GRASSROOTS LEADERSHIP IN FAMILY RESOURCE PROGRAMS
This thesis tells of efforts to develop community education practices that serve to increase participation of people and create a culture where participants are more agents than clients in the process of community change. The focus of inquiry for the study is the use of non-formal popular education and participatory research methodologies to facilitate participation and grassroots leadership and to incorporate these practices into the culture of a community education organization in rural Newfoundland. These methodologies are rooted in a philosophy wherein meaningful change can only happen when leadership is located with the participants themselves.
The study, involving parents as co-researchers, took place over a 14-month period and evolved into a sustainable leadership forum that provides parents from a network of family resource programs with a voice on matters of organizing for social change--governance, programming, and leadership development.
The study has particular relevance for family support groups in rural areas and also has direct applicability to community organizations whose members view themselves as being ineffective to influence change.
I have three groups to thank for their role in helping me successfully complete this thesis and consequently the master's degree in adult education--my family, my community education colleagues and partners, and the adult education faculty at St. Francis Xavier University.
Without the support of my family I would not have begun the journey. Nor could I have completed the process had Glenn, Heidi, and Pumpkin not accompanied me to Antigonish to finish the journey. The Community Education Network provided the philosophical and practical context for the study and supported my efforts to develop as an adult educator. The Master of Adult Education Programme at St. Francis Xavier University provided the framework that perfectly suited my learning needs at this stage of my life, while Marie, Dorothy, and John gave me the support I needed to complete the process. I thank you all.
LIST OF FIGURES
Figure 1: Community Action Committee Governance Model 62
Table of Contents
LIST OF FIGURES iii
Chapter 1 1-15
1. INTRODUCTION 1
Focus of Inquiry 6
Delimitations and Limitations 9
Plan of Presentation 15
Chapter 2 16-57
2. REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE 16
Purpose of Adult Education 17
The Tension between Individual and Society 17
Community Development, Community Education and
Community Action 20
The Evolution of Community Education as Adult Education 22
Education for Social Change 27
Myles Horton and His Highlander Centre 27
Paulo Freire and Popular Education 32
Shared Vision 35
Family Resource Movement 35
The Contemporary Canadian Family Resource Movement 35
Historical Perspective 37
Principles for Practice 39
Beyond service provision 40
Community-based capacity 43
Tools for building capacity 44
Organizing for Social Change 45
Research Paradigms 46
Participatory Research 47
Popular Education 49
Participatory Planning 51
Theoretical Framework Derived from the Literature 56
Chapter 3 58-92
3. DESCRIPTION OF THE STUDY 58
Background Context 58
The Community Action Committee 60
The Challenge 64
The Design Process 65
Planning the Process 68
Phase 1- Implementation Process 70
Raising Awareness and Increasing Participation--Workshop 1 70
Common vision 72
Community gifts 73
From Talk to Action--Workshop 2 75
Local Community Action 78
Raising Awareness Roadshow--Workshop 3 79
Raising Awareness and Increasing Awareness-Action Planning-Workshop 4 80
Converging Processes 82
Phase 2 - Implementation Process 83
Strengthening an Organization--Planning Session 1 84
Strengthening an Organization--Planning Session 2 85
Public awareness--priority 1 86
Child/family programs--priority 2 87
Community wellness/healthy communities--priority 3 87
Reflecting on our Past, Building for our Future--Planning Session 3 88
Reflecting on our Past, Building for our Future--Planning Session 4 89
Quarterly Planning Session--Planning Session 5 89
Chapter 4 93-119
4. DISCUSSION, CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATONS 93
Institutional Context and Culture 94
Build It and They Will Come Myth 94
Institutional Responsiveness 96
Family Resource Centres as Sites for Social Learning and Change 99
Non-formal Learning 100
Based in Community 102
My Role as Facilitator, not Expert 103
The Empowerment Framework 105
Asset-based Approach 105
Participatory Experiences 107
Empowerment Outcomes 112
Sustainability--Continuation of the Process 112
Personal Reflections 114
Outcomes, Conclusions, and Recommendations 115
During the 1990s there has been ample discussion about the need for rural communities to take more control over their own affairs and for people living in those communities to participate more actively in the affairs of their communities through participation in community-based organizations. Despite the rhetoric of local ownership and control, leadership of these organizations often remains hierarchical, in the hands of a few, while the majority of people acquiesce. Much has been written about participatory methodologies and their potential for promoting social change and developing grassroots leadership. There has, however, been little sustained effort by community groups to apply this knowledge in such a way that real grassroots leadership emerges from the opportunities, thereby enabling the active participation and involvement of those who are most disempowered.
This thesis tells the story of my efforts to incorporate participatory methods into the culture of a community organization in rural Newfoundland. The intent has been to create a participatory learning culture, which is characterized by mutual respect, democracy, leadership development, inclusiveness, lifelong learning, and self-determination. The setting is an emerging community-based family support program in which parents are recognized for the important role they play in their children's learning.
This thesis contributes to adult education by linking the field with the contemporary family support movement. In the thesis I argue that family resource programs are really sites of non-formal adult learning and that the philosophies and practices of adult education can inform the family support movement. This thesis then has particular relevance to other family resource programs in Canada. It is also relevant for any community-based organization that seeks to consciously and critically involve its participants as leaders.
My interest in adult education grows out of my background and experience in community development and community education. Having worked for change in rural Newfoundland communities for 10 years, I struggle with the difficulty of "doing with" rather than "doing for." Newfoundlanders have a long history of dependency, going back to the early fishery when fishers were forever in debt and subservient to merchants. As our history evolved, many families in rural communities became subservient to governments. My involvement with the development of family resource programs provided me with an opportunity to help turn the tide of dependency within this area of practice. I enrolled in the Master in Adult Education program at St. Francis Xavier University to further my knowledge and to develop my skills as an adult educator for social change.
Informed by the framework of the masters program, I worked from the winter of 1996 to the spring of 1997 in Newfoundland with a volunteer group of parent co- researchers. I acted as program facilitator for the Community Action Committee (CAC), the non-profit governing body for a network of local family resource organizations. I introduced the theories of participatory practice and popular education, and together with parents and co-workers, we applied these theories to our research. This resulted in the development of a community leadership program we called People Helping People.
My initial exposure to the concept of community education and its potential for community development occurred when I was employed as coordinator of a Community Futures Committee, a federally funded community development initiative. That year, 1991, a consultant with the Economic Recovery Commission, (a provincial government agency noted for its commitment to integrate social and economic development) invited a number of community-based and government agency representatives to meet and to begin examining the concept of community education. That initial meeting became monthly meetings during which representatives tried to determine whether, within their respective mandates, they could work more effectively as a whole. This inter-agency cooperation, a principle of community education, led to the establishment of the Community Education Initiative, which is known today as the Community Education Network (CEN). For convenience, in this thesis I refer to this organization consistently by its current name, regardless of the historical name at the date of reference.
The concept of community education, as the CEN members now understand it, was unknown to many of us at that time. Community leaders had been attempting for decades to find new approaches to development to address high levels of undereducation, dependence upon social security systems, and the subsequent cycle of poverty that ensued. Commenting on the process that led to the establishment of CEN, the Economic Recovery Commission consultant asserted, "As a result of the collaborations, the educational and service initiatives which have begun are relating directly to identifying community needs, integrating the services of all agencies, and providing a planned and cohesive service" (Case, 1993, p. 26).
As the inter-agency cooperation developed, and CEN's Advisory Committee began to collectively address the needs in this area of Newfoundland (encompassing some 25 small rural communities with a population of approximately 8000), a holistic community education model of delivery, support, and outcomes began to evolve.
I was hired as the Director of CEN in the fall of 1992. My initial activities were to operationalize many of the ideas that had been generated during the developmental phase of this initiative to address the issues of high teen pregnancy, high drop-out rates from schools, as well as high illiteracy, and high unemployment. Although we attempted to address each of these high-risk issues in some measure, we decided to put our energies into the early years of learning. New research confirms that we were on the right track. According to Health Canada (1996), we now know:
Over the past two decades there have been major advances in knowledge regarding both the factors that influence healthy child development and the negative effects of inadequate social environments on healthy development. These advances in knowledge, coupled with underlying economic and societal changes, call for the development of new strategies designed to improve outcomes for children and youth. (p. 3)
In my initial role with the Community Futures Committee, I had learned about family resource programs' role of providing support to families in raising their children. Early learning, coupled with parental involvement, was identified as a priority for CEN. As the community education model developed, family resource centres seemed to be a natural fit as a mechanism to support families in this region characterized by high unemployment and high illiteracy rates.
At the time, there were only two fully established family resource programs in the province. The women who ran these programs were community developers/adult educators, and it was from them that I began to learn about the underlying principles of family resource programs that, as it turned out, were very akin to those of community education. In fact, Kyle and Kellerman (1998), reporting on CEN, in their seminal work on the family resource movement in Canada, state that community education principles "clearly echo" a number of family support principles. Kyle and Kellerman acknowledge the influence of Paulo Freire and his "ideas about education for social change," (p. 38) in the community education approach.
Through a regional development project sponsored by the national organization representing the movement, I invited the two family resource program educators to help facilitate CEN's community meetings. These community meetings were designed to begin the development of a family resource centre in one community in the area that had many high-risk factors. The meetings were well attended by parents and community members. Using video and story the facilitators described what a family resource centre could offer and, in small groups, participants brainstormed the programming they wanted. In this manner, we developed the concept and established our first school-based family resource centre.
With this as a blueprint, I then worked with colleagues to develop a proposal to establish a network of 11 school-based family resource centres in the larger geographic area. Our proposal was approved by Health Canada for a period of 3 years and, in April 1994, we hired two staff, who in turn began to work with the other communities to develop their sites. Despite the large geographic area and the vast undertaking, we consciously hired only two staff. We did not want this model for family support to become a service provided to families. We hoped that parents and community members would see these centres as an integral part of their community, become engaged in developing their own programming and services, and become empowered to run them with a strong sense of ownership. Although my direct role was diminished, I became a member of a Working Group, which provided direction on the day-to-day operations of the Community Action Committee (CAC), the administrative governing body responsible for the development of family resource programs. The Working Group was made up of four community partner representatives (including one from CEN) and two parent representatives.
Decentralized decision-making and local control are among the guiding principles of community education. Governments now freely admit they do not have all the answers. There is a real opportunity to capitalize on this political acknowledgement and to help prepare rural communities and individuals in rural communities to take back the responsibility and control many individuals and communities have allowed centralized governments to usurp. With the trend to devolution of power, however, communities must be prepared to accept the responsibility. From an organizational perspective, I was concerned that we should have appropriate participatory practices in place so that the community could become part of the service delivery, rather than the family resource centre providing a service to the community. Thus, during my involvement with the organization, I decided to study this issue of organizational leadership during a time of community change.
Focus of Inquiry
By the fall of 1995, we were making significant progress in achieving our objectives to develop family resource centres, with 10 of the 11 proposed sites operating. However, the Working Group members of CAC and the participating families continuously discussed the issue of participation or lack thereof and the attendant issues of ownership, sustainability, and grassroots leadership. We determined that a special intervention was required to address the situation, and I was seconded from CEN to CAC to take this on as a project.
Through this intervention I again became directly involved in an initiative to which I had been close. It promised to provide me with a particular challenge in an area of great personal interest, namely citizen participation and grassroots leadership development.
The main point of inquiry for this study is how to facilitate participation and grassroots leadership in community organizations. I used popular education and participatory research methodologies in the study to collect data on that point of inquiry. The study has particular relevance to family support groups in rural areas, and also has direct applicability to organizations whose members view themselves as being unable to influence change.
The purpose of my study is to improve my participatory practice as an adult educator so as to increase participation and enable those participants to act on their own behalf. The study will also identify what factors may be useful in developing and sustaining the capacity and culture of organizations to work in a participatory manner. A number of objectives and strategies underpin the broad social goal of achieving a more participatory and engaged culture of community involvement. Those are: (a) to gain an understanding of the convergence of adult education, community education, community development, and community action; (b) to research participatory action processes; (c) to identify strategies for adult learning in the context of social action; (d) to identify some of the skills and knowledge that can facilitate grassroots leadership; (e) to examine how these skills and knowledge can be applied to an identified problem; and (f) to document and analyze my efforts at assessing the usefulness of these factors in addressing a specific problem.
This study is in the area of participatory leadership. Its main focus is the design of a process to engage a representative number of parents/caregivers from a network of family resource centres to act as grassroots leaders and co-researchers in a project we called People Helping People. Although the focus of the study is participation and grassroots leadership, it was carried out within the context of the development of community-based family resource centres, which are a form of community education that seeks to cultivate a participatory culture of learning.
I visited each family resource program to discuss the issue of participation and invited anyone interested to join me in action research to determine how we could collectively address the low involvement in the programs. These meetings were followed up with personal contact, posters in the centres, flyers, numerous telephone calls, and written correspondence. Within a month, a core group of parents had identified themselves.
There were 16 parents, all of whom were female and, for the most part, active participants in the various family resource programs in rural settings throughout the region. Other employees of CAC and CEN joined us from time to time. As well, we involved other parents in various aspects of the community research. The study took place in two phases during January 1996 to March 1997. During this period, I facilitated nine workshops and follow-up community action, each in a different family resource centre throughout the region. Although there was a stable group of parent participants, who formed a core group that attended all workshops in the different locations, others joined from time to time. The workshops were interconnected and each workshop built on the momentum of the previous one.
The overall methodology of my study can be described as participatory research using workshops, community action, and a travelling roadshow with popular education techniques. These techniques enable people to take control of their learning. The methodology of participatory research affirms that such techniques must be grounded in the local context. The data collected in my study included minutes and flipchart documentation from the workshops. Strategies and actions developed by the participants were documented in binders and personal contracts. The data collected from the workshops provided participants with the opportunity to collectively analyze the primary issue of inquiry--participation. These data were developed into a binder format and provided a record of strategies and approaches for centres to use to encourage participation. Pictures, posters, and video served as visual documentation of the community action undertaken during my study. The data became the foundation for the strategic plan developed in the latter phase of the study.
The family resource centres, the setting for the study, are all based in schools in rural communities and linked to each other through CAC in a hub model. This network has a central administrative body of staff who serve satellite programs throughout the region. CAC is closely related to CEN and adheres to its community education principles. Having established CAC and begun the development of family resource centres, CEN views CAC as a sister organization with primary responsible for the early childhood issues as identified within CEN's model of community education.
Delimitations and Limitations
In this study I focus on family resource centres, but only in the context of adult learning for organizing for social change. Given the rapid growth of family resource centres in Newfoundland and Labrador, they promise to have a significant impact on social change in the province. Because of my preoccupation with adult learning, the study did not concern itself with the impact of parent's involvement in children's learning and did not examine the extent to which parental involvement in resource centres impacts on learning.
Related to this is another delimitation of the study. Rather than concentrating on immediate and specific changes in individual learning, this study is centred on how participants transfer learning to organizations. The focus is on the long-term development of grassroots leadership capacity within the organization, rather than individual learning for leadership. However, there is a limitation in this approach. The development of grassroots leadership is a long-term process. Although the timeframe of the study was short, I have had an opportunity in the period since the study to reflect, to observe, and to assess in a more concrete manner, the impact of the study on leadership development, organizational culture, and participation. The ultimate impact and importance of this study may only be felt and understood over a longer period of time.
Because the family resource participants in the centres are primarily women, only women were involved in the research. Also, due to the mandate of CAC's funding, the centres provide support to families with children only up to 6 years of age. This may have limited the age range of women involved as well.
Due to the timeframe of the study, it was necessary to bring all parent participants together to collectively analyze the issue of participation. I may have limited the study by assuming that the reasons for low participation were similar from centre to centre.
I assumed that the reasons that participation in family resource programs was not as high as we had anticipated were similar for all family resource sites. I also assumed that by bringing together parents who were active in their family resource centres across the region, they would be able to identify barriers and solutions common to all sites.
As well, although they would not identify themselves with the formal leadership, I assumed that those who came forward to be involved in the research had the personal characteristics, experiences, and attitudes that would enable them to apply skills and knowledge learned. I assumed they would provide leadership in their centres after the study was over. I therefore assumed that, in this manner, parents would take on the role of the more formal leaders, such as myself, who had played a role in catalyzing the process. This assumption was based on another principle, namely, that their participation in this research would result in a sense of more ownership of their individual centres. Their increased involvement in governance at both the local and regional level confirmed these assumptions.
Ultimately, I assumed that we as an organization had fallen short of our desire to create a sense of community when developing these centres and, therefore, the reason for parents not participating had more to do with alienation than with more mundane matters. Our shortcoming was a byproduct of the need to conform to external timelines imposed by funders.
These assumptions have influenced what I report and conclude in this thesis.
In this section I clarify the overarching philosophical distinctions that underlie some commonly used terms surrounding this study. For example, community education and community development are commonly used terms, which are weighted with different meanings for different people. The interpretation of these concepts is a reflection of one's experience and philosophical orientation. Even within the field of adult education considerable attention is given to the definition debate, yet there is little agreement. Tensions reign within the field as well as within the areas of community education and community development as practitioners choose their mantel. In the review of the literature I address these definitional tensions and the relations among adult education, community education, community development, and social change.
The Constitution of the Canadian Association for Community Education (1991) views community education as
a process whereby learning is used for individual and community betterment. It is characterized by the involvement of people of all ages; the use of community learning, resources, and research to bring about community change; and the recognition that people can learn through, with, and for each other to create a better world. (p. 3)
Community education is based on the principles of self-determination, self-help, leadership development, localization, integrated service delivery, maximum use of resources, inclusiveness, responsiveness, and lifelong learning (Decker, 1990).
The definition of community development offered by Haygood (1962) highlights the similar goals of community education and community development:
The term community development refers to a process of community education and action that combines outside assistance with democratically organized local initiative in an effort to attain goals that the members of the community hold in common for the improvement and enrichment of the entire community. (p. 22)
Harris (1987) comments that this definition illuminates community development as a pure form of adult education because it encompasses all the attendant variables of andragogy, including "self-concept, experience, readiness to learn, and problem-centredness" (p. 158).
Community-based approaches to family support have been growing in Canada and the emerging model of family resource programs is an important component of this growth. As part of a working definition Kyle and Kellerman (1998) explain:
Family resource programs are concerned as much with how they work with families as with the specific program components they deliver. They strive to work in a holistic way that takes into account the systemic and interdependent nature of families' lives and the way families and their members are affected by the communities in which they live. Programs are also characterized by their conscious attention to family support principles which focus on the prevention and promotion of well-being, and seek to foster individual, family and community strengths. Through advocating with or on behalf of families, and actively taking part in or facilitating local social planning and community development efforts, family resource programs work to strengthen community life. (p. 55)
A prevalent image of leadership is that of an individual, usually a male, leading the troops into battle. Debates as to whether leaders are born or developed also rage. Checkoway (1997) points out that, for many, leadership is so fundamental that most communities tend to ignore it. In their ignorance, they promote people who are highly visible and involved. Community organizing requires a different type of leader and it requires a different way of thinking about leadership. As Kahn (1997) points out, "community organizing must work to change how people relate to themselves and others" (p. 127). Grassroots leadership or informal community leadership refers to a shared sense of ownership and responsibility, the result of empowering processes that provide opportunities for people to solve their own problems.
