German philosopher, Paul Natorp, was developing ideas about social pedagogy which represent some of the earliest writing using the term. Natorp was one of the leading figures in the neo-Kantian Marburg school. In 1899 he published the book Sozialpadägogik (Grue-Sorensen, 1976:215).
The fundamental idea in social pedagogy is that the individual develops in fellowship with others, in interactions within the social group. In simple terms, social pedagogy has the aim of moulding a social context in which the person´s consciousness, knowledge, moral being and sociability can develop in a favourable manner. In an earlier book (Ronnby, 1981:292) I discussed social pedagogy within the context of community work and group activities aimed at bringing about structural changes in the local community. There I considered the value of social pedagogy in work with groups to mobilize the local community, or to build a questioning and active attitude in the group. I regard the group as an essential social unit for building up a platform for social action.
Collective action to cross the boundaries
The group is of interest because of its ability to stimulate the process of change and to produce dialogue and reflection concerning life and the future. Especially for people who have not been involved in active public life and action in public, the group can be a significant base for collective action of a boundary-crossing character. The group´s members can motivate one another to examine new aspects of reality, to develop and test their ability to struggle for desired changes or to stand up against threats. In the group the members are motivated and learn to compare and deal with experiences, to describe the world as they see it, and to share their ideas about life and the future. The group can help members to feel confident to test their own strength, to question and to develop alternatives. For many the group can provide the support they need to take a stand, to decide on a direction and to live their commitment and assume responsibility. In the group context people can face questions requiring action as the response, questions calling for initiative.
Research on groups (see for example Aubert, 1974:72, and Heap, 1975:26) describes factors important in social interaction and group dynamics. Among these factors are the following: closeness, similarity, community of interests and values, common needs, mutuality, one or more issues of importance to all members, a gathering place, a degree of interdependence, and prospects of action. Some of these factors can be created within the group process through activities and interaction.
The community worker as Catalyst
With the catalytic approach the community worker looks upon problems as structures and processes in the society and within the social unit (e.g. the group or the local community) which stand in the way of individuals´ opportunities to develop and possibilities to control their life situation. Human beings are not primarily concerned with lessening the anxiety or stress which results from the types of blockages mentioned above, but prefer to channel dissatisfaction into appropriate action which can lead to change. The function of the community worker, then, is to act as a sort of catalyst to start social processes which, in turn, make possible active and constructive action on the part of those with the problems. Here it is a question of stimulating people to change their situation and to develop themselves in the process. The objective is to create opportunities for oppressed people and people on whom these problems have fallen, to work together to remove the oppressive and destructive circumstances. Through these actions, which require initiative and boundary-crossing, they become able to view themselves and the world from a new ”progressive” point of departure. The social pedagogical line of action can be summarized, in part, in the following principles:
Principles of social pedagogy
1. Involvement. One must engage strongly in the problem and enter actively into the situation.
2. Rooting. Problem solution, activity and operations must have their point of departure among the people (meaning here those concerned, the oppressed or those who have problems).
3. Field. The work must be with the people in their environment.
4. Mobilization. The work involves arousing and developing the people´s latent resources and possibilities.
5. Action. The people themselves must work on and change their situation through active engagement. People must be involved in the change process.
6. Consciousness-raising. Through people´s transforming, boundary-crossing activities, through praxis, they become conscious of their reality, aware of the social, political and economic conditions as well as of their own ability, of paths open to them and of possibilities with which to change destructive circumstances.
7. Control by those concerned. All of this must be done on the people´s own conditions, and the aimed for result must be of interest to the people (not primarily the social worker).
These principles could stand as some of the fundamental principles for community work.
In short, the theory means that one creates a basis for cooperation from the common interests of the participants, their common problems or issues. From here a process can be started in which all participants are of value From their different conditions and starting points they can contribute to the common result. It means creating horizontal relations and a safe, pleasant and creative climate within the group so that everyone can express his/her own views and ideas. All views are of value and no one is superior to anyone else. The participants all have important roles and functions within the group and everyone must feel important.
Learning by action
The creative climate is created by, for example, making the interaction work via dialogue. Dialogue, the giving and taking of ideas and thoughts is a central binding element in the pedagogy of the group. So too, are ideas of that one learns and develops his/her competence through practical action and from a "plan". Learning by doing is another important part in the pedagogic model. One learns by testing his/her theories in practical action, and by working through this the theories are changed and new ideas blossom. Dialogue demands a certain climate and order within the group. It is maintained through an undercurrent of sympathy and and goodwill. Dialogue prefers some kind of equality of relations and an interest in the Other (the other participants). Dialogue presupposes a will to listen to others and give one´s own viewpoint and to understand the Other.
