2.3 Community capacity
The extent to which people are able to benefit from mutual help and support depends on the ability of the community to support and sustain them. This is sometimes referred to as ' community capacity '.
One of the Scottish Government’s 16 National Outcomes is that:
We live in friendly, vibrant and cohesive communities which value diversity and support those in need. We are encouraged to volunteer, take responsibility for our community and engage with decisions about it.
Meeting this outcome is seen to be important because it will enable people to ‘live fulfilling lives and realise their social and economic potential' (Scottish Government, 2007).
Activity 2.2: Building community capacity
Watch this, in which Alan Urquhart, Community Capacity Building Manager for Perth & Kinross Council, describes the work he and the residents of Aberfeldy did to make changes in their community.
What are some of the key words and concepts that leap out at you in this short video? Make some notes in your learning log and then read the discussion.
Key themes you may have picked up include:
- building skills and confidence
- engaging with the wider community
- partnership with different organisations
- building community capacity
- community ownership
- benefits for the community
You may have noticed that Alan’s account focuses on the strengths of the community – what it can do, rather than what the problems, needs and potential conflicts might be.
Building community capacity involves generating ‘social capital’: the bonds and connections that tie individuals, groups and communities together. Developing social capital is one way to address health and other inequalities, and to build further community capacity. However, there have also been criticisms of this approach: some individuals, communities and groups, especially in areas of deprivation, may not have the confidence or social capital to be able to build community capacity. And is there a risk that this kind of devolution of power to citizens and communities becomes an excuse for cost-cutting and/or offloading public services to private individuals? The Scottish Community Development Centre (SCDC) suggests that the most ‘achievable and effective’ response to reductions in public spending is:
To move towards an alternative model of continuing some level of service provision by harnessing the community’s assets as co-deliverers, whilst simultaneously maintaining professional standards of delivery and assurances of a quality service. This approach can be described as ‘co-production’.