Community Organisation-An approach of Lifelong Learning
Bhoumik Deshmukh    
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The Concept of Lifelong Learning has been adopted first in the more economically advanced industrial societies whereas it is a societal responsibility for creating a learning environment and the necessary resources for all citizens, new and established, young and old. Lifelong learning is an essential condition for being able to manage ourselves well, and to prosper economically. The capacity to learn of nations, their governments and international bodies, as well as of individuals and communities, for civil society and for its citizens-underpins the ability to judge and to manage wisely and efficiently in the public interest.

Lifelong learning offers a powerful perspective to widen and transform education systems and make learning as a life-wide and lifelong activity a democratic, accessible and affordable right.
Literacy, adult basic, continuing and non-formal education are important parts of lifelong learning, but that the concept applies to all forms of learning and schooling, from family, early years and per-school learning throughout the formal compulsory school years and on through tertiary education, work and adult life
Governments, development stakeholders, regional and international organisations have an essential role and responsibility to play in facilitating learning and creating the necessary conditions for its attainment, including providing for an adequate level of funding to enable all forms of lifelong learning.
Cooperation and integration of effort within and across sectors, levels and all ministries, not only Education, is essential, as is local level initiative and coordination of effort, to achieving (EFA) Education for All and other development objectives.
Community dimension is as important as the individual, and an essential to achieve EFA goals through lifelong learning for all.

Work with Communities

(Community Organisation/Community work is a type of activity practiced by people who are employed to help others to identify problems and opportunities, and to come to realistic decisions to take collective action to meet these problems and opportunities, in ways that they determine for themselves. The community worker also supports them in the process of putting, decisions they make, into effect, to help them develop their abilities and independence (Baldock, 1974) ).

Younghusband defined community organisation as primarily aimed at helping people within a local community to identify social needs, to consider the most effective ways of meeting them and to set about doing so, in so far as their available resources permit (Younghusband Report, 1973). Ross (1955) identified three approaches to community organisation: (i) the ‘specific content’ approach, whereby a worker or an agency or organisation identifies a problem or set of problems and launches a programme to meet them; (2) the ‘general content’ approach whereby a group, association or council, such as the Indian Association of Adult Education or the State Social Welfare Board, attempts a coordinated and orderly development of services in a particular area; (3) the ‘process’ approach, where the objective is not the content i.e. facilities or services of some kind - but initiation and sustenance of a process which will involve people within a community in identifying and taking action in respect of their own problems and needs. Ross has included all these elements in his own definition. Thus, to him community organisation is “a process by which a community identifies its needs or objectives, develops the confidence and will to work for these needs or objectives, finds the resources (internal and/or external) to deal with these needs or objectives, takes action in respect to them, and in so doing extends and develops cooperative and collaborative attitudes and practices in the community”.

Kettner et al. (1985) noted that the community interventions lead to creation or modification of policy, a programme, or the initiation of a new project.


Community work is essentially concerned with influencing the course of social change through a process of analysing social situations and forming relationships with different groups to bring about some desirable change. It has three main objectives. The first is the democratic process of involving people in thinking, deciding, planning and playing an active part in the development and operation of services that affect their daily lives. The second relates to the value for personal fulfillment of belonging to a community. The third is concerned with the need in community planning to think of actual people in relation to other people and meeting their needs as persons, instead off, on a series of separate needs and problems. This means working under constant tensions between people’s needs and the scarce resources available to meet them, between the conflicting demands of different groups and different ideas about the kind of change that is desirable.

The Gulbenkian study group argued that community work is only one aspect of the far broader issue of how to meet people’s needs and give them an effective say: what these are and how they want them met. It is part of a protest against apathy and complacency and against a remote and anonymous authority. It is also part of the whole dilemma of how to reconcile the ‘revolution of human dissent’ with large-scale organisation and economic and social planning, which seems to be inseparably inter-woven with the parallel revolution of rising expectations. In short then, community work is seen as a means of giving life to local democracy (Gulbenkian Foundation, 1968). Similarly, Ecklein (1972) felt that community organisers are concerned with advancing the interests of disadvantaged groups, with improving social conditions, with the delivery of needed services, with redistribution of power and influence, with enhancement of the coping mechanisms of target populations and with strengthening community participation and integration.

Others noted that community work involves working with people who have voluntarily come together in community groups and organisations to find answers to shared needs and problems, and promote change, enabling them to achieve a greater degree of control over the conditions of their lives. The main objectives of such work are, developing and sharing skills, knowledge, experience and awareness. Priority is given to the powerless the disadvantaged and the oppressed (Butcher, 1992; Jacobs, 1994; Rivera & Erlich,1995; Kenny,1996).