Looking dialectically, it can be said that ideas and thoughts meet, are tested and diffuse into new ideas and viewpoints. Perhaps one is lucky enough to gather in the most essential from every person´s contribution in the dialogue. The participants must be able to respond to each other and answer to the fact that there is a dialogue taking place. One also needs to have some common interest to meet around. This demands one being prepared to set aside a certain amount of time and energy.
It is also assumed that people will work with the questions that are of most interest to the group members. These should develop into a generative theme. This means that one chooses questions and issues which lead to new questions and issues during discussion and working. These are essential from several aspects and will cover important areas of the situation and living environment of the members. This is sometimes called the budding process (knoppskjutningsprocess).
In this process questions are not only answered or handled but leads to questioning as a result of the discussions and actions which the group have been involved in. Naturally, new initiatives will be aroused and questions can be asked which demand answers to the level of action. One must work with them in practical life. The pedagogic, creative climate is created through this type of exchange between the group as a whole and the individual. Consequently, the groups´s way of working gains great importance for the release of the members´ latent resources, ideas, ability to cooperate, willingness to act etc.
A group for itself
Whilst arguing the importance of the group in community work it would be of interest to bring forward another aspect. Alluding to Marx´s ideas on class consciousness, an important point is that what superficially can be seen as a "group" of people changes into a group for itself. This means that what someone looking from the outside can see as a group of people (because they are not with them or are in another place), but who do not have much else to unite them, develop into a group which experiences the feeling of community and of "us". A group of people can find themselves in a common situation, but still they do not experience a feeling of belonging together or having common interests. It is not until they have been drawn into a process through which they begin to cooperate around the problems or conditions which they share do the group members begin to experience that they have common interests. They want something together and can work from a common goal. They are transformed from being a group within itself to being a group for itself. This can be illustrated below:
The social pedagogical approach can also be said to stand for a sort of educational ideal, which has been taken from the political arena where ideas about the educative and maturing character of the democratic processes have been developed. This line has derived inspiration from, among others, socialist political theories and the so-called participation school (which is most nearly liberal, social liberal). The idea is that if people on a broad front become involved and engaged in the steering and development of the society, they will themselves develop as human beings, become more clever and competent to take up life questions and concerns, and better understand the society in which they live.
Pedagogy and democracy
Democracy in its true meaning is not only an ethical, moral, aesthetic and political question, but also to the highest degree a practical pedagogical question - the question of the future of humankind. As I see it, the praxiological theory of action and social pedagogy, are an interesting theoretical approach to community work, as a strategy and method, and one may say, a movement for helping and stimulating oppressed people to participate in creating their own new life. But what are we doing in practice as community workers when we try to be good catalysts for such a process and movement? This question will be delt with in chapter four and five.
Community economic development
Development in the local community is among other things dependent upon who has control over local resources. If we choose a local perspective as the starting point, it can be interesting to try to answer the question as to how members of the local community themselves can acquire the necessary control over their own local resources, such as: land, capital, infrastructure, human beings and know-how. I shall present here some examples of these resources which are of special interest for community development.
Land refers to the attention that must be directed to the local, natural resources which are utilized for sustenance, informally or through the creation of salaried jobs (such as the forest, the cultivatable fields, the waterways, other raw materials etc). Relevant questions are to what extent the company or business controlling and exploiting such natural raw materials lies outside of the local community and region and which effects this fact has on the local economy. Is the exploitation motivated by short-term profit interests or a long-term nature-conservation interest? Is it a question of exploitation with concern for, and interest in, local employment, aesthetics, the environment and social life, or concern for dividends with a self-interest criteria? To what extent are profits retained in or returned to the area? Is it possibly more a question of the "draining off" of natural resources?
The local control over the landscape and the environment is also relevant in this discussion. What does the landscape image per se mean for the inhabitants' feelings, their well-being and their attachment to the area? Can each inhabitant's perception of the value of this landscape prevent drastic changes through ruthless exploitation? as not seldom is the case in sparsely populated or "backward" areas. Local attachment, the will to protect, to care for and keep the neighbourhood or the village living, probably depend upon this perception of aesthetical values and memories closely associated with the surroundings and the landscape (besides the historic, social and economic relations the inhabitants have). An encroachment on these values can thus undermine the personal attachment and willingness to stay on. In this respect, the timber company's ravaging of Norrland's inland is seen as one of many examples of a total lack of respect and concern for the local population's interest in the landscape's aesthetic value.
