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Mastering Change -A New Paradigm in Building Positive Futures for Rural Communities

Agnes Gannon


In building positive futures for rural communities we are really talking about "Getting from Here to There" and the challenge is How to master the change that will get us from here to there" ! But first, do we know where here is and do we know where there is?

Let me start with a little story from my own country. During my last visit to Australia in November I met one of your ex Deputy Prime Ministers who recounted the following experience which he had in Ireland. As he drove on a country road in County Kerry , he stopped a man on a bicycle to enquire how he could get from there to Ballyhaige. The man replied "so you want to go to Ballyhaige? Well", he said, "go down the road there and you will meet a four cross-roads -don't turn there, go further on the road and you will meet a three cross-roads, you could turn there but don't". He then paused for some time and he said "well, you know, if I were going to Ballyhaige, I wouldn't start from here!"

This story may sound funny or foolish but it is a story that is part of many of our lives. "Getting from here to there" can present a lot of complexities and changes for us because often we do not see things as they are. Instead, we see them as we are and consequently we have difficulty in accepting the reality of where we are and where we are going. Too many rural development programs are built on this foundation. Knowing, accepting and being, prepared to start from where we are is the basic ground rule which must be observed before planning the stages of chance that will take us to where we want to be.

The ,first step in mastering is being aware of where we are and having a strong desire to go where we want to be.

This paper looks at:

  • Mastering Change:
    • concepts of change and implications
    • vision driven futures
    • future global change-
  • The significance of change for Agriculture, for the Environment and for Rural Society.
  • Community Economic Development -Building Positive Rural Futures:
    • Capacity Building: Human Resources; Institutional Capacity and Community Culture.
  • New Paradigms in Mastering change within Local Communities, Business and Organisations.
  • A Holistic or Global Management Approach to Development -Leadership.
  • A Model of Best Practice for Community Economic Development.

1. Mastering Change -the concept of change and its implications

Change has become the central dynamic of society. The most constant thing in our lives is t chance. In fact, it is the most constant thing in the universe. Change has always been with us but they say "change has changed" -it is coming much faster nowadays. In the past, the time r span of important chances was considerably longer than that of a single lifetime. Today this time span has dramatically shifted and now we can have many important changes within our lifetime. The speed of chance today is well illustrated by Lewis Carroll (1871) in his classic 'Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass':

"Well, of course in our country " says Alice "you'd generally get to somewhere else -if you ran very fast for a long time as we've been doing ". " A slow sort of country " said the Red Queen, "Now, here, you see it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else you must run at least twice as fast as that ".

To survive in a globalised competitive economy we too must run even faster. We have to remember that the pace of change is only at the beginning. It is predicted that the future will be fanned by greater chance at greater speed.

Today, almost everyone, even children, talk about the speed of time. This is an illusion. Time always goes at the same pace but it is the speed of change that has quickened. Coping with the speed of change and the dramatic increase in choice is not easy and indeed our education and management systems have done relatively little to prepare us for the resultant effects. Consequently, for many, stress has now become synonymous with change. There are many remedies for treating the symptoms but there is relatively little focus on building capability and flexibility to treat the cause.

Change produces survivors and victims. Victim consciousness is one of the greatest weaknesses of rural society. It is a mode of living within which people complain about everything that is affected by change. Victim consciousness doesn't work any more. Self pity takes away our power. We need to take responsibility for everything we do otherwise we I don't have power.

There is a built-in tendency to deny the reality of change. We crave stability and continuity and we want to believe the future is going to be like the past. The past is past. It is a poor guide to the future. We should only glimpse at it to see what has gone, and remember that the present is just the starting point. Too many organisations and institutions are built on stability - and not on change. Many Governmental institutions are based on the concept of continuity where there is a vested interest in a system with fixed rules and methods which provide a feeling of certainty.

A Future Built on Vision

Change challenges certainty. Change is about the future, it is about flexibility, it is about vision and creativity, it is about unseen development. Developmental work too often misses the opportunity to use vision and creativity to shape change. Instead the future is shaped by projecting an extension of what is at present into what might occur in the future. This is a very imprecise tool on which too many Community Economic Development (CED) programs are built. It is suggested that many managers are working with mental software that was designed for a previous generation. They are labouring with quills when they should be mastering virtual reality. We cannot afford to live in the past and transfer its success formula into tomorrow but we can build on it with intuition, innovation and vision. It requires looking at inclinations and probabilities rather than at certainties. It requires thinking differently, seeing things differently and doing things differently. As soon as one concept has outlived its usefulness another concept needs to be ready for production. It is a continuous process -living in a constant state of certainty.