These definitions are more radical, and though they also conceptualise community in terms of a target population, they do not close the options of community workers of induce social change of a wider nature. This widens the scope of community work or organisation. Both these terms are treated synonymously in the liberal as well as in the radical tradition.

Though it is difficult to suggest a definite prescriptive theory for combating the challenges that a community worker confronts in communities in India and other developing countries, it may still be useful to identify whatever explanations are available in the social sciences to make a more logical and systematic attempt at understanding some of the issues.

Leonard identifies four elements in a practice framework:

  (i)     community or neighbourhood;

  (ii)    local organisational and political context;

  (iii)   wider structural variables;

  (iv)   process of community work.

Approaches to work with communities

The scope of community work during the 1970’s covered a variety of activities. It look note of the fact that when a worker faced deprivation or social problems, this called for the payment of some attention to the larger social and political dimensions of this micro-reality. There came a realisation that all is not well with our society, with its tendency towards technological and materialistic goals, and towards a subordination of the individual by what is often called “the system”. On the other hand, there is a desire on the part of the common man to assert his right to participate in the decisions that affect him and his way of living. This suggests the use of a wide framework to guide a worker as she approaches her task in community work. But this could create confusion for her unless some categorisation, even if it is not a very neat ideological formulation, is available to guide one in practice (Siddiqui, 1989). This would facilitate a conscious choice on the part of the worker on the type of focus she wants to maintain in practice. Consequently, three models of practice similar to the one suggested by Rothman, are outlined below:

1.   Neighborhood development model

2.   System change model

3.   Structural change model.


Neighborhood Development Model

This is perhaps the oldest form of community work, where the general assumption is that people living in a community (read neighborhood) have the capacity to meet a number of problems through their own initiative and resources. The worker is expected to induce a process which will make the community realise this and consequently make efforts to achieve a greater degree of satisfaction for the of all its members, individually and collectively. Recent changes in this model of community work lay more emphasis on the development of a self-sustaining indigenous organisation within the community to take over this role from the workers or the agency as soon as possible. Thus, the role of the worker is seen as unleashing developmental energies within the community, rather than acting as a provider of services. The value emphasised is self-sustenance, rather than dependence on outside help.

The worker in a neighborhood development model can deal with a variety of issues which may range from developing better relationships within different sections such as caste groups, linguistic groups or religious sects, to changing people’s attitudes about women, a small family norm, and making use of available social services. Contrary to the general understanding on the part of workers to generate services to cater to people’s needs or improve the physical surroundings of the community by introducing the concept of drainage or proper roads, the neighborhood development model can be employed to develop new ideas. The emphasis here is to encourage thinking on the part of people themselves, rather than to do things for them. The neighborhood development model has often been criticised for making people more dependent on outside help. The fault lies with the manner in which a worker or an agency uses the model, and not with the model itself. However, the limitations of effecting a change with little or no control over macro-realities have already been pointed out. Still, the neighborhood development model will, in all probability, continue to be practiced in India and other third world countries.

The experience of community work in India has provided useful insights into the likely success or failure of different models. One of the insights gained is the difficulty of generating local resources, either for a specific programme or for total development of the community. Hence, an over-emphasis on indigenous resources can lead to frustration. On the other hand, in the changing economic scenario, State funding for community development projects is likely to decline. The main source of community work funding will continue to be non-governmental organisations. A complete withdrawal of workers, even in the best-planned neighborhood model of community work, is not possible. The neighborhood development model should therefore plan for a long-term involvement of the social worker or agency. The fact that change, and peoples’ participation in bringing about change, or its acceptance in Indian conditions, is a gradual process, lends additional weight to the need for a long-term perspective of this model. Further, it will not be possible for any community to fully take over and run the development programme without any professional help. Hence, some form of supervision of a programme on a long-term basis will have to be made, even in this model. Therefore although the social worker or agency may plan for a partial withdrawal, which means employing more local resources for day-to-day management, nevertheless they have to continue professional supervision of the programme.

The specific steps in the model are:

  1. Identification, location and demarcation of the physical area.
  2. Entry into the community
  3. Identifying the needs of different sections
  4. Programme Planning
  5. Resource Planning
  6. Developing an organisational network in the community
  7. Partial withdrawal within a time frame.