Capital refers both to money which can be invested and circulated and to production means (buildings, machines, tools etc). Relevant questions arising here are how one creates the conditions for locally-controlled investments. At present this capital is perhaps most often controlled from outside by businesses and banks which have no other interest in the area than exploiting it for profit. Without their own local attachment and local values to guard, these can withdraw quickly if the venture does not produce sufficient dividends on the invested capital. Locally committed investors probably include, at least to a certain degree, other values in their calculation and have a greater endurance capacity when business declines.
Another relevant question is how one can get the local capital to work and circulate as much as possible within the local economy. What the country people and inhabitants of poor and backward areas save in banks is most probably used for investments outside their local community. At the same time it can be very difficult for small businesses and others in the area to borrow money. Similar problems in Ireland and the USA have led to the establishment of special credit institutes either within the local community or for a certain type of business (for example cooperative). The main purpose of these institutes is to support local ventures and development projects which the local inhabitants themselves can in turn support directly. What other strategies could be developed in order to gain control over the necessary capital and to have the work performed on the spot - particularly in the deprived region - as often as possible?
Infrastructure refers to housing, communications, education facilities, health and sick care, social and other services, i.e. all that is vital for people's well-being. Relevant questions asked here are to what extent the communities are dependent on State policy for the development of an infrastructure and what the consequences are for the local communities of the politics pursued. What connections exist between a certain type of regional policy and the development (or recession) which takes place in the provincial local communities? Does the community have in reality free hands to influence education, service or other segments of the infrastructure? The question is if the community follows (or is forced to follow) a centralization policy which means that both living and service are gradually shifted towards the central towns and the larger population centres, what should an alternative policy include?
It is also a question of to what extent people have the opportunity of building and living in places of own choice, even if it is in the periphery of society. How much of this opportunity is governed by the availability of loans as well as the municipality's policy towards the local community as implemented in living policies, schools, communications, social services etc?
Another important question is if the educational system, as such, is geared to development in such areas or if it is formed after perspectives, ideas, needs and values relevant to the centre. Is this desirable? If not, how can this be changed?
People and Know-how refer to questions about human resources. Can people live on in the villages or smaller towns and there use and develop their abilities, because it is there that they can form a household, earn a living and have access to an acceptable service of various kinds? Or have these inhabitants been transformed into a reserve army solely for the recruitment of human labour and other human capacity to meet needs in the centre? An interesting question is how the local community can take advantage of the local human resources, experiences, competence and ability to develop survival strategies. This question also brings culture into focus, especially when the centre can be said to exercise cultural imperialism towards peripheries, an imperialism which degrades and underrates the local community's values as compared to the values and life forms represented by the centre of society, culture, capital, business and progress. One can possibly see the flight of the young from the countryside in light of this. The cultural struggle in the local community and society is a relevant theme in this connection.
The necessary triangle
Several researchers regard local development projects to stand figuratively on three legs. These are: 1) local initiative and mobilization of local human and material resources; 2) public backing and the local government as enabler; and 3) possible external impulses and supports.1) One researcher of sparsely-populated areas, Reidar Almås (1985), calls these three segments and their interaction the necessary triangle. A constructive collaboration between these three forces is believed to offer the best conditions for successful local development work. I think the necessary triangle is a good expression for this model and will use it here, especially in chapter 5.
The local arena
Projects without strong local commitment tend to fail. The initiative for development work should preferably come from people in the area who are trusted by a major portion of the inhabitants there. The local people's positive attitude towards development per se is essential. Without hope for their future in the village, it would be very difficult for them to muster the enthusiasm which is necessary as a base for successful development work. The members of the community must have good reasons for wanting to stay on.
It is also important for the inhabitants to feel a strong attachment to their home district, that they are proud of it. Naturally, a rich club life and an already established high level of activity in the village also constitute positive conditions for the work.
An important task in community work touched on above is giving attention to how the local community can utilize its own resources. How does the local community use its comparative advantages (in a broad sense) as a tool for development of survival strategies? Prosperous local communities are probably those which are capable of utilizing their special advantages and developing their own strategies - in a constructive manner - in relation to the surrounding world. When we discuss survival strategies for the local community, a number of other conditions are also of interest. These can be, for example, how the village's history, customs, traditions, experiences, competence, ability to cooperate etc, can create a special potential for a community revival.
Local development efforts are often initiated when the inhabitants perceive an acute threat or when something has happened that creates an atmosphere of crisis. This is when some trusted local initiators, the so-called "enthusiast" or leading lights, can help to start the mobilization process and organize an action group or local development group to drive the work forward. An idea sown by an outside initiator does not have the same chance of falling on fertile ground. The development project itself should emanate from the local population's needs, interests and competence. The fundamental principle is that the village's conditions and latent resources constitute the starting point for local mobilization.
