Complexity in community structure and its implications on community empowerment initiatives: A Case Study from the West Highlands of Scotland
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Community-based development is an increasingly popular approach to development initiatives, one that in theory empowers the community by involving it in the development process. There are several methods that address development from a community-based stance, some of the most recently influential being those which promote social capital. These concepts have been widely adopted by policies at the governmental level and encouraged at the local level. The issue with these approaches lies in the way in which they attempt to quantify complex community relations. Reducing intricate political and personal interactions to objectified stakeholders, networks, or economic processes risks oversimplification to the point of misrepresentation. This dissertation uses a case study based on field research undertaken in a community in the West Highlands of Scotland to analyse these complexities and the influence they can have over development initiatives. It also analyses the ways in which the frameworks and best practices of community development literature and policies overlook these complexities. While in some cases the issues uncovered are not necessarily addressable through development or empowerment work, they must still be acknowledged if an accurate and complete representation of the community in question is desired. Overall, the findings indicate that although community-based development literature does progressively call for a more customised approach when promoting development, further recognition of personal and political intricacies and how they affect communication, collaboration, and advancement of collective goals is necessary when striving for true empowerment.
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