Research Paper By Pauline Mkala
(NGO coach, KENYA)
This article is looking at how community development has continued to progress from a place where models of development treated the intended beneficiary as passive observes to newer empowerment approaches that are characterized by focus on the strengths of the individuals, groups, or communities, and promoting their capacity for growth and development. This change was necessitated by rate of project failure in the previous phase. The article then looks at how coaching principles can be applied in community development to strengthen unleashing the potential of individual and community groups to ensure the achievement of desired goals.
What is Community Development?
The United Nations construed the term development in the late 19th century, towards the end World War II. There has never been a consensus on the word “development”. According to Sachs cited in Regan and Ruth (2002), “The lighthouse of development was erected right after the Second World War … [it] provided the fundamental frame of reference for that mixture of generosity, bribery and oppression which has characterized the policies toward the South … Today the lighthouse shows cracks and is starting to crumble”. Generally the term development brings to mind expressions such as change, growth, progress. The intention is to bring about prosperity and happiness and eradicate poverty for all in the global south (also referred to as third world countries) where levels of poverty are high.
According to the business dictionary, development is the process of economic and social transformation that is based on complex cultural and environmental factors and their interactions, while according to Wikipedia, it’s a process where community members come together to take collective action and generate solutions to common problems. These later definition is narrows down accurately to clarify the process of communities working together to address the root causes of their problems that include poverty. Community members need to be rallied to work towards achieving the envisioned prosperity in the process of development as collective action can improve poor people’s access to quality schools or health clinics. The problems that development intends to tackle in this context under discussion focuses on basic needs such as access to education, health, shelter, water, security, food and so on.
Community in Community Development
Community on the other hand for purpose of development, refers to peoples that share a physical space and can there for come into contact with each. Such residents must feel a sense of belonging and hold some values and symbols in common. These conditions provide the necessary environment that would hold the community together and motivate them to pull towards the same goals of development in their localities.
Development agencies have therefore organized communities into groups to implement development programs. The agencies assumed that the factors cited would lead to the required level of cohesion to hold the group together through the project cycle. But the reality has been quite the opposite leading to group break down due to group dynamics. Such dynamics have in some cases contributed to project breakdowns or failure leading to lack of sustainability.
Community development principles were formulated and applied to third world development efforts following decolonization. Colonization was mainly executed by Britain, France and Germany where colonies were there to be exploited, and all benefits accrued in the process were geared towards the colonizing countries and none to the colony. Therefore no strategies at all were in place to empower the citizens or communities in the colonies. Development evolved going through various phases. From the early 19th century development evolved from something that was being done to others, that is the developed nations (former colonizers) bringing development to the global south (Coleman, 2002). These early development approaches were characterized with service delivery Models and therefore were criticized as not being developmental as they created dependency by treating the people intended to benefit from the development efforts as passive recipients and not actors in development initiatives. The underlying principles of such models were fixing problems and therefore coming with readymade solutions from the experience of the development agency without the exploration of underlying issues and including the prevailing perspectives. The development agencies viewed themselves as experts. These models did not incorporate aspects of empowering the communities targeted for development. Many examples have been document of failed programs. For example, in this early phase, when development agencies wanted to improve sanitation in communities in developing countries, the simple solution was to build toilets. Soon it was discovered that such toilets were not being used because of deep cultural inhibitions. During this first phase, development was characterized with the generalized failure of community development programs and projects due to absence of ownership, as the communities were never consulted by the development agents. This phase of development ran contrary to coaching principles that considered the client as being in the driving seat of meeting their goals towards happiness and prosperity. The role of the coach in the coaching process is facilitating the unleashing of the clients potential and enable the reaching of client’s desired goals. The development facilitators used a top down approach to aiding the community to reach their developmental goals which resulted in failures as the communities were merely passengers or bystanders. This scenario is what is referred to in the quote from Sachs cited in Regan and Ruth (2002), as the crumbling light house. Coaching can be said to be using a bottom up approach because the client who is the beneficiary drives the process.
In the early 90s the need hence emerged for a developmental approaches and theories that would empower communities and result in successful and sustainable programs and projects. These approaches are characterized by focus on the strengths of the individuals, groups, or communities, and promoting their capacity for growth and development. Such developmental paradigm called for new approaches that are people and community centered and sustainable. One such approach is the central sustainable livelihoods approach, which redefines development in terms of exploring the strengths and vulnerabilities of the communities. This approach promotes a holistic perspective of development, and seeking to direct the focus of development thinking towards encouraging clients to use the knowledge and expertise of individuals in their communities and the resources available in their environment creatively and innovatively to address their socio-economic needs (Department of Social Development, 2005). Also in this league of models is Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA).
