Striving for good practice: Unpacking AusAID's approach to community development

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    Community development (CD) as a strategic approach to poverty alleviation has long been popular among bilateral and multilateral donors. The phrase has come to encapsulate a wide range of interventions that direct technical assistance and funding to local communities promoting social development and economic opportunity. CD approaches typically stress participation, consultation and accountability, and their practitioners have adapted to changes in funding agencies' operating rationales that reflect shifts in global development discourses, national political ideologies and development 'styles' (Kenny 2002). Recent CD approaches emphasize demand-driven responses with inclusive participatory interventions to address basic local needs. Over recent decades, however, approaches to CD have been contested and devalued as aid agencies look for ways to reduce poverty in line with Millennium Development Goals. CD's popularity has been challenged by concerns that its focus on micro-social frameworks and dynamics makes it difficult to generalize or replicate on a wider scale. CD approaches - particularly those that embrace small grant facilities - appear too local to be directly relevant to broad donor goals in the fields of good governance, economic growth and alleviation of acute social problems in post-conflict settings (Mosse 2004 ). The desire for wider impact interventions in economic development has consequently encouraged a stronger emphasis on aid in policy setting and capacity building at the level of institutional governance, rather than direct practical assistance and project-specific activity. The result is constant tension between the aim to foster processes of community empowerment and the need to account for funds under development agency audit procedures (Kenny 2002: 285). In this chapter we examine the recent history of CD practice under the auspices of the former official Australian development assistance agency, Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID). At the time of our research (2006), the prevailing view of CD within AusAID was somewhat negative, mirroring the broader international debate changes, but at a practical level the agency continued to use CD in many poverty alleviation programmes in the Asia Pacific. Our chapter highlights both the continuing importance of CD approaches in the delivery of aid and the achievements of recent Australian development assistance in this field.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationMaking a difference? Social assessment policy and praxis and its emergence in China
    Editors Susanna Price and Kathryn Robinson
    Place of PublicationNew York and Oxford
    PublisherBerghahn Books
    ISBN (Print)9781782384571
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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