Learning How to Improve Life Chances through an Understanding of Individual Life-worlds

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    The UK Government is committed to social justice and wealth creation. In order to meet these overarching policy objectives, we have seen an increasingly high profile being given to (lifelong) learning. Local government in particular is charged with building on the previously overlooked local knowledge and expertise buried in excluded communities in order to regenerate local areas and stimulate a capacity for self help. There is evidence of an emphasis on improving life chances and strengthening individuals' capabilities to find employment, and to creating opportunities for inclusive community activities. Underlying these attempts to build up social skills and collective action is a commitment to encouraging active citizenship. Whilst community development programmes are intended to benefit the wider neighbourhood and society in general, they clearly benefit specific individuals by providing skills acquisition and enhancement and employment opportunities. Yet the strength of the whole is the sum of its parts and this paper urges caution in that some of the rhetoric of 'community' capacity-building risks underestimating the complexities of communities, based as they are on a collective of complex individuals. Community capacity-building programmes ultimately depend on the individuals who make up these communities and their receptivity and capacity to learn. Using the experience of individuals actively involved in the management of community development trusts, this paper draws on theories of learning to raise some cautionary lessons for practitioners of community capacity-building that we need to be sensitive to individual life-worlds when we strive to develop communities. This requires an appreciation of where individuals are in terms of their own sense of self-identity and how they identify with their social world.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)61-78
    Number of pages18
    JournalJournal of Community Work and Development
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2003


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