Roe et al (2006) offer an intriguing commentary on community in this country and a unique counterpoint on how it should function. The United States is seen as stereotypically individualistic, which is, unfortunately, a reality in a majority of this country, while AIDS is seen as an area where “effective prevention must be community-based, ecologically dispersed, locally relevant, adequately funded, responsive to change, and sustained over time.” Roe, et, al, 2006). In ways that are economically as well as socially constructed, these realities had been generally met with unrealistic barriers until mandated by the CDC in communities across the country that utilized community planning initiatives that were remnants of 1960s through 1980s activism and planning initiatives. The authors look at this initiative in depth, viewing it as a possible model to organize communities through similar social planning. Key here is the inclusion of parity, inclusion, and social representation which allowed for what the authors call mobilizing of subcommittee organizing combined with empowering evaluation (taking stock, setting goals, developing strategies, and documenting the process and repeat where necessary).
While not exactly asset-based community development, the parameters of inclusion were mutable enough to allow equitable participation in community planning, allowing them to evaluate, correct and evolve as they progressed. I see possibilities in this, allowing for applications to other areas of community development where flexibility is wise and necessary. For this initiative, diversity was necessary and key to reflect the makeup of the local community, but in the event that certain cities and groups were not interested in allowing that necessary diversity, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) mandated diversity, which could be viewed as intrusive by some and necessary to others. The mandate recalls a community radio station in Texas where I volunteered briefly that began with the promise to reflect the makeup of the overall community, but in the end the staff, the board, and the radio show hosts were and are primarily White and Male.
As an anti-authoritarian, I bristle at even the suggestion of control, but with White Patriarchy and, especially, institutionalized racism, there are laws and beliefs on the books that privilege certain groups of individuals that those individuals don’t see. If one is not affected, there is little that one is going to look for. Men are not going to see the disadvantages thrust upon women daily through microagressions and will cry out that women are being too sensitive. The same can be said for White Gay Men where they don’t consider the inclusion of Black and Latinx Gay Men as valid because they are not affected by racism and prejudice (in the same way). Because of the historical precedence of the above, guidelines and rules are necessary, and in this case, they proved to be valid and effective. This planning initiative can be used to apply to other programs that require groups within communities to work together effectively to solve an overarching issue. I also believe that planning elements can be incorporated into other methodologies designed to incorporate the individuals of a community into a evolutionary problem-solving group.
Roe, K. M., Berenstein, C., Goette, C., & Roe, K. (2006). Community building through empowering evaluation: A case study of HIV prevention community planning. In M. Minkler (Ed.), Community organizing and community building for health (2nd ed., pp. 386-402). New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.