Popular education is conceptually closely related to community education. Although popular education flourishes in Latin and Central America, it is only now becoming more widely practiced in Canada, particularly in Quebec. Cunningham (1991a) writing in the foreword to Popular Education in Quebec: Strengthening Social Movements defines popular education as:
the education of adults directed to liberating one's consciousness, affirming one's culture, responding to the cognitive and the aesthetic. It is always grounded in the cultural and social context of the participants. Clearly the participants take charge (prise en charge) of their collective learning and in doing so affirm themselves, their culture, their history. This participatory education is seen as the root principle of participatory democracythe kind of education advocated by Dewey, Lindeman, Freire. (p. v)
Proulx (1993) describes popular education as perhaps one of the most important techniques in the encouragement of adult participation in social change. He comments that the strengths of popular education are
a global approach to situations, to people and to communities; a recognition of acquired experience; active pedagogics which rely on a sense of responsibility and self-determination; learning through action; and an actual and active solidarity around common problems and collective projects. (p. 35)
This definition and these strengths provided me with guidance in the use of popular education approaches in my study.
I use the term participatory research interchangeably with action research, participatory action research, and transformative research. As such, participatory research is both a tool and a process for social research, which involves action and reflection resulting in individual or community change. My usage is consistent with Fals-Borda and Rahman's (1991) viewpoint that there are no substantial differences between the various terms associated with participatory research. Hall (1996) defines participatory research as:
A process which combines three activities: research, education, and action. Participatory research is a social action process which is biased in favour of dominated, exploited, poor or otherwise left out women and men and groups. It sees no contradiction between goals of collective empowerment and the deepening of social knowledge. The concern with power and democracy and their interactions are central to participatory research. (p. 1)
Hall gives further clarity to this definition of participatory research in the following comments on methodology:
The literature on participatory research has always been vague on the question of methods. . . .This means that for participatory research there are no methodological orthodoxies, no cook-book approaches to follow. The principle is that both issues and ways of working should flow from those involved and their context. In practice a creative and very wide variety of approaches have been used. (p. 4)
In this manner, the study draws on the principles of participatory research while giving emphasis to the use of participatory and popular education methodologies.
Plan of Presentation
Following this introduction, in chapter 2, I review the literature, initially focusing on the tensions within adult education and the links among adult education, community education, community development, and social change. I include the topics education for social change and the family support movement, including its history and common principles. I also review the literature on organizing for social change, with special attention to the use of participatory methodologies in this context.
In chapter 3, I describe the process undertaken to encourage grassroots leadership in a rural coastal region of Newfoundland. The process involved the application of participatory and popular education techniques in a series of workshops with parent co-researchers from various family resource sites. I describe the design, planning, and implementation of the process, present content, and identify specific outcomes.
In chapter 4, I analyze the study and its outcomes, determine its impact on the culture of the organization, and its influence on my practice as an adult educator. I discuss the applicability of this work to similar community organizations and present recommendations for community educators interested in the encouragement of grassroots leadership.
REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
This thesis examines participatory activities that contribute to learning from community leadership within the context of community-based organizations. In order to provide a theoretical framework for this study and to identify common threads and themes, this chapter reviews relevant literature, particularly literature related to participatory and democratic practices. Insights from this review contributed to my personal philosophy and work practices, specifically in fostering participation in family resource programs.
Adult education has a long tradition of involvement with social change. Education for social change is inextricably linked to issues of citizen participation and democratic involvement. I examine closely the adult education practices of Paulo Freire and Myles Horton, whose influences on education for social change have been profound. As part of this review, I determine how the family resource movement conceivably fits within this context and how it can ultimately benefit from the contribution of adult education. Then, in search of alternative modes of adult education in the social movement tradition, I review the literature on organizing for social change with emphasis on participatory practice. It is primarily in the realm of alternative practice that adult educators come into contact with community developers and community educators. In fact, there is much confusion as to the boundaries of these related studies. In my search I discovered common roots and traditions of social action among adult education, community development, and community education initiatives. Finally, from this tradition of adult education I derive a framework that can inform my practice in facilitating participation for social change.
Purpose of Adult Education
Historically, adult education has been regarded as a movement for both personal and social liberation (Harrison, 1961). The heart of the debate is whether education serves primarily to broaden personal horizons or to work towards social justice. On the one hand, Lawson (1975) rejects any linkage between the functions of social change and education. On the other hand, as Darkenwald and Merriam (1982) report, the UNESCO definition of adult education sees both individual and social development as equally legitimate goals for adult education. According to Fisher and Podeschi (1989), the progressive philosophy of both Dewey and Lindeman is founded on the belief that an individual's ability to make choices about conditions also enhances conditions for society as a whole. Inherent in this belief is Lindeman's (1961) view that the home and community provide appropriate settings for adult educators to interact with individuals, thereby preparing them for fuller participation in concerns beyond themselves. Finger (1995) questions the dominant paradigm of personal development and challenges adult educators to question the growing individualism and market orientation of adult education.
The Tension between Individual and Society
A number of adult educators are concerned about the tension in adult education and the role the field plays in today's society (e.g., Collins, 1991; Cruickshank, 1991; Kulich, 1991; Welton, 1987a, 1987b, 1995). For example, Collins (1991) believes that many adult educators put institutional interests above those of individuals in their work. Cruickshank (1991) reports that a debate rages between two distinct philosophies of adult education: education for individual change versus for social change. In her exploration of university adult education work in Canada, Cruickshank (1994) also identifies a different, but related, concern that post-secondary extension work is moving to an entrepreneurial approach, which turns education into a commodity. Both the individual and entrepreneurial strands are in contrast with the view of adult education as a social movement. Kulich (1991) reiterates the view that Canadian adult education is predominantly institutionalized and professionalized. As such its paramount purpose is towards individual rather than societal needs, and providers compete rather than cooperate. Harris (n. d.) comments on contemporary adult education practice in Canadian educational institutions and challenges the narrow (she calls it "anorexic") conception of adult education, that is now being perpetuated. Harris argues that this limited view of adult education largely is the result of the predominance of market-driven formal education in late 20th century institutional practice. In formulating these arguments, Harris draws on the thoughts of many adult educators, such as Merriam & Cunningham, 1989, Mezirow & Associates, 1990, Selman, 1985.
In contrast, adult education in Canada has its roots in social change movements. The Antigonish Movement, Farm Radio Forum, Frontier College, and the Fogo Process speak to the diversity and richness of adult education in Canada (Selman, Selman, Cooke & Dampier, 1998; Welton, 1987a). Kulich (1991) agrees with this perspective, noting that the new non-traditional movements and directions, such as the growing women's movement and the increase in senior's participation in adult education, signify a trend away from institutionalized adult education and towards adult learning. While this lessening of dependence on institutions and empowering the individual is commendable, Kulich cautions that these new and hopeful signs in adult education not lose sight of social action responsibilities.
In her book on the Antigonish Movement, Alexander (1997) echoes a challenge from its founder, Moses Coady, that adult education should lead to a full life, empowering the whole person in his or her total community. The Antigonish Movement bears witness to the fact that with structures for group support, adult education can diminish community members' feelings of an isolated and isolating existence.
Selman (1989) comments that this social transformation view, in which adult education serves as a promoter of social change, is currently more dominant in the field in Britain and Europe. The social transformation view of adult education takes issue with society's individualizing failure, or blaming the victim. This view also takes issue with those who continue to ignore that society's problems are systemic and embedded in political and social arrangements. As such, these problems should not be the sole responsibility of individuals. Thompson (1980) underlines this view by arguing that society's basic problems are based in a social pathology. In other words, because problems are societal, they require structural solutions. Thompson (1997) still holds this position and comments that "one of the most significant limitations of the liberal tradition [is] its profound resistance to any form of structural or material explanations of social and educational inequality" (p. 132). Rockhill (Taylor, Rockhill & Fieldhouse, 1985) is scornful about the "service ethic" emphasis adopted by adult education in North America. She advocates that adult educators should instead deal with the "fundamental questions of power, social structure or critical analysis" (p. 78).
This tension between the individualistic and the social view of education particularly raises the question of the role of the adult educator. Alexander (1997) says adult educators should not only attend to program content but also to the educational method and process. Adult educators themselves, in order to fulfill this role, need to be empowered through acquisition of knowledge and skills to enable social change. There are notable examples of progressive leadership in Canadian adult education. Cunningham (1991b) cites examples such as the Antigonish Movement, Frontier College, Challenge for Change, and recent efforts by the Extension Department of Memorial University of Newfoundland. Cunningham refers to the creative use of narrow casting or community television in a community development project by the extension department at Memorial. She claims such popular education techniques served to animate and to awaken the "emancipatory spirit of a community" (p. 16). However, Harris (n. d.) reports that these popular education activities "ended when the President [of Memorial University] closed the Extension Service, saying such activities are not essential to teaching and research" (p. 41).
Community Development, Community Education, and Community Action
These tensions within adult education are also reflected within community development and community education, as well as between these related practices.
Many adult educators write extensively about the pluralistic nature of community education and adult education (Cunningham, 1996; Harris, 1987, n.d.). From her perspective as Director of Extension at Memorial University, Harris (1987) writes that unfortunately, even as the formal side of adult education appears to be making strides, non-formal adult education is becoming increasingly marginal, more obscure, and less supported. In fact, Lovett (1990) points out that a major issue with non-formal learning systems is marginality and consequently, lack of support from the state. The issue of support and its implications for public policy is critical within this debate of institutional versus education for community change. For example, Haygood (1962) notes:
The term community development refers to a process of community education and action that combines outside assistance with democratically organized local initiatives in an effort to attain goals that the members of the community hold in common for the improvement and enrichment of the entire community. (p. 22)
In an attempt to eliminate confusion, Haygood explores the myriad relationships between community education and programs associated with community schools, community development, community relations, and community service and presents them in a diagram with one flowing from the other.
Brookfield (1990) believes that students of adult learning in the community are entering largely uncharted waters. In terms of research, adult learning in the community does not easily lend itself to investigation through the classic, scientific method generally associated with formal educational inquiry.
The search for common ground between community development and adult education is further exacerbated by the frequent dearth of documentation in community development (Harris, 1987). Some formal adult educators, grounded in a tradition of the literature, find this absence of documentation reason to deny community development as adult education (Harris). On the other hand, community developers are often hostile toward adult education because they perceive adult education as merely vocational, or employment-driven, in intent. This point relates to Welton's (1987b) contention that if Canadian adult educators are to recover and reconstitute our social movement tradition, it is imperative that we develop a critical theory of learning and education within social movements. Hamilton (1992) makes similar arguments claiming that the narrow focus of adult education excludes the non-formal sector as a viable force for institutional change:
Given the seriousness and magnitude of the multiplicity of adult learning needs, it is sheer folly to contemplate any potential workable strategy without full employment of all options open to society. The challenges facing adult education in the 90s require that it move beyond its traditional tactic and established clientele and link with nontraditional partners for the purpose of beginning the development of an "inclusive learning society" for the twenty-first century. (p. 11)
Kidd (1971) assumes a similar position when he notes that adult educators should continue to collaborate with many so-called nontraditional partners such as teachers, librarians, recreation specialists, broadcasters, and unions. Hamilton (1992) views community development as both a method and a process in which learning is the means through which development occurs. This view clearly highlights the connection between adult education and community development, stressing people-related outcomes.
Despite the need to connect adult education and community development, Hamilton (1992) observes that because community development is usually discussed in purely economic and political terms, the role of education in community development is usually under-emphasized or treated implicitly. Too frequently, community economic development models have failed because of a lack of attention to human development and an overemphasis on capital investment. In contrast, Harris (1987) makes a case for community development as a potent form of adult education:
Community development is practically synonymous with social change. For change to occur, either new skills have developed or new knowledge has been acquired. If we are involved with skills development, and knowledge acquisition and application, we are dealing with education. (p. 169)
The Evolution of Community Education as Adult Education
DeLargy (1989) traces the development of community education back to philosophical contributions made by Dewey and Hart, who viewed the purpose of education as being for both personal and social improvement. Dewey (1966) asserts that schooling as an academic pursuit is secondary to the social function of schools. He emphasizes the social function and claims that schools' focus on a democratic education will produce a society that constantly grows and develops. Clapp (1939), a protegé of Dewey and a proponent of community education, documents the influence that American use of progressive education methods has had on community education endeavours. As a result of these early initiatives, teachers and community members become more aware of the importance of the use of the school as a community education centre and the need to ground the curriculum in the values of the community.
DeLargy (1989) differentiates between the terms community school and community education. Although often used interchangeably, Delargy clarifies that community school in the early history of community education describes both philosophy and place. Currently, community education means the philosophy or concept whereas community school is the place where a great deal of community education is organized. Many authors (e.g., Minzey & LeTarte, 1979; Seay, 1974) review the evolution of community education from its roots in community school. Although they define the process as a movement from a school-centred concept to a broader community-centred one, DeLargy still maintains that schools should remain a vital locus of activity. Kerensky (1989) defines community education as "an educational and community development process for the development of human potential and participation in the local decision making process" (p. 63). Kerensky also argues for the maintenance of the school in community education because of its potential as a community resource to increase participation of the community by providing for educational, recreational, and vocational needs. With the resulting citizen participation, other community problems may be identified and addressed. The dynamic and evolving process of community education practice is simply, as Minzey and LeTarte declare, a reflection of the history of the frequent reorganization of ideas associated with the role of education in social change.
As Selman et al. (1998) report, it is imperative for many practitioners of community education to maintain a vital connection with the character of community life in the region they are serving. The concept of community education in Canada has evolved differently in various parts of the country because of this need to connect with community and to make a difference to the quality of life in those communities. The lighted schoolhouse movement of the 1920s, the folk school movement of the 1930s, the community school movement of more recent decades, and recent community education models in Atlantic Canada have similar aims, but employ different processes that reflect the communities in which they take root.
The lighted schoolhouse movement refers to one-room schools in small prairie communities that became the focal point for community meetings and learning during the 1930s. According to Selman et al. (1998), Canada had an active folk school movement between the 1930s and 1950s. These schools were fashioned after the Danish model, providing residential facilities for learning in communities in Ontario and the West. Community schools today flourish in Saskatchewan and British Columbia. In eastern Canada, particularly in Newfoundland and Labrador, the orientation has been more a community development model than the community school tradition of the West. House (1999) identifies the community education project in which I am involved as an important initiative in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. It is notable that a recent review on community economic development in Newfoundland and Labrador identified community education and public participation as one of five functions to be carried out by the newly established community economic development boards in the province (Task Force on Community Economic Development, 1995).
Examples of community education in Newfoundland can be traced back to the development of Co-operatives during the Commission of Government in the 1930s, the establishment of Women's Institutes in many rural communities, and the community development work carried out by Memorial University Extension. The Co-op Division of the 1930s identified the co-operative movement as a social movement as well as an economic one. Carter (n. d.) notes that the most important element in the whole co-operative movement is education.
The impact of Women's Institutes on communities and the quality of life for rural women in Canada is profound. This holds true in Newfoundland and Labrador. Selman et al. (1998) refer to the advocacy role of Women's Institutes, their involvement in educational activities in household arts, their focus on children, women, and family issues, and their generally positive contribution to community improvement. These community education traditions demonstrate that inherent in community education programming are forces working for change and improvement in community life.
Of interest is Selman et al.'s (1998) observation that the term community education is often used synonymously with adult education. This is not surprising because as Kidd (1971) points out, words often associated with community education such as involvement, engagement, and participation are not new ideas for adult education. In fact, these concepts are integral components of democracy, and have been accepted as fundamental to adult education for decades. Kidd contends that adult education has an obligation to contribute to clarifying concepts of participation, citizenship, democracy, and community. Kidd (along with community educators such as Minzey & LeTarte, 1979; Seay, 1974) identifies the community rather than the classroom and the institution as being the proper context for adult education.
Hamilton (1992) points out that as the relationship between adult education and community education continues to evolve, so too the terminology used to identify community development, community education, and adult education has evolved. Hamilton hypothesizes that this could be the result of changing attitudes of practitioners. He claims that the educators' understanding of community development spans community action, community service, community education, urban community education, popular education, and voluntarism, among others. Similarly for adult education, several areas--continuing education, lifelong education, lifelong learning--have been closely identified with the field at various times. He is hopeful that these changes reflect the dynamism of practice and not an evasion of what adult education and community development (they) should be about.
These points raise for me several questions. Are there key concepts and commonalties among community development, community action, community education, and adult education? Or are practitioners content, as Selman (1989) ponders, to choose their enemies when they choose their basic philosophical position as educators? Vella (1994) appears to transcend these issues of difference with her framework of 12 principles, which she claims can help unify the diversity of educational paradigms and practices in community education, community development, and adult education. Vella's principles include placing the learner at the centre of the learning process, nurturing relationships for open communication, and involving learners in goal setting. Similarly, Belenky, Bond, and Weinstock (1997) claim that dialogue is key in community work, as it is for Freire. Kerensky (1989) also notes that community problems stem primarily from lack of participation and involvement of citizens in community.
This review of commonalities among adult education, community development, and community education confirms that education for social change is the main theme linking these sometimes disparate practices. In order to elaborate the connections between social action and education, I next examine the work of Paulo Freire and Myles Horton, recognized as leaders in this area. My main focus in the next section is to better understand how they gained knowledge that ultimately informed their practice of education for social change.
Education for Social Change
In the opening section of their dialogue in the book We Make the Road by Walking (Bell, Gaventa & Peters, 1990), Myles Horton and Paulo Freire share their common understanding, after years of practice, that effective adult education for social change must be grounded in social action. In order to clarify the question of social change within the field of adult education, I analyze the philosophical orientation and practices of Horton and Freire. Their practices, participatory in nature, identify them as popular educators (Kerka, 1997).
Myles Horton and the Highlander Center
Myles Horton became involved in adult education because he was tired of hearing people abrogate to others their responsibility to make society better. Darkenwald and Merriam (1982) observe that adult educators of Horton's generation believed passionately in the power of adult education to change the world. They report on Horton's recollections on his five decades of commitment to social change. As Horton reflects, "I realized the world would only change if the people who are now running things, who are already adults, changed. So I decided that if we want a more decent society we would have to work with today's adults on today's problems" (in Gross, 1980, p. 4). On this basis, Horton decided to work with adults on contemporary problems.
Horton founded the Highlander Folk School in 1931. According to Brookfield (1986), Horton studied the folk high school system in Denmark and modeled his school after a Danish folk school. Now known as the Highlander Research and Education Center (situated outside Knoxville, Tennesee) it is a residential centre in which community activists come together to reflect collaboratively on important community issues and concerns. Brookfield reports that Horton involved teachers and students at the school in the strike in the 1930s against a local coal company by non-unionized coal workers in Wilder, Tennesee. Darkenwald and Merriam (1982) point out that with its philosophy linking education and social action, Highlander continued to play a major role in union organizing efforts in the South in the 1930s and 1940s, in the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, and more recently in community development and environmental action in Appalachia.