System Change Model

This model of community work has not yet become very popular, but there is ample evidence to suggest that it is beginning to get more acceptance in such diverse areas as environmental issues, women and health-related is such. In this approach, various arrangements in society to cater to basic needs, such as education, health, housing, employment, women’s empowerment and environmental protection are considered as independent systems which also have sub-systems. The ultimate rationale for their existence is both social production and social consumption. The basic assumption in this model is that systems can become dysfunctional due to a variety of factors, such as population growth. This means that the demand for consumption may increase. Similarly, a change in values may signify that the quality of a product needs to be changed, or a change in technology may signify a change in the methodology of production. The cumulative impact of these factors may generate a host of strains and pressures on any system. The system may become dysfunctional either because what it is producing is not relevant for people, or because not many people have access to what is being produced. At times it may produce various categories of product for different sections of the population. This leads to the unleashing of tendencies to maintain the status-quo in terms of disparities between different socio-economic and/or spatial segments of the population, rather than serving as an empowering mechanism.

The example of the education system in India and in other developing countries will help make these formulations clear. The national policy document on education in India noted that the general objects incorporated in the earlier 1986 policy “did not get translated into a detailed strategy of implementation, accompanied by the assignment of specific responsibilities and financial and organisational support. As a result, problems of access, quality, quantity, utility and financial outlay, accumulated over the years, have assumed such massive proportions that they be tackled with the utmost urgency” (Government of India, 1986). It further pointed out that education in India stands at the crossroads today. Neither normal linear development nor the existing pace and nature of improvement can meet the needs of the situation. The policy document asserted that the national education system will play a positive interventionist role in the empowerment of women and scheduled castes and tribes. Subsequent data indicate that the system failed to achieve these objectives.

It is common knowledge that social services in urban areas are far superior to those in rural areas, both in quality and quantity. Similarly, the kind of education or health services one can by in the market are far superior to state sponsored services. The quality of the product is one of the basic means of maintaining the status quo in society. Thus, all our systems of delivery of developmental/social services for the people are suffering from various deficiencies and are unable to achieve their objectives. Symptoms of this dysfunction are observed by the community worker in the community. she comes across a school which not only lacks basic resources in terms of adequate space, class rooms, furniture, playgrounds and library facilities, but also does not even have properly trained and efficient staff. The drop-out rate is phenomenal. Those who manage to stay are still unable to make it to higher education. They find themselves far inferior in comparison to the products of elite/private schools.


The Community worker would like to reduce the drop-out rate, and would also like to improve the quality of the education being imparted. The resource level of the school, as pointed out earlier, can only be marginally improved through community efforts. Further, the worker or the community can do very little to bridge the qualitative gap between the two different kinds of education. It is at this point that the implications of the system of education and the impact of other systems, such as political, and economic, on it, becomes obvious. Similarly, it is necessary to understand the sub-systems of education, school, the department of education and teacher’s training institutes, and their functioning and impact on the whole system, in order to arrive at a useful framework for understanding what one finds at the grass-roots level.

When this realisation dawns on the worker, he/she may decide to collect more facts and to develop a strategy of either restructuring or modifying the system. This is termed as a “system-change” approach to community work. Some of the specific tasks identified with this model are:

  1. Collecting relevant facts about the specific deficiencies in the system, e.g. urban bias, disparity in access to services, lack of trained functionaries, inadequate delivery structure, and lack of funding, leading to inadequacy of material, equipment and space.
  2. Sharing the findings with the community/communities.
  3. Selecting an appropriate strategy to influence decision-making bodies or to focus attention on the issue.
  4. Mobilising community and outside support to put the plan into action.
  5. Developing an organisation in the community and linking it to similar organisations in other communities, and other voluntary organisations, which can help them in demanding change.

Structural Change Model

The “structural-change” model of community work is viewed as a small cell within the larger body of society. In other words, various tiny communities constitute the bigger whole i.e., a society or a nation-state. The major assumption in this model is that the manner in which the relationship between different sections of the population is structured, formally (constitutional frame work, law, state policies etc.) or informally (customs, public opinion), largely determines the social rights of individuals. This consequently determines the relationship of the State vis-a-vis the individual or a community and intra-community and inter community relations. For example, the way relationships in a society, are structured, provides for maximum autonomy and freedom to the individual. In such circumstances the ‘community’ also does not have any obligation towards its individual members in terms of need fulfillment. If all members agree to poll their resources to meet some of the problems and needs which they think can be met more adequately through a collective effort, they may do so.

The social structure in some societies is such that the state regulates individuals to control the production and consumption of economic resources, in order to ensure a certain level of need fulfillment for all, or for the more needy section of society. In the structural-change model, therefore, the worker analyses the link between the macro structuring of social relationships and the micro-reality of an unemployed youth, or the general lack of access of people to education or health facilities in the community, etc. The worker tries to mobilise public opinion to radically alter the macro-structure.

