International development project analysis
The purpose of the research is to analyse, evaluate and criticise the community-based development project based on the implementation and use of internet technologies. The project presupposes creation of the wide network of sites for free community access to online local and Internet resources. This network is viewed by the project initiators as the pathway towards promoting community learning, providing it with the opportunities for self-development and creating a strong basis of community assets and values, as well as higher levels of community interactions. Levels and types of participation
The project is aimed at expanding the level of community participation in creating community assets and values through the use of Internet tools and related technologies. The advantageous aspect of the project is that it is directed towards the most problematic community population areas –low-income representatives, seniors, unemployed. The target community faces a wide range of social issues to be resolved, thus high level of community involvement into the project is crucial to make it sustainable and effective. (Vancouver Community Network, 2001) Sustainability
The project is stated to be ‘self-sustained’. (Vancouver Community Network, 2001) It is also expected to be sustainable due to the creation of public access sites, owned by neighbourhood or hosts. As a result, it is expected that this development will be aligned with the neighbourhood issues’ resolution. However, as long as sustainability is connected with ‘providing the best human outcomes’ (Wack, P 2006, p. 127), there is still a question, whether the proposed project is the primary community need and whether it will ultimately justify its costs by making the target neighbourhood socially more favorable.
Environmental sensitivity and awareness Establishing neighbourhood services directories that are coupled with an interactive channel to convey public commentary (Vancouver Community Network, 2001) can be used as the instrument of not only reporting environmental issues by local residents, but for providing environmental awareness training programs for the target community representatives. (Wack, P 2006, p. 129) However, these programs are not directly mentioned in the project, and it can only be suggested, whether these aspects are accounted by project initiators.
Gender and equity approaches Another positive aspect of the project is that equity and gender approaches have become integral parts of the project development. The project initiators recognise the issues of social, race, ethnic, and cultural diversity in the target community; consequently, the project is aimed at developing gender and equity programs. These programs include creation of the Hispanic community center, youth center, women’s center, public legal education center.
(Vancouver Community Network, 2001) Equity approaches are equally important for all types of community programs (Messinger, L 2004, p. 39), this is why it is possible to assert that the discussed project successfully addresses gender and equity issues. Strengths and rights-based approaches ‘A rights-based approach to development is a conceptual framework for the purposes of human development that is normatively based on international human rights standards and operationally directed to promoting and protecting human rights’.
(Day, P & Schuler, D 2004, p. 62) The threads of rights-based approaches are viewed in the discussed project in encouraging community participation, among which vulnerable social groups constitute the major portion of the local population; empowerment and participation are closely connected through providing community members with the opportunity to monitor, evaluate and report the progress of the project development. (Vancouver Community Network, 2001) These approaches make the project accountability tools available to the public.
The current project implementation emphasises the essential factor of equal opportunities among socially vulnerable groups – it is anticipated that the project will allow seeking policy interventions connected with the major social community issues. Monitoring and evaluation The project has been thoroughly developed in the aspect of its monitoring. Participatory evaluation is the major tool of assessing and monitoring the project.
This approach is highly efficient in increasing community participation and obtaining direct community responses/ reactions to possible or desired changes in the project implementation. Community advisory groups are the central monitoring entities empowered at coordinating the projects and analyzing community feedbacks. (Vancouver Community Network, 2001) Reflective practices and action This aspect of the discussed project should be subjected to sound criticism.
‘The importance of reflection is on what you are doing, as a part of the learning processes’. (Atherton, JS 2005) However, reflective practice is accounted only on the side of the project design – that is, all project aspects seem to be thoroughly analysed before including them into the project. One major aspect is missed – the availability and access of community residents to Internet resources and possible reverse effects caused by the Internet information resources.
What is meant here is that providing community members with free and overall access to Internet tools, project initiators have not thought of WHAT information community residents would aim to search, as well as about the possible uses of this information. Accounting social vulnerability of the target community, thorough analysis and restriction of the unnecessary Internet resources should be provided to make the project work for the social community purposes, and not against them.
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