COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT OUTCOMES:
SOCIAL COHESION AND SOCIAL INCLUSION

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This page contains two parts:



Community Development Outcomes

The program evaluation illuminated several crosscutting themes, interrelated program elements and participatory processes in the First Nations Partnership Programs. Pivot constructs emerging from a meta-analysis of participants' accounts of the unusual generativity of these programs were social cohesion and social inclusion. Subsuming several recurrent themes in participants' reports of their program experiences, these superordinate constructs 'work' to describe and explain both the process and the outcomes of the training initiatives.

'Social cohesion' encompasses the many facets of community involvement in administering the training programs, the participation of student in cohorts, and bringing together multiple generations to support the development of the community's children and families. Participants' accounts of community transformations that they attributed to the program referred to the willingness and capacity of individuals to participate with others in ways that build trust and reciprocity, meet their shared needs, mobilize new knowledge and resources in programs of action, build upon organizational strengths, and increase community stability.

We use 'social inclusion' to refer to the links between individuals and groups with others beyond the group, including groups external to the community. The impact of the First Nations Partnership Programs upon social inclusion was vividly illustrated when several program graduates "took up their place at the table" at two province-wide conferences on Early Childhood Education and on Aboriginal Child Care. Graduates spoke out on issues of funding for child care and training, and presented a range of ideas for responding to cultural diversity in child care programs. As an outcome, social inclusion refers to recognition and participation of community members and of university partners in each other's venues and in the society at large.

The First Nations Partnership Programs demonstrate that First Nations people have the public will and the social cohesion to take the driver's seat on this journey. Despite considerable differences among our partners, in terms of their infrastructure, location, economic status, and existing services for children and families, all of the partnership initiatives engendered unprecedented success for students and for the community as a whole. The program evaluation showed what can happen when Early Childhood Education and Youth Care training is envisioned and implemented as a community development tool. Most importantly, the research process has clarified what guides the process - how the pieces fit together to realize community-identified goals and strategies, building upon and expanding social cohesion and social inclusion, which in turn creates developmentally supportive ecologies for children and families.



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First Nations child and parent

Social Cohesion and Social Inclusion

Being responsive to indigenous communities means more than letting community members voice their concerns or preferences, more than acknowledging diversity. The evaluation project underscored the need for institutions involved in education, human services, and development assistance to open up the very foundations of how training programs are conceived and how optimal developmental outcomes are defined. As Vern Bachiu, the programs and policy director for the Meadow Lake Tribal Council, put it, "What we are trying to do is turn the world upside down."

What the evaluation showed is that funders and institutions need to recognize that the most useful contribution they can make to promoting capacity to advance children's well-being in communities is collaborating with community leaders and groups to build what the new argot calls 'social capital' - dense social networks based on trust, reciprocity, and the will to act on behalf of community well-being - qualities that are fundamental to healthy, sustainable, social ecologies in which children and families can thrive.



Community Development Courses

Three courses are available for community development purposes:

  • Approaches to Early Childhood Care and Development
  • Community Development to Promote Children's Well-Being
  • Healthy Young Children: From Knowledge to Community Action

They use a workshop format, and can be delivered as a whole or in selected parts covering different topics.

They are meant for community members who may or may not go on to formal training. They are not for university credit.

They were developed in response to requests from First Nations in Canada and other indigenous groups around the world. They were developed with funding from The Lawson Foundation. To order one or more of these courses, contact Jessica Ball at jball@uvic.ca.