Adams (1972) reports that Horton invited the parents of children in the Bible schools he ran to come to the schools in the evening to talk about problems of poverty and misery experienced by their families. Horton was somewhat surprised when they came. Given the opportunity to discuss their issues, they discovered answers within their own ranks. From that experience, Horton learned that people know the answers to their own problems. He learned that the primary role of the teacher is not to be the "expert" but rather, it is to stimulate discussion, to get people talking to each other, to provoke questioning, and most importantly, to have trust that the people will come up with their own answers. As "teacher," Horton often encouraged discussion by starting the evening with story telling or song, a commonly used popular education technique. This highlights the importance of communication and the need to create opportunities in an informal setting in order to allow meaningful dialogue to occur.
Horton was determined to search for models or ideas to shape what has become known as the "Ozone Project"-- named after his early attempts at community organizing in the town of Ozone in Grundy County, Tennesee. During this time, he travelled for the YMCA, visiting high schools and colleges in search of an appropriate educational model to match the needs of people in Ozone. He found none.
According to Adams (1975), Horton was much influenced by Dewey, Lindeman, and Hart. Adams points out that, Lindeman and Hart were among the first to recognize the potential of adult education as a significant agent for social change. It was Lindeman's writing that prompted Horton to look elsewhere for models that might apply to the Ozone Project. For example, Lindeman examined the role of adult education in both Denmark and Great Britain. In Britain, he focused on the role of adult education in the trade union movement. His view of the future was, "adult education will become an agency of progress if its short-lived goal of self-improvement can be made compatible with a long-term experimental but resolute policy of changing social order" (Lindeman, 1961, p. 105).
In reading about Highlander, it is easy to discern the influence of Dewey and see clearly the similarity of purpose between Dewey's philosophy and Horton's actions, even though Dewey's focus was primarily on youth education and Horton was primarily interested in working with adults. As Dewey (1966) in his seminal work Democracy and Education maintains, "It is the aim of progressive education to take part in correcting unfair privilege and unfair deprivation, not to perpetuate them" (p. 119). Highlander was dedicated to improving the lives of people in communities.
The period of time (1930-1931) Horton spent in Chicago became critical to his insights on education and social activism. Through Dr. Robert Park, a well-known sociologist in Chicago, Horton came to understand and accept the theory of crisis, conflict, and mass movements as mechanisms for social change, and according to Adams (1975), these elements became fundamental to his concept of education. Horton also met Jane Addams, founder of the Settlement Movement. According to Adams, her faith in democracy had a profound influence on Horton and gave him confidence in the common man.
In Chicago Horton also became friends with Danish-born Lutheran Minister Aage Moller, who encouraged Horton to visit Denmark and the folk schools. Moller had been a teacher in a folk high school himself. The folk schools had been founded by Bishop N. S. F. Grundtvig, who was disturbed by the social and economic misery of Denmark in the late 19th century; he designed a program for what he called schools of learning. These schools were aimed at enhancing the natural intelligence and integrity of rural people in Denmark while reviving their cultural traditions. Similarly, the social and economic conditions of his time provided the impetus for Horton's search for alternative models of development.
Horton had read about the folk school movement from Hart and others and expected the schools to employ methods approximate to his own in Grundy County, Tennesee. On visiting Denmark, he was initially disappointed because schools he visited did not meet his expectations. Horton eventually found schools where students learnt about the social and economic problems and conditions experienced by Danish working people and farmers, as well as global issues impacting on the country itself. Finally, through interviews with the older folk school directors, Horton learned of the distinctive qualities of the early schools. From these conversations, Horton gained a primary insight about the role of the teacher in relation to the learner. Although in traditional educational models, learners learn and teachers teach, Horton realized that the key to success in the Danish folk schools is in the inversion of that traditional notion. In other words, teachers should be able to learn from their so-called learners and these learners should teach the teacher what they need to learn. This insight confirmed for Horton what he had understood from his study of Joseph Hart (Adams, 1975). Horton observed that in order for these teachers/facilitators to learn from their learners, they need to learn to listen. Only then can they transform what the learners need into educational programs.
These experiences led Horton to identify key principles for Highlander. These popular education principles, which continue to guide Highlander, include the placing of the learner at the centre, the need for education to be relevant for the community, and having respect for the ability of learners to identify their own needs. Today Highlander continues to train community people as leaders. Adams (1972) captures for me Horton's insights about learners as teachers and the need for a fundamental attitudinal change, from both the teachers and the learners perspective. At Highlander "formally educated staff members, it turned out, were never as effective in teaching as the people themselves, once they saw themselves as teachers" (p. 118). Horton's philosophy that learning has to be of the people is encapsulated for me by Adams' conclusion: "Through Highlander's programs, many people have been encouraged to find beauty and pride in their own ways, to speak their own language without humiliation, and to learn of their power to accomplish self-defined goals through social movements built from the bottom up" (p. 118).
Although Paulo Freire and Myles Horton worked in very different geographic settings, their philosophies and insights about education for social action are quite similar and, as noted by Beder (1996), both are associated with popular education.
Paulo Freire and Popular Education
Paulo Freire is described as the most prominent philosopher of adult education in the radical tradition (Elias & Merriam, 1980). Freire, educated in philosophy and law, worked as a labour union lawyer before becoming interested in literacy training, which became the vehicle in his efforts to work with oppressed people in Brazil. His dissatisfaction with traditional literacy methods caused him to develop a methodology of literacy training, free from what he sees as the paternalism and authoritarianism of traditional methodologies. In the radical tradition, Freire sees education as a tool to bring about social, political, and economic change. Quite simply, at the heart of Freire's methods, as described in his Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Freire, 1992), is his theory of conscientization or increasing critical consciousness. This theory underpins his approach to adult education in general and literacy training in particular.
O'Gorman (1978) questions this theory of conscientization, "Do we educators in formal and non-formal teaching-learning situations have the right to raise the consciousness of the educatees with whom we interact?" (p. 52). O'Gorman reports that although educators have concern that conscientization is becoming just another technique in which the educator manipulates the educatee, its potential to create social change is too great to dispose of the theory.
Freire's literacy program comprises five phases, including a focus on emotional content; experience of the group; and words that reflect the social, cultural, and political realities of the oppressed. Discussion of situational problems of the group is an integral part of the process, because such dialogue leads to consciousness-raising in the context of learning to read and write. O'Gorman (1978) cautions against directly applying the Freirian method to other situations without first reflecting that the needs of the learners are primary, not the needs of the educators. She explains, "we tend to mold the needs to our methods rather than reconstruct our methods upon the needs of the participant learners" (p. 54).
Freire's methodology of literacy training and indeed all of his educational principles (vision and liberation of humans, dialogue, praxis, teacher-learner relationship, analysis, and consciousness) are based upon what Freire (1992) describes as a "humanist and libertarian pedagogy" (p. 40), which has two stages.
In the first, the oppressed unveiled the world of oppression and through the praxis commit themselves to its transformation. In the second stage, in which the reality of oppression has already been transformed, this pedagogy ceases to belong to the oppressed and becomes a pedagogy of all men [sic] in the process of permanent liberation. (p. 40)
As Elias and Merriam (1980) remark, Freire believes that because people can create culture and history, they can change the economic and social conditions of their community. Because people have consciousness they know they can change the situation and therefore are subjects, not objects. Themes of subject/object of research and knowledge generation are common to participatory practices.
In commenting on the linkage between participation and the subject/object dialectic, Fals-Borda and Rahman (1991) note: "To participate means to break up voluntarily and through experience the asymmetrical relationship of submission and dependence implicit in the subject/object binomial. This is the essence of participation" (p. 5). In the final section of this review, I examine participatory and popular education methodology with its emphasis on co-participation and mutual respect of researcher and those being researched.
The concept of mutual respect is fundamental to popular education practice because, without this, as Armstrong (1977) comments, knowledge is simply "deposited" into "the waiting minds of the poor who can accept and react but can never originate or control," (p. 4). This is the basis of Freire's characterization of traditional teaching as a banking system. Many popular educators (Gatt-Fly, 1983; Hope, Timmel & Hodzi, 1995; Vella, 1994) draw their inspiration from Freire's philosophy and pedagogy.
Freire (1990) describes his methodology in Education for Critical Consciousness. His methodology begins with "culture circles," which are fora set up to provide opportunity and a context for dialogue among community members. This dialogue encourages reflection, clarifies present situations, and allows community members to identify actions in response to reflection, clarification, and discussion. The application of this culture circle learning to the field of adult literacy means a rejection of a mechanistic literacy program in favor of a dialogue with the learners. Thus the educator's role is to awaken the participants' consciousness, to talk about concrete situations relevant to the community, and to offer them instruments to teach themselves to read or write. Thus content becomes process and process becomes content. Familiarity with culture circles and other popular education methods in Canada and the United States is a direct result of the influence of Freire (Arnold, Barndt, & Burke, 1985; Beder, 1996). Beder claims "in the United States, popular education is sometimes termed Freireian education" (p. 73).
It is evident then that Freire and Horton share a vision of the power of education to effect social, political, and economic change. They link this power with participatory popular education methodologies that grew out of their work with specific constituencies. For Horton it was the rural poor of Appalachia; for Freire it was the peasants of Brazil and Chile. Their advice to adult educators is that if you respect the knowledge of others and recognize that people learn from each other, you are better able to meet the real needs of learners (Bell, Gaventa, & Peters, 1990). The next section examines the family resource movement, which has grown out of similar social development traditions.
Family Resource Movement
In this section, I review the literature of family support and the family resource movement in the context of contemporary practice in Canada. In so doing I review its history and theoretical underpinnings and explore themes and practices in relation to community education, community development, and adult education.
The Contemporary Canadian Family Resource Movement
The family resource movement has been evolving in Canada since the turn of the century. This section relies heavily on the work of Kyle and Kellerman (1998). Their series of case studies is an in-depth examination of various family resource programs in different Canadian settings. Similar to Harris's (1987) observation that community development efforts have not been well documented, little has been written about family resource programs in Canada. As a result, family resource programs have generally low community profiles and there is a lack of common language and theory available to link the movement's different programs. It is only now, with documentation, that the movement is gaining legitimacy.
With increased public funding for family support programs such as Health Canada's Community Action Program and the National Child Benefit, family resource programs appear to be coming into their own. The Kyle and Kellerman (1998) study is the result of an effort by the Canadian Association of Family Resource Programs to bring clarity to the concept of family resource programs in Canada. The result of this study is an attempt to define family resource programs, drawing on current Canadian practice. Although problematic, because of the diversity of programs across the country, Kyle and Kellerman offer a definition and description of these programs; the first part of their definitive description is:
Family resource programs are multi-service, non-profit, community-based programs that promote social support, co-operation, collective responsibility (civic mindedness) and citizenship through offering a mix of education, information, activities, material support and other resources to family members and groups of families across a number of service areas. These service areas may include parent/caregiver education, family preservation, child care and development, health and safety, food and nutrition, recreation, life skills, employment support and community economic development, housing, literacy, and community education and leadership development. (p. 55)
This part of the definition clearly focuses on the service provision of the programs. Services vary depending on the organization, its resources, and community need. Service delivery is often done in partnership with other community groups.
Although necessary and critical to family support, an exclusively service focus would consign family resource programs to being simply another government program in the social safety net. Too often, simply throwing money and programs at problems deals with the symptoms but generally does not get to their underlying causes. The importance of engaging people in identifying and clarifying their own issues as a means of resolving their social, economic and political situation is amply demonstrated in the literature and practice of education for social change (Adams, 1975; Dewey, 1966; Freire, 1992; Hall, Gillette, & Tandon, 1982).
The second part of the definition, as developed by Kyle and Kellerman (1998), states that:
Family resource programs are concerned as much with how they work with families as with the specific program components they deliver. They strive to work in an holistic way that takes into account the systematic and interdependent nature of families' lives and the way families and their members are affected by the communities in which they live. Programs are also characterized by their conscious attention to family support principles which focus on prevention and the promotion of well-being, and seek to foster individual, family and community strengths. Through advocating with or on behalf of families, and actively taking part in or facilitating local social planning and community development efforts, family resource programs work to strengthen community life. (p. 55)
This definition places family resource programs squarely in the tradition of community development, community education, and the social movement paradigm of adult education.
The family resource movement in Canada has its roots in various earlier social development projects that deal with issues related to public health, social justice, and poverty. According to research carried out by Kyle and Kellerman (1998), the settlement house movement established in London, England, in the 1880s is a precursor to family support programs as they developed in North America. Settlement houses were established in response to slum conditions and emphasized the important link between education and community improvement. Fundamental to the settlement house concept is the notion of self-help and education as the route to helping people realize that they can in fact help themselves.
Jane Addams was a community activist and the founder of Hull House, a well-known settlement house in Chicago. Kyle and Kellerman (1998) note that, following a visit to Hull House, J. J. Kelso (a pioneer of child welfare in Canada) became highly supportive of the concept and, in the early 1900s organized a settlement house serving immigrant families in Toronto. Similarly, Adams (1975) reports that Myles Horton, founder of Highlander, also visited Hull House frequently. Adams claims that Addams had a profound influence on Horton: "Miss Addam's greatest contribution to Horton was...her willingness to listen to his ideas. She declared...he was really trying to start a rural settlement house...a fairly accurate description of Horton's dream of the Ozone Project" (p. 19).
These early efforts of family support within a community context continued in Canada throughout the 20th century. Programs ranged from prenatal care introduced in Saskatchewan in 1915, parenting programs, toy libraries, drop-ins, and parent-child centres. The Daybreak Parent Child Centre is probably the most well-established family support program in Newfoundland and Labrador today. It began in 1979 without any consistent support from federal-provincial programs--such as are now available to more recently established family support coalitions in the province. Rabinowitz (1994), Director of Daybreak, writes:
Like Head Start when it began in the U.S. in the early 60s, there is no blueprint, no magic formula--no for sures. What will be effective for one community or one coalition, may not work for another. The process of learning together is inherent in a strategy to strengthen families through strengthening communities. (p. iii)
It is evident that programs of family support draw much strength from groups such as Women's Institutes and indeed the women's movement in Canada. Family support programs have their roots in the need for women to come together for collective social sustenance and education and to make their communities safe and healthy places in which to raise children (Kyle & Kellerman, 1998).
This theme of women and their support for and involvement in nurturing community centres recurs as well internationally. Belenky, Bond, and Weinstock (1997) in their study of the Mother Centre Movement in the US and Germany note that these centres are initiated by women concerned about social isolation of mothers in the context of family. These centres are what Belenky et al. (1997) term "public places," spaces where women can find mutual support. Similarly in Australia, Case (1991) reports that the community houses, which provide a focus for community education, arose in the 1970s because women expressed the need for programming and daycare not offered by local institutions or colleges. Belenky (1996) in her article Public Homeplaces terms these types of programs, "the invisible colleges." This phrase not only distinguishes family resource programs from formal institutional programs but also underscores the point made earlier in this section about the low profile and somewhat marginalized nature of such programming. This is not surprising really, if one considers Belenky's observation that invisible colleges generally reach "out to poor mothers--one of the more isolated, unsupported, and demeaned groups in contemporary society" (p. 395).
Principles for Practice
Belenky et al. (1997) observe that, although diverse in terms of purpose and geographic space, the areas of commonality of family resource programs now provide some potential for linkage and collaboration. These commonalities now provide direction to "key practices that sponsor the development of people who, in turn, go on to make their families and communities more nurturing places for others" (p. 159). In my review of the literature on best practices associated with empowerment as well as current practice in family resource settings in Canada I observe four themes in what community-based organizations across the country are doing to encourage participation and involvement.
Beyond service provision. Although family resource programs clearly are aligned with social development traditions and practices, many activists express concern that these programs are in many cases simply service providers, thereby not encompassing the values associated with participatory and empowering practices. Given the nature generally of family resource program funding (government grants), this is perhaps not surprising. Grassroots family resource programs are often under pressure to be fiscally efficient--a commendable objective if the broader issues of empowerment and real change are not traded off to achieve this objective. On the other hand, many of the programs naturally feel pressured to deliver much needed, concrete, tangible services to their participants who are, after all, as Belenky (1996) observes, generally the most "unsupported, isolated and demeaned" (p. 395) people in society.
Because of these top-down/bottom-up pressures, the attributes (empowerment, participatory practice, problem-solving opportunities) that place family resource programs within the social movement tradition can be absent. Heaney (1992), commenting on the fiscal pressures faced by popular educators and community-based organizations, notes that "Most available fundingis for services, not social actionin which individuals are helped, not organized. Education for action is a different kind of activity all together" (p. 11). In order to guarantee that family resource programs are part of the social movement tradition, social activists need to be especially diligent to ensure, as Kahn (1997) points out, that in addition to service the other three strategies of social change--advocacy, mobilizing, and organizing--are nurtured within their organizations. Advocacy can cause societal change, but because advocates generally are not the marginalized their advocacy really does not "empower the disempowered" (p. 118). Kahn also points out that mobilizing is also not really an effective leadership strategy. Although people do start to stand up for themselves, mobilizing has short-term effects and limited applicability to other circumstances because it is generally a specific response to a crisis situation. It is not a strategy properly associated with empowerment. Organizing, on the other hand, is a process of change and a leadership strategy that creates permanency and allows the disempowered, through appropriate organizations, "to practice the democratic skills of citizenship and leadership" (p. 119). Thus this process, leading to collective as well as individual empowerment, enables people to deal with the underlying systemic and structural causes of their problems. This strategy of enabling the people to become the organizers is a fundamental belief of Horton's work at Highlander and Freire's work in Brazil (Bell et al., 1990).
Empowerment. An overarching concept of this literature review is empowerment. This concept is also examined by various writers within the context of family support and parenting. Cochran (1992) reviews the Cornell Empowerment Group and its model. He draws strong links between this family-support empowerment model and empowerment as practiced in other contexts by people such as Freire, Gaventa, and Alinsky. These links are evident when one reviews the literature on empowerment in the family context. For example, Dunst and Trivette (1996) talk about the need to build on the strengths of people rather than merely focusing on correcting weaknesses. They go on to describe an empowerment model containing three elements: empowerment ideology (strengths versus weaknesses); participatory experiences (provide opportunities to enable the acquisition of new competencies); and empowerment outcomes (a lessening of dependency). Barr and Cochran (1992) define empowerment, using much of the terminology--critical reflection, community--generally associated with empowerment in a more general sense: Empowerment is "an intentional ongoing process centered in the local community, involving mutual respect, critical reflection, caring, and group participation, through which people lacking an equal share of valued resources gain greater access to and control over those resources" (p. 2). Weiss (1990), of the Harvard Family Research Project, observes that family support programs globally are one of the main factors that are empowering families at the community level.
Renaud (1996), in a presentation on empowerment as it relates to health and society, acknowledges the importance of empowerment and the need to incorporate it into human service practice. He cautions, however, that the word empowerment "may have lost its almost revolutionary meaning" (p. 1). The ideal of empowerment is to transfer real power and decision-making to those who are marginalized in society, thereby giving them control of their circumstances. Renaud observes that many service providers now use the concept of empowerment to abrogate their responsibility to provide support and service.
