JOURNAL ISSUE 1
1998/1999

table of contents | abstracts

From Pathology to Participation?: Reflections on Local Community Development Programmes in Bosnia and Croatia and Prospects for the Future
Paul Stubbs

ABSTRACT

Community development approaches have been relatively underdeveloped in Bosnia and Croatia dispite the often stated axiom that social work is work with individuals, groups and communities. A legacy of pathologising, individualistic, frameworks, dominated by psychologists and defectologists has combined with dominant political trends to make social perspectives seem like socialism and therefore bad. The conflicts since 1991 have produced an unholy alliance between local and foreign psychologists which has emphasized expensive, professionalizing, and centralized psycho-social work rather than community development. The impetus, ideology, and practice of community development could emerge from 'Western' countries (e.g. US and UK) where local community development is part of a politicized social work seeking to challenge poverty and oppression, from the developing world where social movements involve social workers in promoting social mobilization and advocacy, and in Central and Eastern Europe where people power, allied to concepts of civil society, has produced profound social changes, and may lead to new definitions of social work. Local community development approaches are more effective than other approaches because of their non stigmatizing features. However, community development is primarily an approach and an attitude and not a set of hard and fast rules which can be applied in all situations and all cultures. There are examples of projects in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina which, at least implicitly, adopt a community development approach. These include an NGO working in a deprived area of Zagreb with a large Roma population and an international volunteer project in Gornji Vakuf, a divided Croat-Bosnjak town in Central Bosnia, which combines local social development and peace building. Questions are asked about how such projects should be evaluated, and about the balance between local, international NGO, and public provision. The true community development social workers in Croatia and Bosnia who are human rights activists, workers in emerging women's groups, and so on, rather than those with a Diploma whose role is primarily one of administrative relief of poverty, individualistic work, and/or being the servants of psychologists.

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