The introduction of a development task is facilitated if the initiators are able to help the inhabitants formulate clear and concrete aims which can be understood and approved of by all. A broader base for these initial steps - essential if they are to lead to a general mobilization of the area's resources - can be achieved by linking the project to current and recurrent activities as well as to the expressed will of the local population. The new projects should also be such that their implementation requires and makes use of the competence and skills of the inhabitants themselves. Preferably it should be possible to foresee the demand on both time and labour entailed; that is, the projects should not be too far-reaching and resource consuming. Those who are involved should be able to control what is to happen and understand the likely consequences of different actions.
To sum up, I list below some prerequisites for local mobilization which have emerged from our experiences:
Prerequisites for mobilizing local communities
1) That one comes to a conviction about one's own goals.
2) That one has access to and can use one's own resources.
3) That one is competent to make one's own decisions.
4) That the mobilization of the local population is made effectual through broad participation in development projects.
5) That one works with the whole of the community; that is to say, not solely with narrow economic aspects.
6) That one (also) gives attention to social and cultural questions, to communication, collaboration etc.
7) That one attempts to inspire participation by everyone and development of the local identity.
8) That one builds up self-reliance through encouragement of one's own energies.
9) That one organizes the work so that the local competence grows.
10) That one receives some for of backing through external resources.
Experience from development projects shows that it is essential for the local groups to perceive some approval and encouragement coming from the local authorities, the municipality the County Administration, etc. The County Administration is the mediator of the governments regional policy and is supporting the municipalities in impelmenting local development policy. Project groups which have not succeeded in establishing positive contacts with representatives of the local government or have not succeeded in receiving any backing from the County Administration or the local administration (or who perhaps even come in conflict with the same) find it difficult to achieve their goals. (Bergslagsgruppen 1987 pg 40) The role of the local authority vis a vis a development project should be:
The role of the municipality
- to initiate necessary activities, if they are not started on their own;
- to inspire and stimulate an ongoing development effort;
- to support local groups in different ways;
- to coordinate local projects with other relevant or more overall societal/public activities;
- to assist in different ways in accomplishing the goals;
- to follow up and give feedback.
A community worker who aspires to facilitate local communities must often also work inward, that is to say, close to the local public administration - not only out in the field. The community worker should be able to identify key persons within the organization and nurture contacts with these, in order to arouse their curiosity and interest in, and consequently their engagement for, the local development work. In many cases it is a question of changing attitudes within the whole public administration. The community worker can also possibly have access to different pedagogical methods with which to stimulate this process.
The most valuable contribution desirable from the local political authority is their assuming an accommodating and encouraging position. They should give support to the committed groups in their efforts to develop their own ideas and activities. The local administration can then act as an agent of empowering in many ways, and for this purpose, it is important that its participation is characterized by openness, flexibility and a general accommodating attitude. Advice, guidance and support should be given in a direct and nonbureaucratic manner. In other words, a positive stance on the part of the politicians should be reflected in the different administrators' and civil servants' attitudes and positions.
This approving and permissive approach should be used when interpreting rules and applying routines throughout the administration. For example, to clarify reasons if an application is rejected.
The local government can arrange courses for the development groups in which they can acquire new knowledge tailormade for their current activities. A special development office can be set up to help the project groups with administration and contacts with various bodies. Public personnel often have a large network which is valuable in mobilization work. Through good contacts with civil servants and politicians the groups
can gain access to valuable direct channels with the regional or national public bodies which make decisions of great importance for the local projects.
Finally, we have different kinds of external stimulation. What is considered here are impulses and models, for example, which a group can take from other development groups which have gone before and which have gone further. When people see that those they can identify themselves with have done something good or have been successful in what they wanted to do then they are inspired by this and strengthen their faith in what is able to be achieved. ”If they can do it, so can we!” That is the power of a good example.
Another type of external stimulation we can think about is the community worker who is invited to a group or makes other contacts with the members, for example. The community worker is the expert in how local development work can be used with success. He or she will work as a catalyst for the mobilization, the organisation and processes for change which are necessary in development work.
Alf Ronnby has a PhD in Sociology, a BA in Social and Community Work. He is an Associate Professor at Göteborg University. Alf Ronnby has been a community worker in Rosengård, a huge suburb in Malmö, the third largest city in Sweden. In the 1970s and 80s he was a lecturer in Theories and Methods in Social and Community Work at Roskilde University in Denmark. He was - in the 1980s and 90s - associate professor in Social and Community Work and director of a research programme concerning rural development at Mid Sweden University in Östersund. Alf Ronnby has written several books about Social Policy, Town planning, Social Work and Community Work and Development
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