Family support literature on empowerment refers to the changing role of professionals from expert to facilitator (Kyle & Kellerman, 1998). This is a reminder of Horton's point about the need for teachers to have the capacity to learn (Adams, 1975). Rappaport (1990) is concerned that experts too often legitimize each other rather than give legitimacy to people about whom they are concerned. Barr and Cochran (1992) are even stronger in their concern about the role of the "professional" in family support when they refer to a participant at one of their workshops who declares: "The word 'empowerment' and the word 'professional' must not be used in the same sentence--the two are in absolute contradiction!" (p. 1).
Dunst, Trivette, and Hamby (1996) report on a new paradigm in family-centred programs labeled a consumer-driven model. The traditional human service worker-client relationships tend to emphasize the inadequacy of the client, thereby increasing the dependence of the client on the help-giver. The new paradigm involves consumers in the process and assumes their capability of making informed choices when given the necessary information, thereby strengthening the process and enhancing the competencies of individuals. Dunst et al. claim this is consistent with research showing that participatory experiences considered empowering are associated with an enhanced sense of self-efficacy and personal control.
Community-based capacity. On a positive note, governments are now freely admitting they do not have all the answers. There appears to be a trend for governments to recognize the strength of community-based organizations. In Newfoundland and Labrador, a recent task force report on community development paved the way for the establishment of community-based economic boards throughout the province (Task Force on Community Economic Development, 1995). It should be noted that family support groups operate within the orbit of these economic boards and, consequently a key strategic goal for these boards is to cause an increase in public participation and community education efforts. There is a real opportunity to capitalize on this political acknowledgment and to help prepare rural communities and individuals in rural communities to take back the responsibility and control many individuals and communities have allowed central governments to usurp. There is concern that with devolution of responsibility from central governments to community-based groups, some organizations lacking capacity will have difficulty dealing with this obligation. Lovett, Clarke, and Kilmurray (1983) caution:
Even if such community control is possible the emphasis on "education for change" often ignores the essentially political nature of many of the problems and issues facing adults today, defining them instead in terms of "the disadvantaged"...The danger here is that adult education organizations and institutions will operate as socialization agencies in much the same way as formal schooling. (p. 1)
This caution raises two questions: Is the community-based organization prepared to advocate, mobilize, organize, or merely provide a service in government's stead? How do community-based organizations prepare to practice empowering processes?
Tools for building capacity. In an attempt to increase my awareness of the level of empowering processes in practice within family support programs I surveyed reports and literature of Canadian and American experiences, as well as conducted intensive conversations with a number of proponents of these programs. This is a quest not unlike Myles Horton's search of a model to help his Ozone Project. This survey included the Daybreak Parent Child Centre program in St. John's, Newfoundland (referenced earlier). Schorr (1989) outlines a number of social interventions designed to improve the life chances of children born into disadvantaged circumstances. Parent Time Curriculum Guide: A Learning Activities Guide for the Pace Family Literacy Program (Cramer, 1991) from the American Family Resource Coalition provides learning activities designed to practice family life skills. Many of the activities in this program are participatory and are adapted from popular education workbooks and stress communication and problem-solving. I read Kuyek's (1992) Fighting For Hope: Organizing to Realize our Dreams and the report of the federally funded program she is involved with in Sudbury, Ontario, Better Beginnings, Better Futures Project: Model, Program and Research Review (Peters & Russell, 1994). The 1, 2, 3, Go! Program (Bastien & Plante, 1995) from Montreal is attempting to mobilize people in neighbourhoods to participate in programs that focus on the young and their parents. The Laidlaw Foundation's Improving the Life Prospects of Children: A Community Systems Approach (Shields, 1994) and its application to the Waterloo Region's Community Action Program for Children also provides particular insight into collaborative approaches to improve the well-being of children. Speaking for Ourselves (MacLeod, 1996) is a series of workshops designed to help everyone get more involved in the St. John's and District Brighter Futures Coalition and programs. Speaking for Ourselves provided me with the elements of a strategic planning process. In addition, I networked with a number of colleagues who run programs across Canada.
Even though family resource programs are by their nature participatory, this survey confirms for me that without intentional intervention to engage participants, family resource programs will remain more closely aligned with what Kahn (1997) identifies as the service provider, rather than the organizing end of the spectrum associated with greater degrees of participation, involvement, and empowerment.
The next section demonstrates that participatory and popular education techniques, generally associated with the field of adult education and social development, have applicability to the family resource movement and in particular can assist community-based programs in their move along the continuum from service to organizing (Kahn, 1997).
Organizing for Social Change
Having reviewed the literature on adult education for social change, and despite the fact the family support movement has clearly grown out of the social development tradition, I find that there is still a need to strengthen links between adult educators and people who work in family support settings. My review of the literature confirms that adult education can indeed make a significant contribution to the contemporary family resource movement. In particular, the concepts of adult education associated with empowerment and participation have direct applicability to transforming family resource programs from simply being a service provider. In this section I review the literature associated with various research paradigms and methodologies. I then review participatory practices that employ methodologies more concerned with people and their participation rather than employing methods of the more traditional positivist paradigm.
The traditional paradigm associated with research is positivist in nature; it emphasizes an empirical and analytical form of inquiry. Schroeder (1997) and Smith, Willms, and Johnson (1997) note that this traditional paradigm assumes objectivity, neutrality of values, and separation of researcher and subject being researched. In addition, under this paradigm, researchers compartmentalize research and action and see no obligation to apply the results of the research to action. The paradigm furthermore assumes, in the interest of objectivity, nonparticipation by those being researched and, as Schroeder comments, leaves "the entire research project in control of the researcher" (p. 43). Such research by its nature, then, seeks not to educate or empower the marginalized who are the objects of the research.
In reaction to the limitations of this traditional approach, alternative participatory approaches within a "liberatory" (Smith et al., 1997, p. 181) paradigm begin to emerge, enabling communities to become more involved in the development process. As Tandon (1988) notes, it is the "critique of the classical research methodology which led to the coining of the phrase 'participatory research' as an alternative research methodology" (p. 6). My review of literature within the liberatory perspective indicates the use of the term participatory research to describe this process of "alternative, popular system of knowledge production" (Tandon, p. 6). These participatory approaches (including popular education and participatory research) collaboratively contribute to the creation of knowledge and draw their inspiration from Freire (Cunningham, 1996; Reason, 1994; Selman et al., 1998). Although the ideology of these approaches is similar, it is necessary to determine the methods each approach uses. I initially reviewed this literature in order to determine the most relevant methods to use in my study of a community-based organization working for social change in rural Newfoundland communities.
Hall (1993) credits Marja Lissa Swantz with first coining the phrase participatory research as an approach brought forward by a research team she was associated with in Tanzania. Many adult educators continue to experiment with and write about participatory research and its increasing applicability to issues of social change in the developed world (e.g., Gaventa, 1988; Park, Brydon-Miller, Hall, & Jackson, 1993; Reason, 1994; Smith et al., 1997; Whitmore, 1994). Participatory research turns the assumptions of the positivist paradigm on its head. A main objective of participatory research is to enable the poor to generate knowledge and thereby control it (Cervinskas & Baldwin, 1991). A similar point is made by Gaventa (1991) when he notes that in the participatory research process "research is viewed not only as a means of creating knowledge; it is simultaneously a tool for education and development of consciousness as well as mobilization for action" (pp. 121-122). Hall (1993) says that participatory research is a process of popular participation combining the three activities of research, education, and action, rather than isolating these processes in the traditional manner. Participatory research is not value neutral, reduces the control of "the expert," does not separate the researcher and the subject, and is a people-centered process (Schroeder, 1997). According to Friedman (1987), participatory research's combination of reflection and action to generate learning and doing is rooted in the pragmatic philosophy of Dewey. Participatory research, with its emphasis on consciousness raising is very Freirian in approach. Park (1993) sees participatory research as a
self-conscious way of empowering people to take effective action toward improving conditions in their lives...a means of putting research capabilities in the hands of the deprived and disenfranchised people so that they can transform their lives for themselves. (p. 1)
Reason (1994) admits that although participatory research is probably the most widely practiced collaborative research approach, it is easier to describe its ideology than its methodology. For methodology participatory research utilizes an array of research techniques, many of which are infrequently used in the empirical-analytical method of producing knowledge. Its emphasis is on qualitative data collection; this practice focuses on those methods that engage people in researching, analyzing, and understanding their individual and collective realities. Consequently, these methods allow a community to transform itself through research. Conti, Counter, and Paul (1991) note:
Transformative research is the process of generating knowledge for the purpose of transforming social problems. In fulfilling its goals of self-determination, social change and individual and community empowerment, transformative research is guided by praxis rather than by the canons of traditional research. (p. 31)
Participatory research methods are by their nature largely determined by the context of the community in which they are practiced. Hall (1996) notes that, because of the need to construct knowledge in the local context, participatory research has "no methodological orthodoxies, no cook-book approaches to followissues and ways of working should flow from those involved and their context. In practice a creative and very wide variety of approaches have been used" (p. 189). He explains that methods are selected based on their appropriateness for drawing out local knowledge and facilitating research. Methods include community meetings, video, photo-novels, drawings, oral history, storytelling, and shared testimonies. Although these methods vary because of differing local circumstances, it is possible to identify a number of characteristics that participatory research efforts have in common. As described by Cervinskas and Baldwin (1991), the approach is problem-centered and action-oriented, the process is collaborative, the researcher has a subjective commitment, and people's knowledge is respected. In summary, in order to apply participatory research to local circumstances, the adult educator must adopt a new way of looking at how research reveals the world.
Popular education is a form of adult education that seeks social transformation through non-formal grassroots initiatives. Closely associated with Paulo Freire, popular education has its roots in Latin and Central America and, according to Selman et al. (1998), the term popular education is becoming more widely used in Canada by those involved with social action and social change. Kerka (1997) describes the popular education process: "beginning with people's experience, the community initiates problem identification; then they reflect on and analyze the problem, broadening it from local to global in order to develop theory; next, participants plan and carry out action for change" (p. 1). This process is similar to the research-education-action activities of participatory research, which Cunningham (1996) claims is a form of popular education. Popular education, because it is based in the community, takes on a diversity of forms (Kerka) including drawing extensively on popular culture. Like participatory research, popular education, because of this community context, uses method and technique that "flow from those involved and their context" (Hall, 1996, p. 189). Cunningham (1996) in her commentary on popular education notes that "there is no one methodology. This is because popular education is always contextualized and action must be organically related to the context" (p. 57).
Selman et al. report that "those who are looking to learning as the basis of a revival of a more meaningful democratic citizenship in our society are focussing on the local community and the small group as a setting for learning" (p. 418) and in these settings, in the name of popular education, they utilize "highly participational educational methods" (p. 388). Beder (1996) points out that popular education is becoming commonly used by community-based organizations because it is in harmony with their ideology of effecting social change and promoting social justice.
The North American Alliance for Popular and Adult Education provides a network for popular educators in Canada. This network, along with others involved in Environmental and Popular Education, conducts programs in keeping with popular education theories and methodologies (Clover, 1995; Clover, Follen, & Hall, 1998). Other Canadian popular educators (e. g., those involved with Gatt-Fly, 1983) point out that the struggle for social justice must involve "empowerment of people so that they might participate in shaping their own future" (p. 8). Gatt-Fly has developed the Ah-hah Seminar, designed to engage people to act in their own interest. The seminar methodology includes drawing for the purpose of discussion and record keeping, beginning with the participants' own experience. This approach to dialogue mirrors Freire's approach to participatory education. The Ah-hah seminar is an organizing tool designed to encourage action. An action plan is developed in the form of strategies. The role of the facilitator is initially to spark discussion; the animator then becomes one of the participants. Hope, Timmel and Hodzi (1995) also provide a series of techniques for the popular educator, including the development of generative themes in doing a community survey; making posters, plays, and other problem-posing materials; exercises for developing trust; and other methods which reflect Freire's approach to transformation. Commonly used methods include workshops, community meetings, fact-finding tours, retreats, popular theatre, and group discussions--all of which provide opportunities for people to learn from each other, to become aware of mutual problems, and to engage in collective problem solving.
Increasingly, groups involved in community planning use participatory processes that reflect popular education and participatory research techniques. Forester (1999) describes planning as a process that includes community members and researchers collaborating "to generate research questions, approaches, and new understandings" (p. 123). Although solutions are arrived at through this action research process, Forester is equally interested in the ability of community members to sustain the process beyond the initial phase. Kretzman and McKnight (1993) concern themselves with the capacity of communities. They introduce techniques such as asset-mapping to deliver individual and organizational capacity for community building. Kaner (1996) describes participatory practice as more than solving a problem or creating a plan, it is "an opportunity to support profound personal learning, andto strengthen the capacity and effectiveness of the group as a whole" (p. xvi).
Forester (1999) creates participatory encounters to provide the infrastructure for planning, but he cautions that they will not work and participatory decision-making will fail if other factors are not taken care of. These include an agreed sense of rules, ensured safety and trust, sense of structure and process, protocols for turn-taking, and agreement on appropriate and inappropriate action. Kaner (1996) also includes this point among his list of group norms that distinguish participatory approaches from conventional approaches. Forester uses what he calls participatory rituals, which are
encounters that enable participants to develop more familiar relationships or to learn about one another before solving the problems they face--for example, the informal drink before negotiations; the meals during the focussed workshops; the small break-out groups complementing plenary problem-solving; early story-telling phases of mediation processes. (pp. 131-132)
He believes that these techniques reflect participatory values of practice that lead to a shared sense of responsibility.
Another important principle that needs to be explored for participatory planning is the use of needs assessment in contrast to the use of an asset-based approach to program development (e.g., Kretzman & McKnight, 1993). The concept of need appears to be central to program planning. As Boone (1992) points out, most adult educators recognize the importance of working with the target group to collaboratively identify, assess, and analyze the educational needs of the learners. Vella (1994) asks how educators listen to adult learners in order to ensure that their themes are heard and respected. In answering her question she reflects on Horton's experience of going to the miners, listening to them, going back, and teaching them what he heard. She claims that with this action he did a needs assessment. Hamilton (1992) notes that, despite all the attention given to the concept of need in planning formal adult education programming, there is little consensus on the concept. The discussion becomes even more complicated when the concept of need is applied to non-formal adult education. Hamilton (1992) and Collins (1991) draw attention to alternative approaches of program development employed by non-formal educators. Both these authors cite Freire and Horton and note that solutions to so-called problems become identified through posing questions and raising the consciousness of the learner. Although there are a diversity of approaches employed by non-formal educators, this approach of heightening the learners' sense of awareness is prevalent.
The formal educators' approach to program planning tends to view needs as deficits that require external assistance to remedy. Kretzman and McKnight (1993) reject this way of thinking and introduce an alternative process they term asset-based community development. This process advocates that a community map its assets, or "gifts" as they refer to it, then build on those assets by focusing internally and building relationships between and among its people and organizations. They call this process "building communities from the inside out." Similarly, Hamilton (1992) holds that "organizing the community for learning and action is a people-oriented process, designed to establish group identity and promote social change for the betterment of the people" (p. 67).
Another important aspect of participatory planning is the role of facilitator. Based on principles of empowerment is the recognition that, although expertise is required, it is imperative that the expert become the facilitator, thereby closing the gap between the "expert" and the people (Kyle & Kellerman, 1998). Vella (1994) suggests several principles that can close this distance and claims that, unless this distance is narrowed, the "dialogue limps" (p. xiv). This is precisely the point made by Horton about teachers needing to have the capacity to learn (Adams, 1975). McKnight (1995) is concerned that unless this shift occurs, the skills and capacity move away from community to the institutions that generally employ these experts. McKnight notes, "As institutions gain power, communities lose their potency and the consent of community is replaced by the control of systems; the care of community is replaced by the service of systems; the citizens of community are replaced by the clients and consumers of institutional products" (p. 168).
Chambers (1994) also questions the dominance of professionals associated with rural development. Chambers maintains that the "we" who call ourselves professionals are the problem. O'Gorman (1978) makes a similar point and suggests we (the professionals) should be our own "conscientizing agents" thereby changing the structures that are the source of disempowerment.
In order to change systems--replacing individualism with interdependence among people and organizations--adult educators and planners have developed deliberative processes to facilitate collaboration and participatory planning. Winer and Ray (1997) warn that within collaboration, "conflict is inevitable and, actually, highly desirable" (p. 76). In their collaboration handbook, Winer and Ray provide a number of alternatives for dealing with conflict. Those strategies include confronting the situation and working with disruptive members to resolve it; clarifying issues by recognizing where they come from; and creating a conflict resolution process that involves everyone. MacLeod (1996) provides activities for conflict management which focus on a number of goals: (a) to get everyone thinking about the cause of conflict, (b) to help everyone understand that conflict will come up in any group, and (c) to look at ways to manage conflict in a positive way. Kaner (1996) also suggests a number of exercises to build a shared framework of understanding. He claims that "when people misunderstand one another, their behaviour often becomes more confused, more impatient, more self-centred--more unpleasant all around" (p. 171). Kaner outlines a series of activities using interpersonal communication that help build mutual understanding and empathy for each other's position.
Winer and Ray (1997), likening collaboration to a journey, say "as we continue our journey, we need to shape our diverse opinions about communal benefits and separate self-interests into a specific vision. Then we can move in one direction, together" (p. 60).
Developing a common vision is the beginning of a strategic planning process utilized by many conventional adult educators; a mission statement is formulated from the visioning exercise and more specific goals, objectives, and activities are developed as a group exercise to reflect the mission statement. MacLeod (1996) combines this conventional strategic planning process with popular education techniques. This planning process, using popular education methodology, is designed by MacLeod specifically for the family resource context.
Another dimension to participatory planning is to examine "why participants either do or do not apply what they have learned as a result of attending educational programs" (Caffarella, 1994, p. 110). One of the key factors influencing transfer of learning is organizational context, the value organizations give to ongoing learning and support to programs. It is important to choose transfer strategies that enable participants to employ what they have learned within their organizations (Caffarella). Vella, Berardinelli, and Burrow (1998) discuss the sequential nature of anticipated changes as a result of a program. This sequence ranges from immediate changes in the skills, knowledge, and attitudes of the individual, to intermediate and applied changes, through to impact that "is long-term, broad, and focused on the organization" (p. 39).
Theoretical Framework Derived from the Literature
To understand participatory practices and their application within adult education, it is necessary to comprehend the linkages between education for social change and practices associated with community education and community development. Here I provide a theoretical framework that I have extracted from the literature.
I began with an analysis of the purpose of adult education and an exploration of the tensions that exist within the field, then I examined the philosophical underpinnings of education for social change and action. A search for common ground between adult education and community development, although revealing tensions, does provide a guide to transference of practice from one to the other, especially the themes of collaboration and partnership building, knowledge and skills acquisition, community action, and social justice. Although Dewey's philosophy lacks the activism and social criticism often inherent in community education principles and practices, community education is traced back to Dewey and the progressive education movement and its focus on life-centered education and democracy in community. These ideas of democracy, citizenship, and participation are fundamental to adult education and, although the terminology differs somewhat, have much in common as well with community development.
