Deepening community identity as a method to promote commitment

The majority of those who live in deep poverty are more open and it is easier to address them than the middle-class people living in villages, many of whom are reserved and surround themselves with high fences. Instead, the difficulty lies, in the first place in maintaining continuous commitment to the process. It is not easy at all to look for committed people to a process whose results cannot be specified in advance and not even its duration can be estimated. As opposed to it, as a counterbalancing factor, there are several strengths in this process, namely that it operates on democratic foundations, each participant of the process is important and paid attention to and can express his or her opinion whilst these features, at the same time, strengthen the commitment of the persons who join it.

The subject of the first community discussions are identified by the community developers; they share with the parties present their experiences gained during the personal interviews and discussions. Subsequently, the community selects the topics of the following community discussions and they play the main, leading role in the presentation of the chosen topic and during the preparation for the discussion.

When people sit down to talk to each other they quickly realise that they are not alone with their problems, because there are many other persons who are in the same situation, live their everyday life the same way and fight alone, lonely for subsistence. With the help of discussions in the community, the participants realise that compared to others they are not so deprived and prostrate, because there are others who live under worse conditions than they do, and there are people who need more help than they do. The problems arise to community level if the members of the community are confronted with the problems and verbalise them. Subsequently, the members of the community, led by the community developer, begin to elaborate community solutions to the problem and plan the steps of the actions to be implemented and then they do actually act. This process also contributes to the formation of solidarity within the community.

Strengthening self-confidence and community identity have a central role in the case of deprived groups and it is the core objective of community development with the help of different, existing methods. In the course of self-presentation, that takes place for the first time in the participants’ own community during the community discussions, people unveil their past, and get to know and share with the others their roots and common history. In the course of problem solving, there are situations when no progress can be achieved without external information and the involvement of external resources. In such cases, the community prepares for the task: how to present themselves, how to explain who are they, what to say about them if an invited guest comes, or if they go to another place to represent their group. It is the time when belonging to the community is actually verbalised and worded and it deepens community identity. The frequency of these occasions can be increased by receiving guests or visiting other communities, namely with the help of so-called ‘neighbour-visits’, or by organising ‘seeing-tours’. During these meetings, the members of the community have a specific role and it increases considerably their position in the community and contributes to higher self-esteem.

Community discussions also strengthen self-confidence because during these discussions, the participants pay attention to that individual and consider the individual’s opinion important and this way, the individual’s ideas and opinion shall become part of the community’s plans. People will have a role; they will have a task that they can show also to the outside world and can prove this way that they are also capable to act.

We can achieve community commitment through participation in community work and activities. However, in order to do so, the members of the community should know each other and the community, and have to have contacts within the settlement. In order to create all this, mapping the common issues and acting jointly is necessary, because this launches community self-help processes, develops a wide variety of self-organisation activities and establishes relationships representing safety and protection.

This article based on the following document: Esélyegyenlőségi módszertani útmutató