Do community empowerment and enabling state policies work in practice? Insights from a community development intervention in rural Scotland
In the transition from welfare to ‘enabling’ states, governments move away from their previous roles as providers of services. Individuals and communities as collectives of individuals are encouraged to play a more active role in improving their own wellbeing and resilience, thus shifting from dependence on the state to self-reliance. This proposed transformation is highly complex and poorly understood. We question whether government interventions and policies aimed at strengthening community empowerment can lead to an enabling state. By examining externally funded community projects in six rural Scottish villages, we investigate whether these development initiatives helped to improve socio-economic aspects related to community resilience. We used uni/bivariate and multivariate analysis with data from 345 structured interviews. Our results show that those communities where projects were completed had a higher average social resilience than the communities where projects remained incomplete. Social resilience factors, including social ties and networks, were predictors of completing community projects. Our results indicate that some communities are harder to activate and require external state support which addresses local needs so that these communities play a more active civic role. If states seek ‘resilient communities’, interventions must be co-designed with citizens to create conditions that will engage and enable people to take more control of aspects of their future, including those communities with a history of minimal civic participation.
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