Clarification of social change within the field of education results from an analysis of the philosophical orientations of Horton and Freire. Both adult educators focus on participatory methods as a means by which the field of education can empower the poor and oppressed and thereby become an agent for social change.
The family resource movement in Canada has its antecedents in similar social traditions of adult education. The tensions within adult education and between it and community development are somewhat reflected within family support programs. A resolution of the conflict is possible by applying principles broadly associated with empowerment to the family resource movement. Participatory research and popular education are embedded in empowerment and the social development tradition. The application of participatory methodologies to community has the power to transform participatory principles and theories into a synthesis of research, education, and action thereby creating the climate for social change. A commitment to social change and justice provides the common bond linking adult education, community development, community education, the family resource movement, and participatory practice.
In the next chapter, I describe activities associated with the study related to developing participatory practice and grassroots leadership development. In the design, planning, and implementation of the study, I apply the theory and concepts from this literature review, thereby enhancing my understanding of this theory and improving my participatory practice as an adult educator.
DESCRIPTION OF THE STUDY
The literature review provided me with a framework, both theoretical and practical, for the design, plan, and implementation of my study. This chapter documents the study I carried out in two phases during 1996-1997. The first phase of the study was a series of participatory workshops carried out with parents/caregivers representing a network of 11 family resource centres. The second phase, building on the first phase workshops, comprised participatory planning sessions involving the original participants, additional parent representatives, and stakeholders from partnering agencies. I describe the background context of the study, the design, planning, and implementation processes, and the outcomes.
In participatory research the context is part of the whole; thus the background leading up to the study and the context in which it was developed are intrinsic components of this study. The context not only describes the circumstances prerequisite for the intervention undertaken in the study, but it also describes my personal and professional continuum of learning.
The first time I heard of a family resource centre was in 1991 when a young mother looking to develop a centre in the largest community in the region came to discuss family resource centres with me in my role as Coordinator of the Community Futures Committee.
The same year, a consultant from the Economic Recovery Commission helped facilitate the establishment of the organization for which I now work, the Community Education Network (CEN). CEN is an alliance of organizations working toward social and economic change through educational initiatives in this region based on the principles of community education.
Given the priority placed on early childhood development within the holistic model developed by CEN, family resource seemed like a natural fit as a mechanism to support families in this region. Thus, during the early phase of family resource development, I began to network and met with a number of resource people who could potentially play a role in my learning and in the development of CEN, including its family resource programming. I developed these networks through conferences, meetings, and membership in organizations such as the Newfoundland and Labrador Association for Adult Education, the Canadian Association for Community Education, and The Canadian Association of Toy Lending Libraries and Family Resource Centres, now known as the Canadian Association of Family Resource Programs (FRP-Canada). I visited a number of school-based family resource centres, sponsored by the North York Board of Education in Ontario, and was provided with a concrete example of partnership among school, community, and family support programs.
Mentors with experience in family resource centres, community education, and community development also helped and I became more aware of the links between adult education and these practices. Recognition of these connections enabled me to tap into the wealth of experience and literature inherent in these practices. The germination of this study flows directly from this critical consciousness.
In order to increase my awareness of empowering processes within family resource programs I surveyed a number of reports and documents discussed as tools for building capacity in the literature review. This survey provided me with participatory activities adapted from popular education workbooks, information on models of collaboration, and elements of a strategic planning process.
During this early period, CEN decided to establish a pilot family resource centre in a community with many high-risk factors, while continuing to pursue major funding so as to establish a network of family resource centres throughout southwestern Newfoundland. A school board, which was a founding member of CEN, offered space in the elementary school for this purpose. This presented us with an opportunity to establish a family resource centre within a school, not unlike the centres I had visited in North York. It made sense, then, that CEN would explore this option for the pilot family resource centre.
Through my networks with FRP-Canada and their regional development project, I engaged facilitators with a background in the family resource movement and with a commitment to participatory practice. I organized a series of community meetings attended by parents and community agencies and, in this manner, we developed the concept and established our first school-based family resource centre.
The Community Action Committee
The potential to develop a network of centres throughout the region emerged with the announcement in 1993 of the Community Action Program for Children, a federal program to fund early childhood initiatives for at-risk families with children up to 6 years of age. After extensive lobbying and discussions with other organizations, Health Canada invited CEN, along with the local Coalition to End Violence to submit a funding proposal. The invitation was based on criteria such as regional socio-economic indicators and local organizational capacity. In order to meet program guidelines we formed a new organization, Community Action Committee (CAC).
CAC developed a proposal to establish a network of some 11 school-based family resource centres in the area of my study. In support of this proposal, CAC held a number of community organizational meetings but, in the end, the proposed programming and objectives for the centres were essentially a replication of the pilot model. The proposal, approved in April 1994, provided funding for staffing and program development for a period of 3 years. The proposal outlined a plan to develop a network of satellite sites, along a hub model with shared administration and support from one central location, where CAC would be headquartered.
We had proposed that the organization have an overall steering committee that would eventually have representative parents from each of the centres working side by side with representatives of supporting agencies such as Health, Social Services, and Education. This larger group would meet quarterly and provide broad policy direction. A smaller Working Group would meet more frequently and provide guidance dealing with day-to-day issues. This Working Group represented parents and community organizations from within the family resource development catchment area.
CAC People Helping People
Quarterly Meetings (Parents)
CAC - Working Group
(Parents and Family serving agencies)
Parent Advisory Committees
Figure 1: Community Action Committee Governance Model
CAC - Community Action Committee
CEN Roundtable - Community Education Network
FRP - Family Resource Program
As Director of CEN, I was actively involved with both the Steering Committee and the Working Group of CAC since family resource development was viewed as an integral part of the community education model. Our two organizations (CEN and CAC) continued to work together and, in many cases, the activities and responsibilities became seamless. For example, in a Youth Service Canada project, CEN hired a coordinator and 18 youth to work with CAC staff and parents on family support programming. Both CEN and CAC are members of FRP-Canada and I sit on the board of that organization.
The Working Group hired two staff members to work for CAC and to begin the implementation this proposed hub model. One of them, the program coordinator, in addition to having functional and program responsibilities, was responsible for community and public relations. CAC viewed this need to properly interpret the family resource program to community and to listen to community in a respectful way as a key aspect of the coordinator's work. The primary responsibility of the other staff member, an early childhood resource worker, was to work closely with parent advisory committees for each centre to plan effective developmental programming for children and families, in accordance with the project's stated purpose.
Despite the large geographic area and the fact that in this area the concept of family resource was little known, the Working Group of CAC consciously hired only two staff members. This was because we were very cognizant of the need to engage local people in developing their own programming and services, rather than the community having yet another service delivered to them. We were concerned that we would create dependency. By hiring few staff, the Working Group hoped that parental ownership and control of their centres would be encouraged from the beginning. The role of the staff was more to empower parents to run their own centres rather than to run the centres for them. In a developmental phase, there is always a fine line between providing direct service and the need to nurture empowering organizational support. It was a continuous struggle for the Working Group and staff of CAC to find the right balance among the strategies for change: service, advocacy, mobilization, and organization (see Kahn, 1997).
By the fall of 1995, CAC had made significant progress in meeting its objectives. In fact, 10 of the proposed 11 school-based sites were operational. However, there was concern about levels of participation and the impact low participation would have on issues of ownership and sustainability. The Working Group decided that a special intervention was necessary, and I was seconded from CEN to CAC to take on this project. As I had a personal and professional interest in citizen participation and leadership development, this intervention promised to provide me with a particularly interesting challenge. This intervention became the practice dimension of my study.
At the same time that CAC was in the process of hiring staff for the family resource network, I was embarking on further graduate studies. I had been accepted into the Master in Adult Education program at St. Francis Xavier University. I intended to inform my work in community development and community education by exploring the field of adult education and relating that knowledge to my work. The self-directed approach of the program allowed me to explore different aspects of the field and to develop specific skills related to my work in the field. The study I was seconded to design and implement was an ideal fit with the area and aspect of the learning goal I had identified during the orientation at St. Francis Xavier.
I designed this study to build on work in progress with the following outcomes anticipated: (a) a more active, confident, and competent volunteer group; (b) a current inventory of community resources related to children and parents; (c) an action plan to implement the community plan; (d) increased activities at centres; and (e) a process handbook developed collectively by the participants.
The Design Process
In the design process, I utilized both secondary sources (literature review) and primary sources (knowledgeable individuals and networking opportunities). I decided, in designing the process, that it was important to conduct research on the aspect of participation and motivation of adults within the community and organizational context.
My literature review quickly led me to participatory research and popular education practices and principles. I was interested in finding out more about techniques and methodologies I could use to address the challenge I was faced with, namely to design a process to increase the involvement of parents and their participation in programs and in the governance of those programs in family resource centres. The study was designed to increase participation in family resource programs and to assist a community-based, publicly-funded group in moving from being predominantly a provider of service to becoming an organization for social change that has the program participants involved in that change. The challenges of closing the gap between service provision and organizing are identified by Kahn (1997).
Although I did find some literature on empowerment in family support, I found very little on specific techniques or practical interventions used in such settings. I then turned to the adult education literature on popular education and participatory practice to provide guidance on techniques and methods I could use in my study. To gain a sense of practice in participatory research and popular education, I consulted a number of popular education workbooks and manuals (e.g., Arnold, Barndt & Burke, 1985; Arnold et al., 1991; Gatt-Fly, 1983; Hope, Timmel & Hodzi, 1995; Srinivasan, 1993). These gave me a good overview of popular education approaches in Canada and Central America. I learned about contemporary projects at the Highlander Research and Education Center by reviewing working papers such as those written by Lewis and Gaventa (1990). A review of study circles (Topsfield Foundation, 1993) gave me insight about methodology inspired by the Scandinavian folk school tradition and now applied to developing democratic practice in North America.
Park et al. (1993) provided good examples of participatory research projects and stories from the field, as did Vella (1994). I reviewed contemporary practice in asset-based community development, best exemplified by the work of Kretzman and McKnight (1993). This also supplied me with a sound alternative to needs assessment. All of these materials provided insight into participatory and popular education practice and started to confirm for me that the values and philosophical orientation inherently associated with such practice were applicable to the design of my study.
As well, a number of people working in the family resource movement and child advocacy in the United States and Canada, notably among them Dunst and Trivette (1996), have written about processes in their fields which are congruent with empowerment. In Canada, innovative practices in early childhood prevention and early childhood intervention programs include the Community Systems Approach (Shields, 1994) associated with the Laidlaw Foundation and 1, 2, 3, Go! in Montreal. 1, 2, 3 Go! (Bastien & Plante, 1995) is a neighbourhood intervention using a problem-solving approach emphasizing community mobilization and support. The Better Beginnings, Better Futures project (Peters & Russell, 1994) in Ontario is committed to long-term research and recommends the significant involvement of parents and communities as an important part of the model. As well, it was evident from my contact with the Daybreak Parent-Child Centre (1994) in St. John's, Newfoundland, that their approach is based on an empowerment model which respects parents' role in their children's life.
At the same time I was undertaking the review of the literature, I was fortunate in having personal contact with people involved with various aspects of the field of adult education, notably Budd Hall, Gordon and Mark Selman, Michael Welton, and Paul Dampier, all of whom I met attending Canadian Association for the Study of Adult Education (CASAE) conferences. I also attended two workshops, which helped reinforce the approach I was considering for my project. The first of these was a full-day institute held in conjunction with the Newfoundland and Labrador Association for Adult Education annual general meeting and facilitated by Richard Cawley of Concordia University. Using McKnight's community capacity materials, he facilitated a planning process of mapping our resources, and inclusion in communities. At a Health Promotion Workshop shortly thereafter, the facilitator of that workshop advocated the McKnight approach to community planning.
My research into citizen participation connected me to friends and colleagues across the country. These included people like Kuyek (1992), MacLeod (1996), and others who had been involved in grassroots community organizing such as Rabinowitz (1994), and Shields (1994), who promotes the community systems approach, emphasizing community capacity versus community need.
Informed by my reading and personal interaction, everything indicated I was prepared to begin the design of the process. I shared the idea for the study with colleagues who had kindly agreed to be sounding boards for my graduate work and prepared a proposal for the Working Group of CAC, the group which provided the initial instigation for the project. With some modifications, I prepared a proposal entitled People Helping People: A Community Leadership Program for Health Canada as an addendum to our original CAC Workplan. It was approved and this proposal was the basis for planning the process.
Planning the Process
I worked closely with the Working Group to plan the process at this stage. The Working Group was made up of six members, two parent representatives and four community agency representatives, along with the Coordinator of CAC and myself (representing CEN). The parent representatives were confident and comfortable with their role as members of the group. The first step in this process, which I facilitated, was to establish the following set of goals: (a) to build a team of community leaders; (b) to explore the concept of a community systems approach; (c) to apply the concept to each community and its family resource centre; (d) using this approach, to develop a plan for each community; and (e) to document the process for each community. Although these were the goals agreed upon by the Working Group, we were cognizant that the larger participant body needed to have input.
I continued my research and literature review and at the same time I met with the staff of CAC to explain the process we were proposing and to invite their input. With the addition of two outreach workers, the staff complement of CAC had expanded to four.
The CAC Coordinator then accompanied me to meetings, which she had arranged with all ten parent advisory committees. We explained to each group that we were putting together a Planning Committee of CAC to meet, develop, and explore ideas and actions to raise awareness and increase participation in local family resource centres. The general consensus confirmed that the goals developed by the Working Group for this project were valid and there was a need for action.
We invited volunteers to commit to meeting for 1 day per week over a minimum 6-week period. We offered to provide childcare and transportation as well as a small stipend to cover incidental costs. Response was not always immediate and therefore it was necessary for me to make numerous follow-up telephone calls before we got the commitment of a representative group.
When the sessions began in late February 1996, each participant received written correspondence in advance as well as a telephone reminder. Although the numbers varied, each session averaged 17 parent participants, with most centres sending 2 participants. In fact, although we appreciated the enthusiasm, we had to limit participants from one centre to 4 because we could not accommodate the numbers, (8) who wanted to come.
I anticipated the first day was going to be critical because the outcome of that day would determine how this whole process would evolve. I pulled out all the stops (or attempted to). First of all, I chose a central location for the sessions. Because of the large geography of the study region, some participants had to drive for 1.5 hours after their children had been delivered to the local school. The setting had to be pleasant and comfortable and hence I chose a lovely country inn that was exclusively ours for the day. Although it was finely appointed, it was not intimidating--a detail I had taken into consideration. People had to get there and they had to feel safe and comfortable.
Now, what would we do the first day? People needed to get to know each other and begin to work like a team. In the end, I invited two co-workers at CEN to help me create a participatory atmosphere. We planned for several days focusing on content, welcoming, and icebreaker activities.
Although this study has two phases, I originally planned to have only one phase--a series of participatory workshops and community action. As the actual workshop process evolved in phase I, the parent participants determined that a further phase was required. The initial four workshops and the 2 weeks of community action, from February to April 1996, I have termed Phase 1. The five planning sessions, held from May 1996 to March 1997, I have termed Phase 2. In the spirit of participatory practice, I planned the content only for the first workshop in Phase 1, and invited the participants and the facilitators to design the content for the remainder of Phase 1.
Phase 1 Implementation Process
Phase 1 consisted of four workshops and 2 weeks of community action which took place between February and April 1996. I facilitated the workshops with the assistance of three colleagues, the CAC Coordinator and two co-workers from CEN.
Raising Awareness and Increasing Participation - Workshop 1
For the first workshop 12 parents attended, representing six communities. One of those communities did not yet have a family resource centre. This difference became an irritating side issue during the course of the sessions because the representatives from that community, rather than focusing with the other members of the workshop group on how participation and involvement could be increased, were preoccupied with the fact that they did not even have a centre. Although understandable, their behaviour was somewhat disruptive. Early in the day, when this disruptive difference became obvious, my three co-facilitators and I conferred about it. We decided that these participants' continued interaction with parents from other centres might be mutually beneficial, so we encouraged them to stay as part of the group.
Two members of the group were bilingual. There are several francophone communities in the region and use of French versus English language in these communities has been an issue. The family resource centre is seen as a prime location for young children to hear and learn to speak French, a language once widely spoken in those communities and only now being revived. But many of the parents do not or cannot speak French and therefore the issue as to whether there should be English language print materials in the centre or whether the staff need to be bilingual continues to cause friction.
Of the 12 participants, half were single parents. All of them were primarily stay-at-home moms, with the exception of two who worked occasionally in the medical field. Most of the 12 were young parents in their early 20s and, although most had finished high school, few had gone on to post-secondary institutions. As is the case in most rural Newfoundland communities, some of them had "been away," their partners were working away, or they had plans to relocate in the future. Nearly half of the participants were on social assistance.
They had lived up to their initial commitment to attend this first workshop. As facilitator, one of my first tasks was to ensure everyone clearly understood what needed to be accomplished during this process and to help the participants find a way to do this together. While planning the workshops, I had worried that the group might be non-responsive. However, these fears proved groundless as they quickly got to know one another; instead my challenge was to keep them focused on the specific task at hand. Together, we developed rules to ensure respect for everyone in the process. They were very enthused about sharing experiences and had lots of fun doing so. For many of them, this was a day for themselves. They were, however, very committed to their family resource centre and wanted to see it grow and flourish along with their children.
Along with my two co-workers, we also included the CAC Coordinator as a co-facilitator. Of these three individuals, two were married, university-educated females, familiar with group facilitation. The third was a younger, single mother from a rural community who had become empowered because of opportunities she was able to take advantage of in the community. She now worked with CEN and her empathy with participants in the study was a valuable asset. The involvement of the CAC Coordinator in this process was important for two reasons. The participants' familiarity with the coordinator provided them with a level of comfort, and the coordinator contributed to sustainability of the process after this intervention.
We all played a role. My two "get-to-know-you" facilitators created their share of levity, whereas the CAC coordinator and I dealt with content. The content included visioning, the concept of community gifts (see Kretzman & McKnight, 1993), and motivation.
Common vision. The getting-to-know-you activities moved the discussion beyond the personal to differences and commonalities characteristic of their centres. The participants listed the things they had in common: school-based family resource centres, interest in encouraging others to become active in family resource programming and responsibilities, similar toys and materials, involvement of grandparents in the centres, as well as some male partners. Their centres were all well-decorated, carpeted, and had few appliances. As for their differences, they reported that accessibility varied; some centres had Preschool and Kindergarten involvement/interaction, whereas others did not; community response and involvement varied across centres; some centres had special events, and others did not.
To build a common vision among the group, we discussed the question: "In a perfect world, what would your family resource centre look like?" The common themes that everyone agreed to were as follows: a family gathering place; the whole community; a community centre with everyone helping, everyone benefiting; focal point for coordination of family activities; freedom to come and go (i.e., good accessibility); good resources; a playground; a craft centre; a comfortable sitting area; and happy people. A common question in this vision was, "How do we give people reason for coming?"