This is a far more complex task for a ordinary community worker. It calls for very different kinds of skills from those that an ordinary community worker generally possesses. It requires, above all, an understanding of human society in all its myriad dimensions: economic, political, social and cultural. Most community workers will not be able to explain the relationship between current wage rates and the type of economy, or the concept of state and social development, not to mention the process of formation and legitimisation of the state. Therefore, though a worker may have a vague notion about the possibility of a link between micro-and macro-realities, he is unable to give it a definite shape. He looks at a fragment of the total social reality, which needs change. He pursues a system-change model rather than a structural-change model. A structural change model, has to work out an alternative form of society, which will transform existing conditions at the micro level of community. It means the adoption of an alternative political ideology. The capacity of a nation-State to bring about changes in its own policies are restricted by factors or powers outside the nation-State. For example, in the case of many third-world countries, the influence wielded by the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and big powers is a well-known phenomenon. These organisations sometimes make it extremely difficult for a nation-State to take decisions in respect of various is issues which vitally affect the distribution of goods and resources in society. At times, therefore, there is a need to influence the larger world order, to be able to effect changes in either a nation State or a whole group of nations suffering from the international policies.

The complex nature of the structural-change model, a lack of preparedness on the part of the worker, a feeling of lack of faith or relevance within the community, and the conflict such a model is likely to generate, make this by far the most difficult and rarely practiced model of community work. The specific tasks involved in the model are:

  1. To develop an understanding of the link between micro-and-macro social realities.
  2. To make a conscious decision about an alternative political ideology.
  3. To share this understanding with the community, to enable it to make its own decisions.
  4. To help the community identify a plan of action to pursue its goal by locating specific issues and consequent action to launch a long struggle.
  5. To help the community sustain its interest, enthusiasm and capacity to meet the strain which is likely to arise out of an inevitable conflict with the existing power structure.

The structural-change model of community work many thus originate within a community. But its scope later widens to encompass an entire society or nation-state. Though it many start as community work, it translates itself into another method of social work social action. This may be another reason why community workers traditionally considered to outside the scope of their work.


A form of community work which was termed ‘radical’ was essentially viewed as an educational process, sharing general aims with other forms of education. This type of community work describes ways of helping people to understand the complexities of modern society, and the kinds of individual and collective action which are available to common people. Naturally, the achievement of any goal, including the attainment of any viable change, is not the real objective. What is important is that people gain in terms of greater self-confidence, organisational and social skills and an understanding of vital issues which concern them in society (Bal dock, 1974). This may help the worker to realise that in the structural-change model he may not succeed in achieving any goal. But what he accomplishes nevertheless is that he sows the seeds for social change to take place later, even though it may take years or decades.

It is also essential for a worker to keep in mind that his or her own understanding, and that of the community, is likely to undergo substantial change in the course of time. Many workers who may previously have believed in the Bolshevik traditions of socialism, may find democratic socialism more functional now, particularly since the collapse of the Soviet block. Similarly, a social worker understands or his change options may not be acceptable to the community, or the community may fail to arrive at a consensus on the issue. In all such situations, the worker is in a rather difficult position. He has the option to withdraw or to continue to support the community,. Despite these differences. In Indian or Third-world contexts, the general condition of the masses makes it difficult for the community worker to practice the structural-change model, since there is a strong tendency among common people to remain passive observers.

Similarly, differences are fairly common among social workers operating within community over values, and the consequent prescriptions or strategies for change. In such instances, the personal influence or qualities of workers may act as a vital force. More dominant workers may prevail over their colleagues, or others with equal influence or commitment may decide to leave the project. A recent study, however, indicates that most workers have no commitment to any particular ideology, and lack clarity about any ideological frame work. This may be one reason why discrepancies can be found in the ideological orientation of organisations working in the community, and their programmes and practices (alponse, 1991). Yet, this may be what helps them to continue to work together, despite a lack of consensus. The community-work group identified three levels of community work:

  1. The Grass-roots or neighborhood level, which basically refers to the community- development approach.
  2. Local agency and inter-agency level community work aimed at establishing and sustaining a secondary group, such as a youth or a women’s organisation to co- ordinate local groups with a regional or national organisation, or co-ordinate different agencies with common interests to meet a specific need such as women’s education or child care.
  3. Regional or national level community work, which is more planning-oriented rather than focused on finding a solution to any specific issue. This type of community work is research-oriented, and many may not even consider it as community work practice. It may be termed as an exercise in social planning, or the formulation of social policies.

