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Implementing community and economic development into smaller communities

By Joy Engelman - posted Wednesday, 15 December 1999

Firstly, what do we mean by community in reference to rural services?

Martin Buber, the twentieth century Jewish theologian, has written "We expect a theophany of which we know nothing but the place, and the place is called community."

"Place is indeed, then, sacred to us; but our real place is community. Place is not nature, or man-made objects, but community - a group or groups of people united by a common endeavour and by trust and love."


"Wherever community appears, spirit descends. But, since man is in motion, community may have to take on new forms. Family may never again in our time be a real source of community; only with vast trouble and some sentimentalising do we renew neighbourhoods in a modern city such that they become true communities; institutions may not now as they did in the past provide the vitality of community that we not only desire but desperately need. Buildings that we love may have to be renewed to make room for new growth. We may have to make our own communities, wherever we can find them; we cannot always choose the place. But we can from time to time, return to our roots, the sacred things in our lives - and "know the place for the first time" (The Education of the Heart" Thomas Moore)

In light of the above then, the work of a community economic development officer becomes the development of groups of people united in a common cause - networks, committees, chambers - and from there to developing the sense of trust and the power to change ‘the place’ into "their community".

Economic development cannot occur, I suggest, till a ‘sense of pride’ and ‘community’ has occurred. Economic development follows from people being empowered to control their own lives, create their own destiny, build on their individual differences.

Why do we need community economic development? Because corporate economic development has been so successful that it has left the community behind!

During the past 10 years, rural Australia has taken a beating from the banks, governments and the ‘gods’ of drought and flood.

I was speaking with a young marketing manager for a bank recently, She told me that, unlike my program which has no budget, her budget was unlimited. In her keenness to lift the image of the bank, she had expressed the idea that the bank could mentor doctors to rural Australia, which would overcome some of the negative image of the recent past. The answer to her from above was "NO!". Wouldn’t it make a difference though, wouldn’t it create a precedent - to see a corporation give back some of profit to the community that they feed off! Would we be impressed - I think we would!


I challenge the banks to lead the way with community development in rural Australia!

After motivation and swot analysis, what’s next?

So Peter Kenyon’s been, the area is extremely motivated, the BEC have run their SWOT analysis and your community is wondering OK, where do we go from here?

It was important first to gain an understanding of the communities I would be working with. Just what were the ‘truths’ that the residents of the eight villages held? How did they perceive their future? What indeed were their problems? Did they have any or were we imposing problems upon them?

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About the Author

Joy Engelman is an Australian artist who is also the Community Economic Development Officer for the Cabonne and Wellington Councils.

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