Community gifts. Another commonality was their dislike of the word resource because it had bureaucratic overtones, was removed from their experience, and was not weighed with any emotional meaning. They much preferred the Kretzman and McKnight (1993) use of gift and they jokingly began to refer to the centres as family gift centres. Given our common vision, we then examined by community the gifts that could support this vision. For institutions (using the Kretzman & McKnight categories), people identified churches, schools, Public Health, the Department of Social Services, and bingo. Yes, they identified bingo games as ideal locations to advertise and raise awareness. It should be noted that bingo is one of the prime sources of entertainment in rural Newfoundland, not to mention a source of funds for community services. The other institutions were seen as supports for advertising and awareness. Schools and their resources were an obvious gift when the school board was providing free space and use of the facility. They felt the centres were primary locations for public health nurses to provide wellness clinics and health promotion materials. Nurses as well as social workers could hold workshops at the centres. They also identified individuals such as grandparents and musicians as community resources to the centres. Traditional music and storytelling are part of the culture of this region, and people agreed that the family resource centre is a good place to keep this tradition alive. They identified associations such as the Women's Institute, local francophone associations, and the Knights of Columbus among those that could play a supportive role to the family resource centre. They also saw local businesses and the media as community gifts.
Motivation. One of the groups' tasks was trying to determine how to motivate other community members. The group began this task by examining what had motivated them to become involved with their family resource centres. We co-facilitators asked that question and got the following responses: "For the children"; "so the children could interact with other children"; "talking to other mothers was a bonus"; "I was drafted, known as a school volunteer"; "to get out of the house"; "different environment"; "something for the children to do"; "friends went"; "neutral meeting place". These were all valid reasons why anyone would become involved and were very useful points that they, in turn, could begin to incorporate into their plan of action for motivating other parents and caregivers in their communities.
We asked other questions: Are you finding what you hoped for? How satisfying do you find the experience of going to the centre? Why do you continue to go? How could the centre be better for you? All of these questions provided the opportunity for each participant to be reflective and share those thoughts with the group, reconfirming many common themes they could turn into actions.
The process was becoming a very inclusive "ours" and, in true participatory style, the participants of the workshop set the tone for the rest of the activities. Thus, rather than training, as the Working Group had originally termed it, the process became one of sharing and learning from each other. The participants were doing the research. I encouraged them to use a number of popular education tools to facilitate their learning. Each of them developed a personal contract, which included research and action that they would undertake in their own communities. As well, they each took home a journal for personal reflection on their learning process. As a group we were off to a good start! We had many plans for the coming weeks and months, starting with a tour of a family resource centre in the southwestern extremity of the region as part of our next workshop.
From Talk to Action Workshop 2
A bus picked up participants from four communities, joined the remainder of the parents and facilitators in the central town and we all proceeded together to the site of our visit. The process picked up immediately where we had left it the week before with lots of levity and banter. The bus driver jumped right into the revelling. Then we met up with participants from a community located near our visit site in the extreme southwestern part of the region. We were joined by a number of parents who were hosting the event, including some who joined us in the planning process. This was the first time any of them had visited each other's centres, so there was great curiosity and enthusiasm in comparing various aspects of the learning centres and general set-up of the overall program.
We reviewed, in small groups, all the ideas generated from the week before and discussed how we could begin to put these ideas into practice. From these discussions, the larger group generated a list of 14 potential "doables," which they felt would help raise awareness and increase participation in family resource centres: survey families with young children in the community; telephone or personally contact all families with young children; plan a special event that has not been done before; survey people in your community to find out what workshops they want; name your centre; have a sign made to advertise your centre; listen for other programs people want, which you might coordinate (e.g., family fitness); hold a focus group session with your parent committee to review plans and actions; make a video; make a scrapbook; write your centre's story; design a brochure for your centre; write up an event you have success with so as to share with others; draw up a list of your community's gifts.
Consistent with participatory practice, we also generated a schedule of activities for the group for the next 4 weeks. This included 2 weeks of local community action during which parents would begin to work in their own communities and centres to implement some of the ideas generated. They also wanted to visit as many sites as possible. Therefore, a tour of the centres in the region was planned along with possible demonstrations such as a puppet show or skit. Such popular education techniques are consistent with culture in rural Newfoundland communities in which local entertainment is the norm. For the final week an action planning session was scheduled, thereby building on what we had done and developing strategies for a one-year period.
Among the supplies we provided for the participants were disposable cameras. Now, not only were they sharing ideas but they began to capture and share visual images, and at the same time began to develop a pictorial history of their particular centre. The ideas generated thus far indicated a need to catalogue and document these ideas. As a result, we purchased binders for each of the centres and participants began grouping activities and ideas in categories. These categories were: Community members, image of the centre, welcoming features of the centre, tools for awareness, events for participation, community gifts, and opportunities for feedback. A list of tasks corresponding to each of these categories was also developed. These tasks were meant as idea generators for the action the workshop participants would undertake in their communities. These binders would serve a dual purpose--as a permanent reference for new parents and caregivers and as a scrapbook chronicling the events and activities of the centre over the years.
As we were generating ideas in this community, parents from one of the other centres suggested a video might be a useful tool to raise awareness about family resource programs in the community. That particular centre is housed in a new community school, which has a state-of-the-art television studio and editing suite. A parallel project of CEN, called Communication for Survival, was in full swing at that time. The methodology of that project was participatory communications, very similar in nature to what we were doing.
After the workshop, I brought the parents from this community, who had suggested they would like to make their own video of their centre together with the two facilitators of the Communication for Survival project, who were delighted to work with the participants. During the summer and fall they went through all the stages of making a video and learned the skills as they went along. They developed the script, carried out interviews, and were interviewed themselves. They videotaped and they edited. They were very proud of the end product--a 10-minute video of their centre and the families who use it. They made it with the intention of using it as a promotional tool to encourage their friends and neighbours to visit the centre.
The video features the young children of the community and opens with a lively, raucous rendition of Frère Jacques. The children are singing and dancing and having a wonderful time. They are also dressed up in various costumes. The video profiles a number of centre activities including play, reading, and artwork. In the video the children talk about why they like to come to the centre, and these reasons are reflected in the video images. Parents take turns asking and answering the question why they like to come to the centre. The consensus seems to be, "The children love it." All of this adds up to the message that the family fun centre, as they call it, is the place for children to grow and learn and have fun. That is the message the participants want to bring to other parents and caregivers who are not utilizing the centre. This video is one tool to help them do that.
Local Community Action
Through their personal contracts, each individual participant had committed to doing some local action, putting into practice what we had been discussing. These commitments were both personal and community-focused. I spent this 2-week period organizing the next tour and visiting participants in their homes or the family resource centres and discussing their local action and projects. They continued to be enthused about the process and shared it with their local parent committees, which provided yet more feedback. They continued to write in their journals and began to build the binders we had provided. One woman wrote out the text of the Three Little Pigs, which they then used as a puppet show. Another woman wrote up the organizational steps required to put on a social event. Others concentrated on an advertising blitz in their community. Several centres experimented with different hours of operation. All tried a new technique or new idea that they had learned from others at the workshops.
My visits during this 2-week period provided support for these activities and an opportunity to give and get some feedback. As well, sometimes when participants got into trouble or had a disagreement over an action, I could help put out the fire. A friend once likened community development to "walking into a minefield. You don't know when something is going to blow up in your face." Family resource can be included in this metaphor. There are so many unknown factors that impact on people working together. Family and neighbourhood histories bring out all sorts of prejudices and rivalries. Interpersonal relations are even more sensitive when children are involved. People working in family resource programs need to have excellent people skills and be able to mediate interpersonal conflict, which inevitably arises in this type of community development process.
Raising Awareness Roadshow - Workshop 3
I organized a tour of centres on the Peninsula. This included four sites and proved to be a long day. Nevertheless, everyone was anxious to show off their centre, and there was lots of fun and food for all.
We had been encouraging media coverage of our activities and, at this point, there was talk of some CBC television coverage. That put everyone in a twitter; however, in the end, the CBC reporter we talked with did not feel it was a newsworthy story. We videotaped our own visits and, in some communities with community television programming, the parents showed the footage locally. The print media did run a number of stories. Some months later, the CBC did do a story on family resource programs in the area in conjunction with provincial social policy consultations.
Raising Awareness and Increasing Awareness--Action Planning--Workshop 4
This session focused on strengthening the work in progress in communities, exchanging experiences with implementing new ideas and strategies, and solving problems people were inevitably running into. This session was also a pivotal point in the process whereby we began to focus more on strategic planning for CAC and introduced the term strategies, which I described as naming an action to help achieve a priority (from MacLeod, 1996).
As a reinforcement to the work they had done and to place that work into a strategic plan format, I asked participants to work in small groups and to rewrite, as strategies, the ideas that they had generated around raising awareness and increasing participation. As with the program ideas for family resource programs, the strategies were grouped around the six categories used during the second workshop. The following is a list of strategies by category resulting from the small group exercise.
Who is in the community?
1. Develop a list of children in the community by having a group meeting (inviting those they know to be in the community) and by consulting with the public health nurse.
2. Develop a list of community gifts by determining what organizations, agencies, and individuals there are in the community (such as youth groups) and by identifying how these organizations can support your goals. For example, Girl Guides could help organize events as a community service, a retired nurse might want to volunteer to come in for a "health chat."
What is the image of the centre?
3. Create an image of the Family Resource Centre by stressing the importance of interaction and play for healthy child development, changing the name to be meaningful to people locally (e.g., Family Fun Centre), developing posters (or any message) that stresses free activities, advertising by word of mouth, holding special events, experimenting with different hours of operation, and by continuing to document all of these ideas in your centres's binder.
How do we get feedback?
4. Provide opportunities for people to give feedback by asking for it, doing evaluations (especially of workshops), doing surveys, having one-on-one discussions, giving time for verbal feedback at volunteer meetings, writing columns in newsletters such as the CAC bulletin or school news, and doing needs assessments.
Is the centre a welcoming place?
5. Make it a more welcoming place by changing the name "resource", having flexible hours (experiment with what suits the community), ensuring equality among the members, greeting and thanking people (especially new members), offering tea and coffee to parents, having individualized binders in each centre, using personalized invitations for activities (by telephone or word of mouth), and by having a welcoming sign outside the door.
What tools raise awareness?
6. Hold events which introduce people to the centre or which keep them coming back by determining what works in your community. Some examples are: puppet shows, workshops (e.g., Childsafe), parties for all occasions, storytime, and drop-in play.
7. Develop tools which you know work in your community. They could be videos, pictures and scrapbooks, media coverage, posters, and "working bulletins" (changing bulletin boards according to events).
What events could increase participation?
8. Determine what special events and parties are of interest to young children and families in your community by trying seasonal parties, theme days such as Cowboy Days and Pioneer Days, puppet shows and skits, and social teas and an open house.
9. Determine what activities and centres are of interest to young children and families in your communities by trying some of the following: painting area, sandbox, sliding area, outdoor play area, reading area, craft area, eating area, play kitchen, creative play area, and toddler corner.
10. Determine what programs and courses are of interest to people in your community. Possible ideas include: Nobody's Perfect, Childsafe, nutrition, first aid, reading circles, gym/fitness, "health chats" (e.g., stress, PMS, breastfeeding, blood pressure clinics, well-baby clinics), activity workshops (e.g., playdough, play on a budget), support groups, and child abuse.
What are the gifts in your community?
11. Identify who and what organizations in your community can support activities and events in your centre. Some examples are the public library (books and information), churches (announcements and advertising), Women's Institute (crafting), volunteers (support for each other), schools (centres themselves and other programming), businesses (small donations), youth groups (programming).
We also carried out a needs assessment on community skills and committed CAC to providing training in specific areas of interest throughout the year. Workshops on organizational skills were of particular interest. This being the last workshop, I thanked the participants and presented them with certificates of appreciation.
By this time, two important processes--phase 1 and an evaluation--which had been in full swing during the winter of 1996, were now converging. The first process, Phase 1 (the People Helping People workshops) was ending. The participants had enjoyed working together so much that they began to dread the end of the study. I had asked them to commit to only 6 weeks of research and the 6 weeks were almost up. From a group who had come together arbitrarily, the parents had now formed strong bonds and were united by their commitment to continue this activity in some manner. In fact, they were now calling themselves the Family Resource Centre Planning Group.
The second process, as part of the participatory internal and external evaluation of the Community Action Program for Children project, included the gathering and analysis of baseline data. The 3 years of funding for CAC would end as of March 1997. The evaluation would form the basis of a new funding proposal, with a plan of action for the years 1997 2000. All these issues needed to be addressed.
Call it serendipitous! With the convergence of these two processes, it became obvious that the now-proclaimed Family Resource Centre Planning Group (FRCPG) was a core group of parents who could play a major role in the participatory evaluation and development of the action plan for CAC's renewal process. The original organizational structure along a hub model called for representatives of 11 parent advisory committees and community partners to form the governance function of CAC. In reality, CAC's meetings were infrequent and attracted primarily agency representatives. The FRCPG provided the impetus for grassroots leadership and an opportunity to infuse CAC with shared leadership. Because of this, I planned a series of planning sessions that had as their dual objective, the encouragement of a more active CAC and the creation of an action plan that could form a major building block in the participatory evaluation and, subsequently, the 3-year proposal.
These planning sessions form Phase 2 of my study. In the next section, I describe five participatory meetings involving a much larger group than in Phase 1. The group is more diverse and includes the original FRCPG, along with more parents from the centres, and community partners.
Phase 2 Implementation Process
Phase 2 of the study is a continuation of Phase 1. Because of the need to develop a formal action plan for the next funding proposal, the process in Phase 2 followed a strategic planning framework. The design process for Phase 2 incorporates participatory practices described in the design process for Phase 1, including popular education and the asset-based community development approach of Kretzman and McKnight (1993), as well as participatory planning, including strategic plan facilitation (MacLeod, 1996). The planning process for this phase involved detail similar to that described in the planning process section for Phase 1, including community meetings and personal contact. The five meetings of Phase 2 took place between April 1996 and March 1997, and were planned to achieve the two objectives noted above--to encourage a more active CAC and to create an action plan. Although I was the primary facilitator of this phase, I was joined by the CAC coordinator who helped with the organization and facilitation of each of the five workshops. For three of the workshops we were also joined by two other facilitators involved with the external and internal evaluations.
Strengthening an Organization--Planning Session 1
Phase 2 began when I invited the FRCPG to bring other parents/caregivers from their centres to a planning session in a central location. In my role as facilitator, I telephoned potential participants, encouraged their involvement, and made arrangements for childcare and transportation. I was delighted when 30 people showed up, the majority of whom were parents. Partnership agencies were also encouraged with this response and saw it as evidence that the grassroots leadership originally envisioned for CAC was finally taking root.
Technically, my commitment with the group was fulfilled. However, as the FRCPG evolved into the full functioning CAC, it made sense that I continue in my role as facilitator of the strategic planning process to maintain the continuity of the People Helping People process.
In addition to strategic planning, I planned the day to be a celebratory one with festive decorations and prizes. I took steps to make the new people at the table feel welcome and comfortable. For example, every person knew someone else and our focus was common. Together, parents/caregivers, community partners, and staff shared the successes of the past 3 years of CAC. In this way, we reaffirmed the importance of the work we were doing collectively. To highlight the research of Phase 1, we displayed colourful banners on the walls, pronouncing the strategies developed.
I presented the agenda's objectives for the day: (a) to share what we have been doing; (b) to strengthen the Community Action Committee; and (c) to revisit the planning process. In order to bring everyone to the same level of knowledge about CAC's mandate and activities, I reviewed the background of the Community Action Program for Children; the evolution of CAC; and its original mission statement, goals, and objectives. I also gave an overview of the development of family resource centres in the area.
In my role as facilitator I described the strategic planning process as a process of revisiting the original mission statement and then establishing priorities, developing a strategy, and setting goals and objectives. In revisiting the original mission statement, my major challenge as facilitator was to encourage everyone to think about the big picture. People had to consider the overall mission of the organization rather than just focusing on their individual family resource centres.
The original mission statement of CAC had been developed in a very non-participatory fashion. In order to meet the timelines of Health Canada, I was involved in writing it for the original proposal that we submitted in 1994. Unfortunately, there was insufficient time to consult the grassroots leadership to help develop this statement.
I facilitated the group through a visioning exercise, in which I described the links to the development of a mission statement. Because it was evident to me as facilitator that the group had coalesced quickly, I decided to flipchart key words from the large group that would form the basis of a new mission statement for CAC. This new mission statement read: "The Community Action Committee is committed to supporting community-driven family resource centres which help to meet the health and developmental needs of young children and their families." This mission statement quickly fell into place, largely because of the time the FRCPG had spent reflecting on priorities and issues in Phase 1 of this study.
Strengthening an Organization Planning Session 2
Primarily the same group from Planning Session 1 met for the second planning session to continue the process. At this meeting, the participants agreed on three overall priority areas that flowed directly from the new mission statement. They were: (a) public awareness; (b) child/family programs; and (c) community wellness/healthy communities.
I described a strategy as a description of what the group could do about the priority. In small groups of four, participants then developed strategies that addressed these three priority areas. I posed 8 questions for the small groups in order to facilitate their identification of what each group thought should be done about each priority: (a) What do we want to do? (b) Who will be affected--who are we targeting? (c) What steps will we have to take to get the work done? (d) What strengths do we have that will help us work on the priority? (e) Who will need to be involved and what should they take on? (f) What problems will we have to overcome? (g) When can we do the work? (h) Who should get things started?
Public awareness--priority 1. In order to increase public awareness, involvement, and participation, the small groups reported that the following steps should be undertaken--personal contact, invitations, provision of transportation, increased media attention (e.g., newspaper column devoted to young children and their families), publicize events, use other groups' newsletters for publicity. Potential participants to be targeted should include families with young children and fathers. They agreed that knowledge of community, dedicated volunteers, and other community gifts are strengths that can help achieve the priority but recognize that problems such as transportation, the capacity to do outreach, and the negative perception of what the family resource centres are all about have to be overcome. Parents who are already involved in the family resource centres and other organizations in the community who support family resource activities should be involved and initiate action to achieve this priority.
Child/family programs--priority 2. Small groups reported that it is important to provide opportunities for children and their families to be involved in age-appropriate programs that develop social and development skills. In order to achieve this, key steps include a survey of who is in the community, the establishment of a focus group to get things started, and identification of programs and resources needed and who in the community can help. The existence of dedicated volunteers and community gifts, the involvement of the FRCPG, the availability of free programming resources, and the parents love for their children were considered strengths to help the group work on this priority. The whole community should be involved, although it was recognized that problems related to planning activities, identifying needed programs, finding the people to help put these programs in place, getting people to come, competing with television, bad experiences by some parents from their school days, the stereotype of some programs being for females only, and the time commitment of working parents, have to be overcome. It should be noted that the group wanted to particularly encourage the involvement of male teachers so as to encourage male involvement in the family resource centres. The parents, the community, and volunteers should immediately get things started to achieve this priority.
Community wellness/healthy communities--priority 3. The group agreed that in order to promote emotional, physical, psychological, sociological, and community well-being, it was necessary to change attitudes. Immediate steps to achieve this include public awareness, education, and workshops on topics such as nutrition information, breastfeeding, injury prevention, child development, social issues (violence, abuse), and smoking. Building on the strengths of commitment, collaboration, and community gifts, this priority is achievable. Parents, professionals, and businesses have to be involved, recognizing that problems such as apathy, mistrust, and ingrained attitudes have to be overcome.