However, the thinking on models does help to identify a type of community work which does not belong to the three models mentioned above. The scope of this type of community work is wider than the neighborhood model, where the primary concern seems to be to locate new services or to modify or improve existing ones within a ‘community. Here the worker attempts to help the community think of ways in which it can meet a need by collaborating with other communities who may have similar problems or needs. This may be termed as the inter-community model of community work.

Community Organisation & Community Development


Community Development or Task Orientation

Organisation or Process orientation


Identification of the need by Worker/Agency community

Effort at development of a nucleus within the community


Enlisting Peoples Participation

Encouraging people to think


Resource Mobilisation by Worker/Agency

Need identification by community nucleus.


Programme Planning by Worker/Agency

Resource Mobilisation Community/Agency/Worker


Programme Management

Programme Planning


Evaluation by Worker/Agency

Programme Management


Effort at developing a community structure

Evaluation by Community/Agency/Worker

Kramer and Specht (1983) identify the former as task analytic or programmatic goals of community organisations, and the latter as ‘process interaction’ or relationship goals. Ross, on the other hand, identifies these as specific/general content objective and process objective, though both are trying to meet community needs. Kramer and Specht saw the goal of process-approach as enhancement and the strengthening of the civic, social and political competence of people. They further suggested that-goals for action on needs frequently compete with and contradict one another. For example, the effort by a worker to integrate children in the slum with the school, and thereby enable residents to move beyond slum boundaries, contradicts the goal of strengthening the solidarity of slum people, and the overall development of the area. This leads us to suggest that before the worker initiates the process of working with a community, a stage of conscious analysis and debate leading to a clear ordering of goals or objectives will help universally, in perceiving subsequent stages of the process. As the chart indicates, the very sequence of stages undergoes a change, with goal-identification in terms of task or process. We would however discuss the process of working with the community both from a task - and process orientation.


Skills in community Organisation

I. Relationship skills  
Listening Responding
Feeling/sensing Paraphrasing
Clarifying Information giving
II. Problem solving skills  
Problem identifying Data collecting
Assessing/goal setting Planning/task defining
Selecting and implementing intervention Evaluating
III. Political skills  
Advocating Taking legal action
Providing evidence Bargaining
Organising Publicising
IV. Professional Skills  
Recording, Research,
Time-management, Teamwork.

Rivera & Erlich (1995) has identified some skills along with values and attitudes, the community organiser is expected to possess;

  1. Similar cultural and racial identification
  2. Familiarity with customs and traditions, social networks, and values.
  3. An intimate knowledge of language and subgroup slang.
  4. Leadership styles and development.
  5. An analytical framework for political and economic analysis.
  6. Knowledge of past organising strategies, their strengths, and limitations.
  7. Skills in concretisation and empowerment.
  8. Skills in assessing community psychology.
  9. Knowledge of organisational behaviour and decision-making.
  10. Skills in evaluative and participatory research.
  11. Skills in programme planning and development and administration management.
  12. An awareness of self and personal strengths and limitations.

Apart from these for accomplishing the task in the Community Organisation process there is way of describing skills in community organisation could be as follows.

  1. Skills in rapport building
  2. Skills in identification of needs
  3. Skills in Resource Mobilisation
  4. Skills in Programme Planning
  5. Skills in Programme Management
  6. Skills in evaluation
  7. Skills in Recording
  8. Skills in encouraging community participation
  9. Skills in working with the group
  10. Skills in working with individuals
  11. Skills in mobilising Community Action

Community organisation as a method of Lifelong Learning

Community organisation as a method is required in each and every situation in which efforts are directed towards meeting the community needs as also towards developing integration within the community.

It is concerned with improvement of social provisions for some disadvantaged population and enhancement of social relationships to develop greater capacity in some target population to deal with common problems.

As a method, it deals the problem of relationship It’s central objectives is to facilitate the actual process of social adjustment of individual people, through the development and constructive use of social relationships within which these human beings can find their own fulfillment and can discharged adequately their social responsibilities.

The philosophy of Lifelong learning preformed faith in human beings in their inherent and inviolable right to choose and to achieve their destiny through social relations of their own making within the essential framework of a stable & progressive society.

In community organisation we have had the worker who knew the problem and the solution to the problem before he arrived in the community and who proceeded to organise the community around his conception of the need & the goal.

In this method we have used some of the insights and tools of social science to show where and how changes could be made with the least social dislocation & with the greatest support in the community.



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  2. Cox Fred (1987) Community Organisation, Michigan: F.E. Peacock Publishers.
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  5. M.C. Reddeppa Reddy - Opportunities & Challenges to Lifelong Learning - Indian Journal of Adult Education, Vol. 70 No. 2, April - June 2009, New Delhi.
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