Spirituality as dimension of integrated community development

Murray, Isabel (2013-12)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Following the democratic elections in 1994, many South Africans are still suffering due to the country’s inability to meet the challenges of peace-making, reconciliation and nation building, and dealing with socio-economic realities such poverty and inequality. It is in this context where “personal problems [are] becoming public issues” (Sacco, 1999:3) that the researcher posed the questions: What additional undisclosed/hidden resources can be uncovered to be utilised in meeting the challenge? How can we as practitioners in the field of community development contribute constructively to this process? One such a resource is the untapped spiritual potential of people. A focus on people’s spiritual potential will bring another dimension to people and community development and could proof invaluable in helping communities to better utilise their inner strengths and knowledge. Translated into practice, it would require an in-depth and research-based creative, non-prescriptive bottom-up approach to and knowledge of community development to prompt practitioners to acknowledge and utilise the spiritual dimension of the community development practice (cf. Weyers, 1991:130– 149; Ife, 1998:xiv). Inconceivably, notwithstanding the increased recognition of spirituality as an important dimension of working with individuals and communities, the dimension of spirituality has not been included or fully developed as an integral component of community development practices. A literature survey clearly indicated that, though traditionally the key role-players in the field of social development have been community and social work practitioners in faith-based organisations and churches alike, little or no attention is paid to spirituality in current community development literature and practice (Ver Beek, 2003:31). Confronted with this deficiency, in this study the researcher argued for a convergence of the three disciplines of (1) social work community development, (2) the newly emerging discipline of spirituality and (3) practical theology. Since practical theology recognises both the fields of spirituality and community development as basis for their praxis focusing on poverty and suffering, justice and liberation, it was further asserted that the field of practical theology offers a home for the development of an integrated framework for community development. Thus the goal of the study was threefold: - To theorise the inter-relationship between spirituality, theology and community development, building a triangular theoretical construct between the disciplines of social work, spirituality and practical theology. - To explore the practice of transforming people and communities through incorporating a spiritual dimension into an integrated community development approach. - To propose a praxis framework for the incorporation of spirituality in community development. An inter-disciplinary action research design was utilised to follow a cyclical process consisted or a preliminary literature search, and a field study which involved ‘on site’ visits (village walks) in the pilot and two sample communities, healing retreats and capacity building worksessions. Subsequently, an in-depth literature study on the topics of spirituality, community development and transformation as covered in the disciplines of social work and practical theology, was undertaken. The findings indicated spirituality as source of survival and hope; at the heart of community development (and therefore a legitimate focus of the action research project) and lastly as source of renewal for community development practitioners. Other key findings were the centrality of relationships and transformation; and the importance of a radical shifting of the focus from previous top-down problem-/project-/programme-centred models to unlocking the potential interconnectedness/relationship between God, people and creation as the core substance of participative, transformational development. These findings were utilised in the proposal for a relational praxis framework for community transformation.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Bykans twee dekades na afloop van die demokratiese verkiesing in 1994 is daar steeds vele Suid Afrikaners wat daagliks blootgestel is aan die uitdaging om te oorleef te midde van voortgesette armoede, ongelykheid, geweld en werkloosheid – hoofsaaklik vanwee die regering se onvermoë om die uitdagings met betrekking tot sosio-ekonomiese realiteite die hoof te bied. Dit is in hierdie konteks van persoonlike probleme wat oorvloei na die arena van openbare vraagstukke (Sacco, 1999:3) dat die navorser die volgende vrae stel: Watter alternatiewe, tans onontginde, bronne is daar wat aangewend kan word om hierdie knelpunte die hoof te bied? Hoe kan praktisyns (binne die ontwikkelingsterrein) konstruktief bydra tot hierdie proses? ‘n Voorlopige literatuurstudie het daarop gedui dat spiritualiteit (van individue en gemeenskappe) een so ‘n potensiele bron van onontginde energie en potensiaal is. Indien daar binne die verband van gemeenskapsontwikkeling op die spirituele dimensie gefokus word, mag dit van ontskatbare waarde wees om mense binne gemeenskappe te help om hulle innerlike sterktes en kennis ten volle te ontwikkel. In praktyk sal dit vereis dat praktisyns die potensiaal van die spirituele dimensie erken en oop is daarvoor om spiritualteit as dimensie van gemeenskapsontwikkeling binne ‘n kreatiewe, navorsingsgefundeerde deelnemede benadering te integreer (cf. Weyers, 1991:130–149; Ife, 1998:xiv). In die lig daarvan dat daar, veral binne die dissipiline van maatskaplike werk, tot op hede min navorsing gedoen is oor die insluiting van spiritualiteit as dimensie van gemeenskapsontwikkeling en -praktyke (Ver Beek, 2003:31), is geargumenteer dat ‘n inter-dissipliere benadering, met die insluiting van die dissiplines van (1) maatskaplike werk gemeenskapsonwikkeling, (2) spiritualiteit en (3) praktiese teologie die daarstel van ‘n geskikte teoretiese raamwerk sal moontlik maak. Aangesien praktiese teologie beide die dissiplines van spiritualiteit en gemeenskapsontwikkeling erken as basis vir die praxis-fokus op armoede en sosiale geregtigheid en bevryding, is daar van die standpunt uitgegaan dat die dissipiline van praktiese teologie die geskikte die ruimte vir die ontwikkeling van ‘n geïntegreerde raamwerk vir gemeenskapsontwikkeling is. Die doel van die studie was drieledig: - Om ‘n multi-vlakkige teoretiese konstruk tussen die drie dissiplines van maatskaplike werk, spiritualteit en gemeenskapsontwikkeling daar te stel. - Om ondersoek in te stel na die praktyk van transformering van mense en gemeenskappe deur die inkorporering van ‘n spirituele dimensie in ‘n geïntegreerde gemeenskapsonwikkelingsbenadering. - Om ‘n praxis raamwerk voor te stel vir die inkorporering van spiritualiteit in gemeenskapsontwikkeling. Die inter-dissilinêre aksie navorsingsontwerp het bestaan uit verskeie siklusse wat ‘n voorlopige en diepte literatuurstudie en veldnavorsing behels het. Die veldnavorsing het ingesluit: ‘in situ’ besoeke aan die onderskeie gemeenskappe (wat deur die teikengroeplede verteenwoordig is); ‘n ‘retreat’ vir elke groep; ‘n reeks kapasiteitsbousessies en die ontwikkeling van twee gemeenskapsprojekte voorspruitend uit die navorsing. Die in-diepte literstuurstudie het gefokus op die integrering van spiritualiteit, transformering en gemeenskapsontwikkeling binne die dissiplines van maatkaplike werk en praktiese teologie. Die bevindinge van beide die veldwerk en die literatuurstudie het daarop gedui dat spiritualiteit ‘n bron van hoop en oorlewing is, dat dit tot ’n baie groot mate ‘n positiewe rol in die teikengemeenskappe speel en dat dit as ‘n bron van versterking en vernuwing vir individue en gemeenskappe kan dien. Die sentraliteit van verhoudings en transformasie was ander sleutelbevindinge, asook die fokus op ‘n totale wegkeer van tradisionele hierargiese benaderings na voetsoolvlak verteenwoordiging en inspraak ten einde die potensiële interverwantskappe tussen God, mense en die skepping as die kern van deelnemende transformerende gemeenskapsontwikkeling te kan erken en benut. Hierdie bevindinge is as riglyne vir die voorgestelde relasionele praxis raamwerk vir geïntegreerde gemeenskapstransformering gebruik.

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