I concluded the meeting by encouraging a round of sharing from centre to centre. Some parents brought posters they had developed, depicting activities at the various centres. I invited them to display these posters that became part of the pictorial record of the family resource centre activities. Others circulated pictures, while others shared stories about what they were doing in their centres.
Reflecting on our Past, Building for our Future--Planning Session 3
By September, the CAC participatory evaluation process was in full swing. In order to take advantage of having such a large group of parents/caregivers and community resource people together at one time, the CAC coordinator, the internal evaluator, and I decided to hold focus groups during this session as part of the evaluation process.
I introduced the evaluator that the Working Group of CAC had hired (the working group includes representative parents and community partners). Following discussion of the process by the evaluator, I divided the larger group into two focus groups. The remainder of that session was essentially an information-gathering process carried out by the evaluator with the focus groups. One of the findings of that evaluation was that participation in the centres had increased. Another finding was that the volunteers were playing a more active role in centre activities. Documentation of this information provided the basis for the evaluator's report, a key determinant of CAC eligibility for further funding.
Reflecting on our Past, Building for our Future--Planning Session 4
I designed Session 4 to finish the strategic planning process, that provided the basis of the workplan for the funding proposal for the second phase of the Community Action Program for Children in our region. Using the strategies developed for the three priority areas that were identified in Session 2, the participants developed an action plan, which included goal statements, objectives, actions with timeframes, and evaluation indicators.
Quarterly Planning Session--Planning Session 5
This planning session brought to an end the two phases of my study. By this time, (March 24, 1997) we had come full circle. March 31, 1997 marked the end of the first phase of funding for CAC. The second phase had been approved. This meeting marked a new beginning in family resource in the area with parent/caregivers as the driving force. For that reason, we entitled these meetings quarterly planning sessions; thereafter, parents and agency representatives would meet on a quarterly basis to celebrate success and to plan for the future. These quarterly sessions have become firmly entrenched in the organizational culture of CAC and are commonly known as the People Helping People sessions. As such, these meetings provide an opportunity for sharing ideas, transmitting feedback, and strengthening the organization.
Through the implementation of an intensified effort, I anticipated a number of outcomes of the study: (a) a more active, confident, and competent volunteer group; (b) a current inventory of community resources related to children and parents; (c) an action plan to implement the community plan; (d) increased activities at centres; and (e) a process handbook developed collectively by the participants. As noted below, all outcomes were realized to varying extents and as such the study went a long way in addressing the purpose for which it was designed, namely to increase community involvement, community ownership, and sustainability. It also provided an avenue for development, a process for that development, and gave me an exposure to a whole range of experiences and learnings.
The work of the Family Resource Centre Planning Group (FRCPG) was a direct consequence of Phase 1 of the study. This has had a direct impact on strengthening CAC, moving it along the continuum towards a model of grassroots leadership. As well, this FRCPG played a vital role in the development of strategies for CAC's 3-year workplan, an important building block in the renewal of the Community Action Program for Children project. Phase 2 of the study saw an increase in participation of parents. This increase in participation, together with their role in developing strategies, has provided CAC with a more active, confident, and competent volunteer group. This is an important outcome of the study. Transfer of learning has strengthened both the regional organization (CAC) and the local family resource centres.
The binders developed by the parents during Phase 1 provide a current inventory of child/parent community resources in each community. These binders have been updated continuously by parents with the help of staff. These binders provide documentation of the video production, puppet shows and, strategies identified to raise awareness about family resource programs. Other tangible outcomes include the video from the family resource centre in the francophone community and the documentation of the methodology used--workshops, community action, and roadshow. This documentation ensures that the study can be replicated or modified to meet future needs. Further documentation of the process was achieved through the personal contracts and journals kept by the participants.
The overall 3-year workplan for CAC is a plan of action that incorporates the strategies developed during Phase 2. This plan of action for the next 3 years was a joint effort of all family resource centres and a significant outcome of the process undertaken in the study. Site-specific plans for each of the 11 family resource centres, primarily related to increasing participation and raising awareness, will be actioned by each individual family resource centre according to the strategies developed during Phase 2 and documented in each centre's binder.
The evaluation, carried out in the fall of 1996, documents that participation has increased at the centres. Although it is difficult at this point to determine to what specific degree the workshops and planning sessions contributed to this increase, I believe it was an important variable. Of related significance, CAC's staff, who provide outreach to the family resource centres, are now particularly sensitive to the patterns of activities at family resource centre sites. Staff members are now aware of the need to monitor and to address issues as they arise in order to ensure steady growth and development. The role of staff and community partners is now to support (not direct) parent/caregivers in a variety of ways. This support includes modeling and facilitating in the centres; modeling and facilitating at workshops, meetings, or conferences; and working with parent/caregivers to plan and implement the CAC workplan in a participatory manner.
Because of Phase 2 of the study, the quarterly meetings of CAC have become the forum for monitoring and evaluating CAC's overall workplan. These meetings have also become the place to share learnings and experiences among parents/caregivers and community partners.
DISCUSSION, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS
In chapter 1, I outlined the purpose of my study as being twofold--to improve my participatory practice as an adult educator and to develop the participatory capacity and culture of the organization for which I work. In order to do this I first of all had to sort out my conundrum as to the relationship among adult education, community education, community development, and community action. Having done that, I intended to gain a better knowledge of participatory practice and identify strategies from that practice that I could incorporate into my study initially, and ultimately into my work for social change.
In chapter 2, I reviewed the literature of adult education for social change, popular education, participatory planning, and participatory research in order to sort out these issues and establish a theoretical foundation for my study. In chapter 3, I documented the development of the People Helping People process and its design, planning, and implementation. People Helping People represents a major step toward developing participatory practice, not only in my own work, but in the approach utilized in the study and modeled by the participating parents, and in the culture of our organization. In this chapter, I reflect on the various aspects of design, planning, and implementation and discuss the learnings from the study in relation to adult and community education principles and the context in which the learnings take place. I then discuss the usefulness of this process for other community-based groups and conclude with some recommendations for researchers and practitioners in the field.
In this chapter, I discuss and interpret the methodology used in the study to develop participatory practice and grassroots leadership. I discuss the importance of institutional context and culture, family resource centres as sites of social learning and change, and sustainability of the process. I also offer some personal reflections on my learning, describe outcomes of the study, and make recommendations.
Institutional Context and Culture
The context in which I work has an influence on my approach to practice and influenced the study. I work for a community-based organization that is a partnership of government agencies, public institutions, and other community groups. The organization is unique in Newfoundland and Labrador in that it was born out of a desire by the formal leadership in the area to "do things differently." An advisory committee decided that in order to do things differently, it was necessary to become a community education organization. This organization, the Community Education Network (CEN), has a philosophical orientation to community education principles of self-determination, localization, self-help, integrated service delivery, maximum use of resources, inclusiveness, institutional responsiveness, lifelong learning, and leadership development. In this section I discuss the need to nurture leadership development and the necessity of institutions to be flexible, responsive, and collaborative.
Build It and They Will Come Myth
At the time of the study, family resource infrastructure had been developing in our region for almost 3 years. Despite efforts to be inclusive from the start of development, I did not engage fully the informal leadership in the development of the original proposal to establish the network of family resource centres. Because of the time constraint issue associated with funding agencies and the need to secure funding for CAC in a timely fashion, community representatives were only involved in the initial consultative community meeting, when they helped design program components for the pilot centre. Although the CAC coordinator and I continued to meet with parents regarding service delivery, there was little sustained effort to develop the leadership capacity within the centres. In order to rectify this situation, my study became one of sustained effort; that effort confirmed for me Kahn's (1997) argument that only a sustained effort can assist in moving an organization along the continuum from service to organizing.
The myth of "build it and they will come" has been debunked by many community development projects (see, for example Chambers 1991, 1994). Our experience with development of family resource infrastructure similarly exposed the myth. Parents were not participating in family resource programming to the extent the organizers had envisaged. In a way, this myth was an impetus for my study. Given the high participation and commitment of parents in my study, I learned that when people for whom the service, program, or event is planned are directly involved in the planning, then they will come. This confirms Renaud's (1996) acknowledgement of the need to incorporate empowerment in human service practice. The proximity of the service matters less.
In order to truly build community capacity we (the organizers) had to rectify the situation and allow the participants in the communities to take ownership and leadership of the process. The informal leadership had not come forward just because the infrastructure was available. Participation had not increased because of the availability of the elementary school in their community to house a family resource centre. My study addressed this situation and created the appropriate conditions that encouraged parents to take ownership and to play a leadership role. In my study, parents drove for distances up to 100 kilometers in order to participate. Active participation increased because the institutions responded with an intervention that provided the opportunity for people to participate and to lead. I believe the study, by developing an appropriate leadership strategy in the community, did bring the informal leadership into the process because it created this opportunity. Chambers (1991) confirms the importance of service organizations in empowering clients to stand up for their rights, in addition to the provision of programs and services.
My study demonstrates that in order for an intervention to be successful, the principles of community education must be practiced in harmony with each other, not in isolation. The principle of localization argues that the greatest potential for participation occurs in sites decentralized in local communities (Decker, 1990). Although this may be true, the point that can be inferred from my study is that in addition to the organization's having a culture that adheres to participatory principles such as localization, the organization must avoid practicing its culture in isolation.
Institutional responsiveness, the ability of organizations to be flexible and responsive to the needs of constituents, was a critical factor to the success of the study. In fact, without the positive response from the institutions supporting family resource development, this study would not have occurred. The impetus for the intervention, coming largely from parents, was taken seriously by the organization and I was seconded to the Community Action Committee (CAC) to conduct the study. In addition to a financial commitment, the philosophical commitment by the organization enabled me to work in concert with parents and partners to develop appropriate participatory strategies and activities. This response by the organization is consistent with the community education principle of institutional responsiveness; for example, Decker (1990) notes, "public institutions have been created to serve people and they have a responsibility to develop their respective programs and services around the continually changing needs and interests of their constituents as defined in concert with these same constituents" (p. 7).
The outcomes in this study provide evidence that such sustained interventions require extensive financial and human support, including facilitators dedicated specifically to the project. This study confirms for me the position of Lovett, Clarke, and Kilmurray (1983) that if government is expecting community members to run the affairs of that community, then government needs to provide the community with the resources necessary to develop the leadership capacity. In this case government institutions did provide that support required, contrary to the current trend reported by Heaney (1992), whereby due to fiscal pressures most new funding is for services not for social action. To begin with, government community partners supported the concept of the intervention. Health Canada, through CAC, provided the financial support to pay my salary to facilitate this process. They provided funds to allow me to rent facilities that created a pleasant atmosphere for the workshops and to hire a bus to take us on a roadshow--the tours of the centres that provided all of us with first-hand knowledge of the centres throughout the region. Funds were also available so that I could provide the parents attending the workshops and roadshow with money to cover their transportation and child care costs, and a stipend to cover incidental expenses. The outcomes demonstrate that this level of government institutional support is instrumental and should be the norm if the formal leadership expects the informal leadership to participate and play an active role in supporting social learning sites such as family resource centres.
Many partners were involved in the study, including the school board, local community college, federal and provincial human service agencies, as well as community-based groups. Kidd (1971) encourages a similar position of collaboration between traditional and nontraditional partners. In the planning of this study, partners such as the CAC coordinator, co-workers from CEN, and agency representatives on the CAC Working Group were included. Partners also provided other tangible supports. For example, the school board's provision of space for the centres is a significant contribution to the collaboration. Equally important are other contributions, such as the community college's allowing two of its journalism students to film footage of our roadshow; and two facilitators from a CEN partnership project (Communication for Survival) provided training for the parents who wanted to make their own video. These collaborative efforts not only contributed to the development of participatory leadership, but also contributed to improved cost efficiency. My observation of cost efficiency is consistent with Decker's (1990) position on integrated service delivery:
Those organizations and agencies that operate for the public good can better utilize their limited resources, meet their own goals, and better serve the public through the proactive involvement of their respective constituencies as well as through active cooperative and collaborative relationships with those other organizations and agencies with related purposes. (p. 7)
CEN, with all of its institutional and community-based partners, had adopted this principle as a basic building block for the organization, and it is included in their mission statement. Welton (1987b) and Selman (1989) in their argument for collaboration underscore this key principle of community education--integrated service delivery. My practice leading up to the study and indeed the study itself reflect directly this principle.
My study demonstrates that in order to provide for effective leadership development in this context, the organization must make provision for a number of key components. They include a dedicated facilitator and resources to provide the support people need to be able to participate. In this instance resources were made available for transportation, child care, and incidentals, as well as resources to allow for the implementation of participatory strategies such as the roadshow and the workshops.
Family Resource Centres as Sites for Social Learning and Change
I had sorted out in my practice as an adult educator my philosophical orientation and the values and beliefs that underpin that practice. The literature of adult education and its purpose and role in social change provided inspiration for my study and work in community. It illuminated for me the linkages between the field of adult education and the various related areas of community education, community development, and community action. It is within the social change paradigm that these areas converge with adult education practice. My study illustrates this convergence because its methodology is concordant with empowering principles and philosophies of adult education for social change.
Family resource centres are sites for social learning and change within the social change paradigm, both in terms of outcome and process. In terms of outcome, the family resource centres were seen as a place for social learning and change and a place for community organizing. During the course of the study the participants from these centres developed grassroots leadership and a process to sustain that leadership. They thereby established family resource centres as being more than a provider of services to parents. The process incorporates major elements of both non-formal learning and learning based in the community; as well, my role as facilitator contributed to the social learning or change.
As in many efforts that bridge community development, community education, and adult education, tensions between the non-formal and formal sectors needed to be resolved. I feared a danger that the family resource centres could become institutionalized and could lose the social change focus, moving from a dynamic process to just another program of service provision that operates outside the paradigm of community education and community development. In order to ensure that the process focused on social change it had to be aligned with the non-formal sector of adult education (see Cruickshank, 1991; Kulich, 1991; Selman, 1989). It is in this sector that the learners take control of the learning and manage their own learning processes (Welton, 1995). In designing my study therefore I avoided the prescriptive, made-to-order programming frequently associated with the formal sector. Aware of these tensions, I was determined that the process would not be bound by institutional constraints. In my role as adult educator, I wanted to break free of the institutional approach to adult education that is more associated with training and individual adult learning. Instead, I turned to participatory and popular education practices and away from the scientific methodology often associated with the formal sector. Hamilton (1992) encourages a move away from the narrow focus of adult education that excludes the non-formal sector and instead encourages the use of nontraditional tactics. His view of community development as a process in which learning is the means through which development occurs gave me special insight into the connection between adult education and community development.
Studies that occur in the non-formal sector are frequently viewed as being marginal.
Thus, I considered it important to legitimize the family resource centres as sites for social learning and change. I did this by ensuring support for the process from the sponsoring organization and its community partners (including institutional partners) and documenting the process and publicizing it widely. Such support from public authorities is viewed by Lovett (1990) as important in reducing the tension between the formal and non-formal sectors as well as in overcoming issues of "marginality and lack of public recognition" (p. 32). He explains that sponsoring agency support reduces these tensions by playing an advocacy role on behalf of community-based learning programs and initiatives.
Documentation builds a body of literature for the practitioner and for others, such as funders and policy makers. I factored this into the design and plan of my study in the program ideas of the binder, personal contracts, minutes of the strategic planning process, and press releases to the local media. This ensured that documentation was complete and could be replicated by future community and adult educators, not only in its implementation but in the proposal and planning stages. Harris's (1987) comments on this lack of documentation and its consequences of misunderstandings between adult educators and community developers were significant to me. This supports the importance of documentation, in and of itself, for legitimizing the process and bringing clarity to the work. According to Harris, documentation also helps pull non-formal adult education in from the margins.
As Delargy (1989) and Minzey and LeTarte (1979) note, community education in its evolution has moved from being purely community schools with community education programs to the broader community context emphasizing process. This emphasis on de-institutionalizing is consistent with the connection I make between non-formal adult education and community education and accordingly identifies family resource centres as non-formal centres of adult learning. My view of family resource centres in the community education context is similar to that of Kerensky (1989)--they are sites for developing human potential and participation in the process of local decision-making.
Based in Community
Although in the non-formal sector, the process occurred within the community and in the context of community action and community development. Accordingly, within Phase 1 of the implementation process I helped organize 2 weeks of community action. The participants collectively identified a number of actions that related to family resource programming and advertising of that programming in their communities. These actions ranged from putting on a puppet show to making a videotape. The actions all provided an opportunity to place the learning in the context of the learner's community, thereby providing immediacy to the learner. This experiential learning in the community context was also introduced with the roadshow learning strategy, grounded in the culture of the community. This coincides with Lindeman's (1961) view that the community is the most appropriate site of learning. Similarly, Coady talks about group support (cited in Alexander, 1997) and the need for adult education to take place in the community. These actions helped the community to transform itself through research. Placing these participatory and non-formal aspects in a community allowed me as facilitator to draw on popular culture and to use techniques (such as those described by Kerka, 1997) that are diverse and in harmony with the community.
My Role as Facilitator, Not Expert
Throughout the study I sought to ensure that my role as adult educator was that of facilitator, not expert. As it turned out, because I did not portray myself as an expert, the parents were amazed that they were in the driver's seat. To further reinforce the role of facilitator versus expert, the CAC coordinator and two of my co-workers who were known by many of the participants, joined the group. Because the participants felt especially comfortable with these co-facilitators, the atmosphere of the workshops became celebratory, was immediately non-threatening to participants, and was characterized by humour, lots of food, and fun. Initially, in family resource settings in schools, when parents introduced themselves around the table at meetings they frequently said, "I'm only a parent." Later, they began to introduce themselves as members of the planning group.
Schools and school staffs are only beginning to recognize and to acknowledge the important role parents play in their children's learning and development. The family resource movement has always recognized and valued the important role of the parents in raising their children. As Kyle and Kellerman (1998) point out, family resource programs are concerned as much with how they work with families as with the programming they provide; similarly, I was primarily concerned with how I worked with the parent participants. In order to involve the parents into the planning, I initially designed only the first workshop. I designed it to provide an opportunity to dialogue with the parents who had agreed to be involved with this research. I wanted them to be comfortable and to feel safe (Vella, 1994) and to create a dialogue from which we could extract themes and discuss them. For that reason, I chose visioning as a technique which not only provided a positive way of looking at the issue but also built a sense of community amongst the participants and generated the themes that we would build into the framework of our learning process.
This intent to plan only initial activities also reflected my commitment to a flexible, open-ended process. This open-ended process is consistent with Caferella's (1994) interactive program planning model in which "the process of planning programs is essentially a negotiated activity between and among educators, learners, and organizations" (p. 19). By keeping the process open and flexible I was, for example, able to incorporate a learning opportunity that was happening elsewhere in the community (Communication for Survival) into my study. The facilitators from that process supported parents in producing their own video.