According to the PRA approaches and methods (Chambers, 1983), encourage the communities are to actively participate in raising and analyzing indigenous knowledge of their circumstance in order to create an appropriate action plan. According to participatory rural appraisal methodology, the community is facilitated by an outside party for example a researchers; donor or officials to analyzed their life conditions that consists of existing potentials and problems in their community. They are facilitated to develop a program based on those existing capacities—and also the potentials available outside of their village that are possible to be used by the community—to solve the problems of that community. This approach resulted in increased success rates in the community programs and projects. The communities were consulted and they actively participated in the processes. As result they were empowered and through their capacities being built and they had ownership of the projects leading to continuity and sustainability. Central to these approaches is the incorporation of empowerment of individual and communities to take charge of their development. According to World Bank (2000), the people targeted with community development are poor people who are unable to influence or negotiate better terms for themselves with traders, financiers, governments, and civil society. This seriously constrains their capability to build their resources and rise out of poverty. This drives their dependency on others for their survival, this further makes it impossible to prevent violations of dignity, respect, and cultural identity, World Bank (2001).
Application of Coaching Principles in Community Development
The evolution observed in the community development paradigm, of increasingly bringing the individual to the heart of driving positive change resonates well with coaching. Also the fact both processes are driven by a facilitator or change agent. Team coaching can be of tremendous value to community development in addressing group dynamics. Community development has relied on the assumption that communities occupying the same physical space, having the same values and cultures would hold together and work successfully towards the same goals. Experience has proved otherwise and many projects have collapse on account of group dynamics. Group coaching has important but under-utilized potential as a means of creating goal-focused change. Coaching tools can add value for ensuring that goals developed are value-based and addressing the real desires of the client. This is a critical ingredient for commitment in achieving set goals. Development has parallels with coaching in the sense of bringing the client desired positive change through a process. The coaching process seeks to create as safe space for engaging with the client ensuring client is respected and assured of their being the experts in the process. The coach offers support in making life changing decisions, encouragement, co-creating a plan for achieving what the client really wants and resource information among others. Community Development can borrow from the theories driving coaching such as appreciative inquiry that takes account of the positive achievements and what is working. This together with tools such as acknowledgment provides an opportunity for clients feeling empowered to engage in addressing even the challenges confronting them. These along with other tools such as powerful questions, power listening and visualizing among others put the development process on a successful course through ensuring client commitment and ownership. The development process can borrow from coaching tools that can ensure the identifying as accurately as possible desired goal for the development objectives such as education, health, security and so on for people in a particular context. Coaching tools can come in handy through the realistic identification of constraints and opportunities. These tools will generally enhance the empowerment models that have gained currency in the development paradigm.
In summary, the art of coaching is the art of facilitation to unleashing of the clients potential in reaching meaningful objectives. To use an analogue of driving a car, in the coaching journey, a coach will encourage and support in driving (coach is sitting in the back seat) and the responsibility of success lies with the client. Coaching believes that a client is resourceful and creative. As the coach partners with a client in the coaching process, the coach is able listen to the client and customizes the approach to enable client meet their goals. The coaching process can be viewed as an organic process. This coaching approach is very meaningful and can enhance the empowerment models of development where the community would be viewed as the client and the burden of achieving development would lie with the client. The coaching approach has the concept of ownership of projects at its core. Coaching comes along with a myriad of tools that can be beneficial in facilitating development. Tools such as reframing perspective can be very critical to achieve development objectives such as transforming cultures for example not taking girls to schools or developing health seeking behaviors.
In conclusion, over time now the development process has been evolving to models that bring the client to the center of development process to ensure ownership and sustainability. To strengthen the new generation approaches the field of Community development can learn from the coaching profession. Community development can learn from various models of individual coaching or group coaching to ensure communities are firmly in the driving seat of their own development. It is document that companies that provided coaching reported improvements in productivity, and all round increase on return on investment. For the long term community development field can adapt theories and tools from coaching right from the training curriculum to ensure internalization and intentional application of coaching skills. And in the short term coaching can be offered to development practitioners to enrich their engagement in the development field.
Coleman, R (2002), 80:20 Development in unequal World, Genprint Ireland Ltd.
Department of Social Development, (2005). Integrated Service Delivery Model, Government Printers, Pretoria
Business Wire E-Zine (2001), Executive Coaching Yields Return on Investment Almost Six Times, International Coach Academy 2012
Development accessed online at
on April 20, 2015
Community Development accessed online at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_development on April 20, 2015
World Bank, (2001).World Development Report 2000/2001 : Attacking Poverty. New York: Oxford University Press. © World Bank. Accessed online at https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/11856 License: CC BY 3.0 IGO. April 23, 2015