University of Tasmania
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Community process modelling and rural community development

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posted on 2023-05-27, 06:37 authored by Percey, H
Community development (CD) has been demonstrated to effectively deliver sought-after benefits towards improved economic, social, physical and psychological wellbeing. CD in rural areas is thus an important response to the change pressures in rural communities. Millions of dollars are spent annually on rural community development (RCD) activities. Yet CD is complex with many interacting variables and these dynamic processes are particularly visible in rural communities. RCD can have unintended (positive and negative) consequences upon the interwoven dynamics of the fabric of rural communities, independent of whether or not project objectives are achieved. A greater theoretical understanding of these processes is needed to better manage RCD outcomes and side effects. Such theoretical understanding is currently lacking in CD literature. The purpose of this study was to use a grounded theory approach to generate a theoretical understanding of how RCD implementation processes interact with and affect the fabric of a community. Open interviews with twenty participants across three different RCD projects and rural sites were the key data source, contextualised by observation and written documentation. Based on differing aetiologies, the study identified three types of community associated with and including the rural community: feature, interest and cause based. It was found that a multiplicity of these communities acted as constituents of each rural community, being part of, yet separate to the rural community. In coexisting, they were constituted by and subject to boundary processes. Literature describes such boundary processes in terms of differentiation and symbolic expression. This study identified additional processes of agendas, alignment and non-alignment. RCD involved establishing and managing a further cause based constituent community amongst existing constituent communities and within the rural community. RCD projects were subject to boundary processes in creating their community identity, as well as in their interaction with other communities whilst pursuing project objectives. The study found that the often conflated concepts of community ownership and support were also distinct processes with different roles in RCD. How all these processes were managed affected both the rural community fabric and the success of projects. The thesis develops a theoretical model which will contribute to understanding and managing community processes and RCD for theorists and practitioners alike. Due to sample limitations, further research is needed to establish the extent to which the model can be extrapolated to other settings.


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