Best practice malpractice

in Best practices in community empowerment

I’d been asked to prepare a presentation for the “Someone’s Done That Already: the Best Practice of Using Best Practices” session of the June 2 Craigslist Foundation Boot Camp on Empowering Communities. So I reached out to a few friends who know far more about best practices in community empowerment than I do.

I told them my plan was to create a slide for each one who filled in an online questionnaire, and talk about the Top 3 to 5 resources that they’d recommend. Preferably, I said, the resources are available free online, but they could list resources in any medium.

I knew this little exercise was going to be fun when the first submission I got came from Kevin Harris, principal of Local Level, author of the Neighborhoods blog, with 20+ years working with residents and community development professionals, including years as an advisor to the UK government.

Here are the questions Kevin chose to answer:

1a: Name/Title/Author of Resource: Local people

1b: Link to resource (please include http://): Really quite close to where you are now

1c: Brief description of this resource. If you want to say why you recommend it, please do so.

Local people are quite capable of doing stuff if only those who have power that they shouldn’t have would get out of the way. This doesn’t mean that people don’t need services, run in a professional way, for which they rightly pay taxes. It means that those in positions of power need to address their own behaviour that disempowers ordinary people. This tends to be effected through bureaucratic procedures, references to regulations and health and safety conditions, excessive formalities in grant applications, inappropriate use of formal language, attention to their own work targets not community benefit, conveying a (completely false) sense of superiority, and a painful inability to see things from others’ point of view.

This box is for anything else you want to say.

Conceivably, perpetuating discussion about best practices might simply perpetuate the over-bureaucratisation (and unnecessary professionalisation) of community action. It could help to reflect on worst practices. The best community development role is sometimes to remove barriers, remain silent and/or just get out of the way.

Gee thanks, Kevin. And off we go! Next up: Richard Layman

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