Vella (1994) states that a principle is the beginning of an action and that, in participatory practice, a key principle is that the learner must be at the centre of the process. With this open-ended process, I ensured that the participants in my study were at the centre. In order to ensure this, I needed to learn to listen to the learners, involving them with goal setting. In adult education, the role of the teacher in relation to learners provides a distinguishing characteristic. Horton (in Adams, 1975) believes that teachers have to teach their own capacity to learn, that teachers should learn from their learners--a concept unheard of in the traditional, formal school of thought. This influenced my decision to leave the curriculum for my study wide open and attempt to listen and to learn what the parent participants wanted to learn. For the first time for me, rather than operate from instinct, I was inspired to ground my practice in popular education philosophy, which I used to develop the empowerment framework.
The Empowerment Framework
My study built on the strengths of the people and their communities rather than focusing on correcting their weaknesses. This empowerment ideology (see Dunst & Trivette, 1996) underpinned the study and leadership developed as a result of the process I was able to put in place.
I was determined to find a way to move beyond the language that painted the region as impoverished, its citizens as at-risk and deprived. I used an asset-based approach to begin the process. For example, in the first workshop, to build a common vision among the group I posed the question: "In a perfect world, what would your family resource centre look like?" If I had posed the question differently focusing on what was lacking in their family resource centre, I would have received responses that would have been negative and deficit-reinforcing. As it happened, the group responded by explaining that the family resource centre should be a family gathering place benefiting the whole community. At the same workshop, I posed the question about community gifts that could support the vision. They talked about schools, churches, grandparents, musicians, and what they could offer in support of the centre. Family resource centres would be a good place to keep cultural traditions such as storytelling and music alive. As they identified and listed all of the assets in their communities, their enthusiasm was infectious. In this way, the group came together as a team, focused on commonalities, and felt good about the role they and their centre could play and thus set the tone for the rest of the activities of the study.
Rather than a traditional needs assessment then, I incorporated the Kretzman and McKnight (1993) approach to initiating a process. This asset-based approach retains positive aspects of needs assessment such as dialogue and collaboration (Ristock & Pennell, 1996), but it does not look at the negatives in communities and why people are not participating in family resource programming. Using the asset-based approach in the workshop, we looked at all the strengths in our communities and found many. We were motivated by the strengths identified and developed strategies based on those assets. Other asset-based techniques used in my study included a binder that captured and documented the positive ideas and strategies emerging from the workshops. Strategies focused on ways to ensure that the family resource centre would be a welcoming place and that the events and programs would encourage people to participate. Participants also enjoyed drawing their centre in a positive way. The binders contributed to the positive feelings participants had about their centres and what they were doing there. The document legitimized and validated their efforts and served as a record for others to learn from. The Highlander Center (Lewis & Gaventa, 1990) employs similar tools. For instance, community members develop their own surveys and in this manner, the survey becomes a tool to mobilize the community through collective analysis. Community mapping and drawings also provide participants with a means to articulate a vision.
Although it is customary to begin an adult or community education program with a needs assessment, I chose the asset-based approach for my study. Even when a needs assessment identifies issues, it does so in terms of phrases such as "the lowest literacy rate in the province" and "one of the highest unemployment rates." This kind of language when applied to people has a disempowering effect, the antithesis of participatory practice. I am not necessarily suggesting that Vella's (1994) approach to initiating learning through needs assessment is negative. I disagree more with the language than the intent. In fact, Vella's popular education approach is one of problem posing in the Freirian sense, a means to generate dialogue among learners. In this manner, the facilitator attempts to determine what the learner wants to learn.
The initial issue of participation identified for this study was mine but confirmed by my colleagues (the Working Group), some of whom were parents. The challenge for me as an adult educator was how to design a process that would develop the learning and action required to address this issue. Because the study was designed to address this issue by involving parents as learners and co-researchers, these parents concurred that participation was an issue. The initial round of meetings with Parent Advisory Committees in local centres confirmed this and it was reconfirmed during the study.
In order to involve parents as learners, my study incorporated a number of popular education techniques. Techniques such as drawing, visioning, question-posing, and dialogue allowed for participatory experiences during which participants were provided opportunities to acquire learning for social change, thereby fostering a participatory learning culture. The methodology of participatory research I used included workshops, community action, and a roadshow. I invited parents to join a process that was open-ended, with a structure that allowed the participants to generate knowledge they had about the issue of participation specific to their centres. This knowledge was generated through critical reflection on their reasons for participating and conditions that they believed would encourage their friends and neighbours to participate. Each workshop provided opportunities for participants to dialogue and to reflect in the large group and small group discussions, keeping focused on the issue at hand. For example, in response to questions posed, they identified issues related to whether the school in which the family resource centre was housed was a barrier to participation and if so, how could they ensure that this barrier was removed. Similarly, popular educators such as Arnold et al. (1985) and Gatt-Fly (1983) provide useful practical examples of people talking about their own experiences. This approach of dialogue and reflection, of course, was developed most fully by Freire.
As these issues and solutions became identified, they were anxious to try out some of the strategies in their own communities. This became built into the process as community action. The 2 weeks of community action in the midst of Phase 1 allowed for practical application and critical reflection of the strategies generated. For example, one centre negotiated a different daily schedule with the school, allowing the centre to be open at a more convenient time for parents. During this period of community action, the participants also engaged others from their community in organizing events and activities. They made a conscious effort to reflect on their actions to determine the effectiveness of this new action. Whitmore (1994) talks about similar experiences having engaged researchers in action research.
Although the participants shared pictures and stories from their various centres, they were very interested in visiting each other's centres to get a hands-on understanding of how each of these centres was situated and set up. They decided a roadshow was a good way to visit as many sites as possible and to learn about the centres in a more direct way. The roadshow added a whole other dimension to the group process, with all the participants feeling they were going on an outing that included all of the levity and frivolity that group travel can provide. This type of atmosphere broke down inhibitions and provided an opportunity for sharing. The host groups in the various centres went all out catering with soup and sandwiches and showcasing their centres. They were proud to do this and in so doing they really exhibited a sense of ownership. With the organizing I had to do--to arrange buses, schedule pick-ups in various communities, liaise with the host committee, create a structured workshop opportunity during the tour, and participate in the levity, by the end of the day, I was exhausted. Despite my exhaustion, I was convinced of the value of creating the appropriate context and the role of modeling and mentoring in social learning. Arnold, Barndt and Burke (1985) recommend that techniques for popular education that encourages active participation results in the most effective learning.
In Phase 2 the group developed a strategic plan (workplan) for CAC. This process was important to the overall success of the study for a number of reasons. First of all, participants were practicing competencies learned as part of the group dynamics of Phase 1. Problem-solving skills were practiced through brainstorming; solutions were made realistic through the identification of specific objectives and timeframes; conflict was managed by keeping focus on the issue and goals common to the vision through brainstorming and flipcharting. The strategic plan provided a way to generate knowledge and action to solve social issues; similarly Conti et al. (1991) discuss the power of transformative research to produce knowledge and identify action. Because the strategic plan was grounded in the local culture and because participants were motivated to find solutions to issues identified, my use of MacLeod's (1996) language and approach to the strategic planning process with group discussion and priority setting worked. The process enabled me to introduce this potentially intimidating exercise in a way that was non-threatening and appropriate for drawing out local knowledge. This is consistent with Hall's (1996) point about the need to select participatory techniques consistent with the local culture and learning that has already taken place.
In a conscious effort to ensure continuity from Phase 1 to Phase 2, the group was constantly reminded of Phase 1 through the display of material and visual aides produced during Phase 1. These included banners outlining the strategies developed, posters with visual images from the centres, and pictures from our activities (particularly popular) from the roadshow. Another technique introduced in Phase 2 of the study was related to Freire's use of culture circles. Each workshop concluded with a round of sharing from centre to centre. Some parents brought posters and props from their centres, others circulated pictures, whereas others shared stories about what they were doing by way of programming and organization.
In order to form the community team of co-researchers, accompanied by the CAC coordinator, I met with parents in each centre to discuss the issue of participation in family resource centres. I invited those interested to join me in a process in order to analyze the issue more fully. In this way, those who were interested in the issue volunteered to participate and were highly motivated.
According to Caffarella (1994), attitudes and values greatly influence the learning within a process and the transfer of that learning to their public lives. The parent participants had the knowledge of their communities and knew what would motivate participation in those communities. Their collective reflection and the shared ideas provided invaluable knowledge as to what may or may not work to motivate those who were reluctant to participate. Their ongoing participation in the process generated a thorough list of ideas family resource centres could incorporate into their individual centres' plans, all of which were formulated as strategies and then concrete tasks to implement the strategy. The written contract was useful in that it provided the participants with a clear sense of what they could do in their own communities individually or as a group, and served to reinforce their commitment to the process. The binders became an extension of the contracts, laying out clear directions that future participants could implement if they so chose. Both documents served as a map that participants could follow as they continued the process in their centres, modeling what we had done in the study and mentoring others in the community to continue the process. This was critical because, with CAC's mandate to provide programming for families with children 0-6 years of age, CAC needed a mechanism to sustain the effort once the parents moved on and were no longer directly involved with the organization.
The participatory and popular education techniques used in the study were consistent with the literature in that opportunities and experiences were provided for people to learn from each other and to engage in collective problem-solving (see Reason, 1994). In accordance with characteristics outlined by Cirvinkas and Baldwin (1991) the study was a problem-centred, action-oriented, collaborative process in which people's knowledge was respected, and the researcher was subjective. Even though the study was open-ended and flexible, the participants had to adhere to an agreed set of rules and certain group norms. The group developed their own guidelines such as respect for each other, no interruptions, designated smoking area, and paying attention to each other. These guidelines helped ensure a sense of safety and trust, established protocol, and helped outline a structure. Both Kaner (1996) and Forester (1999) stress the importance of such factors in participatory planning. These factors also helped promote a sense of empowerment, which Barr and Cochran (1992) identify as "an intentional ongoing process centered in the local community, involving mutual respect, critical reflection, caring, and group participation, through which people lacking an equal share of valued resources gain greater access to and control over those resources" (p. 2).
By the end of the participatory experiences the group was so enthused about the process they determined they had more work to do. They chose to continue as a planning group that has now become entrenched as the People Helping People quarterly meetings. This forum sustains the process begun as my study, provides parents with a voice, and lessens the dependency of parents on the CAC staff and the organization (see Chambers, 1994; Kahn, 1997). In the next section I discuss further the strategies to sustain the empowering process.
Sustainability--Continuation of the Process
The immediate purpose of the intervention was to begin a process to engage parents in a participatory fashion in order that the organization could move from simply being a provider of services along the continuum to being an organizer of social change. As it evolved and converged with other initiatives, the intervention set in motion a series of events that have resulted in the development of a leadership strategy and have provided the organization with a plan for sustainability of the process.
It was important for participants to feel that the process they were engaged in would be sustainable, have permanency, and truly make a difference. From my perspective, I knew that a one-time intervention with no built-in strategy to maintain or encourage informal, grassroots leadership, would diminish the value of the effort and limit its impact. To ensure continuity, it was important for CAC staff to be part of the process from the beginning so they could continue to model participatory practice and to support and to mentor parents as leaders. In this manner, transfer of learning strategies were built into the plan of the study to ensure that CAC staff would act as mentors and that the organization would support this approach. The staff and Working Group of CAC remain committed to sustaining the process through mentorship and support. The success of this strategy is an affirmation of Caffarella's (1994) position about the importance of organizational context in supporting transfer of learning.
The engagement of participants in the preparation of a 3-year strategic plan and their involvement in a participatory evaluation of CAC lent legitimacy to the study and underscored the significance of this process to the future of family resource centres in the region. Participants thus felt engaged, reflected on the past, focused on the future, and were not hemmed in by the immediacy of the present. The strategic plan and participatory evaluation report also serve as documentation, in addition to the minutes from quarterly meetings and site-based binders as a means to legitimize the process in perpetuity.
A leadership development strategy has evolved: at the end of Phase 1 the participants formed themselves into a planning group for Phase 2 (the Family Resource Centre Planning Group), and now meet quarterly in a day-long forum called People Helping People. This forum provides sustainable development of leadership. At each transition, the participants were ready to enter this new process, and their ongoing commitment at these transitions could be indicators of what Cross (1981) calls the teachable moment. This process has become entrenched, is part of the culture of the organization, and is recognized as a mechanism for parents to have a voice in the programming and organizational planning of CAC. These sessions are the result of a sequence of events starting with the workshops of Phase 1, through to the community action and the planning sessions of Phase 2. This sequence of events with its long-term, broad impact is similar to the three levels of changes--learning, transfer, and impact--associated with learning (Vella et al., 1998). The study thus established the groundwork and orientation for future grassroots leadership development for CAC and, by inference, CEN. Decker (1990), defines leadership development in community education: "The identification, development and utilization of leadership capacities of local citizens is a prerequisite to the full development and empowerment of any community. Thus, all community education efforts should incorporate a leadership development strategy" (p. 7).
In order to be truly participatory capacity building and the provision of leadership development opportunities is dependent on the community response to the intervention. This is a process requiring time. Heaney (1992) refers to a basic contradiction between the requirements of funding agencies to meet specific time and program objectives even though social change by its very nature is a long-term process.
The Master in Adult Education program at Saint Francis Xavier University has provided me with the opportunity to explore the theoretical foundations of the field of adult education and to develop my practice as an adult educator. My primary learning has been the ability to situate community education and community development within the framework of adult education for social change. I clearly understand how family resource programs fit within this paradigm, which Welton (1995) refers to as the lifeworld in recognition of the adult learning that takes place within society including family, work, consumerism, citizenship, politics, and social movements. I also recognize the importance of participatory, empowering practice in family resource programs as an area of human service. As an adult educator, working in the area of community education, I am committed to using an empowerment framework in my work. Using Hall's (1996) metaphor of there being no cook-book for participatory research and popular education, I believe that there are nevertheless a number of ingredients for developing participatory practice in grassroots organizations. The points I have made about my study are ingredients for my practice as an adult educator for social learning and change. In fact, I have used these same ingredients in other participatory practice within the organization. My participatory practice as an adult educator has thus been enhanced and the capacity of CEN to work in a participatory fashion has developed.
Outcomes, Conclusions, and Recommendations
My study has been significant for my practice as an adult educator and for the culture of the community education organization for which I work. I believe the study makes a contribution to the field of adult education because it describes how a community education organization (CEN) can use participatory practice to help the organization move from one of service provision to one of organizing for social change. Furthermore, it places the family support movement within the context of community education and hence adult education. My study therefore has relevance for any community-based initiative organizing for social change through grassroots leadership.
Although it is difficult in participatory practice to link the outcomes to a specific learning strategy, there are significant changes that can be attributed to the study. The study has had an impact on my practice, the involvement of the parent participants, the formal leadership in the community, and the culture of the organization. Moreover, it has put in place mechanisms to ensure sustainability. Change will continue long after this study, thus its impact can ultimately be measured only by the dynamic evolution of the organization and the legacy of participatory practice. Up to the present, this evolution is evidenced by the following outcomes.
The study has informed my personal practice as an adult educator. I was able to draw on the rich history of popular education and to apply its methodologies in my study. Because of this experience, I have been successful in applying these principles and strategies to other community-based initiatives within my organization (in participatory evaluation and community communications projects).
An important outcome of the study has been the skill enhancement and development of its participants. Although the study was concerned with collective learning, through this process individuals acquired knowledge and skills that they in turn can apply in communities, family circumstance, and the workplace. These skills include community research and action, strategic planning, group dynamics, organizational and meeting management, leadership skills, as well as critical reflection, self-esteem, confidence, and assertiveness. These skills were enhanced in Phase 2 of the study and continue to be developed in the People Helping People sessions.
Another outcome of the study was the impact it had on the culture of the organization, particularly the opportunities it has created for dialogue. On the one hand, the parent participants have become aware of the role the family resource centre can play in social change and therefore the role they can play. They now feel more involved in the organization. On the other hand, the formal leadership of the organization can see how, when given the opportunity, grassroots leaders emerge and play a significant role in shaping the organization and its role in social change. The study has helped the formal leadership see more clearly that such a strategy can have a broader applicability to other initiatives within the community education model. In fact, we are applying these learnings to another project where we are training parents as teaching partners.
For the organization, the most significant outcome of the study is probably the contribution the study has made to sustainability. Because of the circumstances at the time, Phase 1 of the study became Phase 2. Phase 2 has since become entrenched as a quarterly series of meetings which provides parents with the opportunity to have a voice, to provide input into the development of the organization and its programming, and to articulate what they as parents want to learn. These People Helping People sessions also provide the opportunity for parents to share what they are doing in their respective centres and acts as a learning ground for future grassroots leadership development.
It is difficult in a non-linear participatory practice to determine exactly what outcomes are linked directly to particular activities. However, it is evident that the participation of parents in this process has enhanced the perceived legitimacy of the family resource program regional initiative. Their participation in the development of a strategic plan and a participatory evaluation of the first generation of funding of the CAC also lent credibility to the application for second generation funding.
An important outcome of this study is its documentation, which enables others to learn from our experience and to adapt it to their own situation.
Developing grassroots leadership is a long-term process. Although the specific outcomes from the study are significant, the 3 years since the events took place has allowed me to observe further and to reflect on the impact of the study on leadership development, organizational culture, and participation. This critical reflection also provides me with continuing insight and strengthens my conviction in participatory practice and its power to change significantly organizational culture.
From a review of the outcomes, I conclude that the purpose of the study has been achieved. My participatory practice as an adult educator has been enhanced and the study has developed the capacity of CEN to work in a participatory fashion. I have gained an understanding of the relationship of adult education, community education, and community development and the role of participatory research in these practices. On the basis of the application of the facilitation skills and knowledge that I acquired in this educational process, I identified specific strategies to encourage grassroots leadership.
As a result of this study and my learnings, I would like to make the following recommendations:
1. Because adult education plays a critical role in building community capacity, community-based groups must have an appreciation for the role of adult education and commit themselves to adult education principles. In order to achieve this I recommend community-based groups employ people with an adult educator/community educator perspective.
2. For community-based groups designing a process to engage people in a process of learning and action, I recommend an asset mapping exercise to initiate the activity. This exercise could identify all of the resources in the community that might be brought to bear in addressing the issues identified. Asset mapping not only provides community members with an opportunity to dialogue and pose questions but it also opens avenues for collaboration based on the resources identified in the exercise. However, groups must be constantly vigilant of the facilitation process; the facilitator (s) must ensure that the learners remain at the centre. An ongoing participatory evaluation may be the most appropriate mechanism to ensure that these checks and balances are in place and that the process remains participatory.
3. If government is philosophically committed to devolution of power to community-based groups, it must also commit to providing the resources necessary to developing grassroots leadership. Interventions required for informal leadership development are long-term processes requiring significant resources of time and money. As well, resources have to be established for the confidence-building and skills-enhancement of individual community members in areas such as meeting management, organizational functioning, conflict resolution, and team building.
My participatory practice as an adult educator has been enhanced by the study and the study has helped develop the capacity of CEN to work in a participatory fashion. Central to the success of my study has been the institutional responsiveness of the partners in my organization. Whereas a primary focus of my thesis was the development of an empowerment framework for social change, further studies could focus specifically on the links between organizational theory and learning organizations. These studies would build on the important role, as identified in this thesis, of organizational and institutional culture in fostering social change.
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