Uncertainty is the new reality which offers the challenge of inventing tomorrow instead of doing what we have always done -re-inventing the past. With vision we can create the future by taking action in the present and in this way we can have an unlimited sense of what is possible in the future. Backcasting is the process recommended by futurists, that is, you project forward by visualising where you want to be or what you want to do, you see your goal as accomplished and you work backwards to where you are now. This is a powerful technique that enables a view of the possibilities and pitfalls that are likely along the way. It sharpens the perception and gives a perspective on what has to be done to achieve the goals. Creating the future requires flexibility which means thinking with the necessary breadth of vision to cope with change. In other words it is necessary to sharpen the vision and narrow the focus.

To psychologically condition ourselves to change we need to constantly ask ourselves -what do we want out of life for ourselves (our family) and for our business/organisation? What are we doing now and what do we want to be doing in five or ten years? These are attention or focus questions that we cannot afford to ignore because it is our conditioned beliefs that provide our own limitations to what is available to us. We need to stop being influenced by our negative experiences of the past and start creating a clear understanding and trust of our intuition and potential.

The greatest indication of the acceptance of change is evidenced by the extent to which we are prepared to change ourselves. Reluctance to self change can mirror a reluctance to accepting and understanding ourselves -a sometimes threatening experience. We need to take active responsibility for the creation of our own lives. We can either see change as the beginning of the end or we can choose to see change as an opportunity for a new beginning.

Future Global Changes

According to the futurist Hazel Henderson (UNESCO Conference, Stockholm 1998) there is a great transition occurring as we move beyond the age of industrialisation to what she calls 'Knowledge Based Solar Age Technology'. She forecasts that this is leading us to an age of 'Enlightenment of Great Wisdom' where people will be able to live co-operatively and co- creatively with each other and with all species of the planet.

This sounds like a desirable mission statement for the planet and perhaps it is one we should all focus on and ensure that our strategic and specific objectives contribute to it. However, to come into alignment with this objective and to make it a reality will require mind-set changes of astronomical and dynamic proportions but I believe it is possible if we in influential positions are prepared to change ourselves and contribute to change.

In looking to the future, Henderson urges that economists and business people should give more attention to what she calls "Cultural DNA Codes", that is, those values, goals, ethics and aesthetics that make each country and society different. These values can no longer be excluded from economic models because these are the drivers of all economies. We are already living in what Henderson calls the " Attention Deficit Societies" where each of us is bombarded with information -overload from advertisements, media, politicians, teachers, health providers, not to mention junk e-mail. However, this can awaken us to the opportunity of asking ourselves some very basic focused questions: what do I need to pay attention to; who am I and what do I want to achieve in my lifetime? When such questions are taken seriously answers will create what Henderson refers to as " Attention Economics" with a shift from material goods (measured by GNP/GDP per capita) to services and more tangible factors in living standards measured by a new scoring system.

Indications are that social forces which include environment awareness will be the transforming factors of the future. Therefore it will be more difficult for governments and politicians to hype goods based on GDP growth in the global economy without also measuring toxic waste, resource depletion, scarce and unhealthy water supplies, polluted air, unsafe streets, drugs, money laundering, poverty and global epidemics. An " Attention Economy" would be concerned with a more caring approach to well-being: a health service geared towards wellness and prevention; cleaner and' greener' products, eco labelling and new social seals of approval as well as socially responsible investment, all of which provide future opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship. Therefore, the exciting and indeed frightening challenge which we are faced with is that the future will be continuously invented. We are told that four out of every five products to be traded by the year 2010 have not yet been invented. Nobody yet knows what form these products will take, who will supply them, or who will earn from them. But it is certain that new opportunities for new products will arise because of the constant changes in society, in their tasks and preferences, in their knowledge, mobility, wealth, resources, conditions and environmental demands. This provides enormous opportunities for those who have vision, are innovative and prepared to take risks to master change. It also provides a range of possibilities for rural enterprise development at the community level.

2. The Significance of Change For Agriculture, For The Environment and F or Rural Society

Agriculture has been the single most important factor in the shaping of the rural areas of most countries. It has been the traditional supplier of raw materials and the major contributor to the rural economy, culture, heritage and diversity of the landscape, and it has also influenced rural industrialisation. Agriculture's positive influence is now quickly declining and its economic importance is shrinking significantly to the extent that it no longer provides the economic base necessary for the vitality of the rural fabric. Therefore the effectiveness of the future agriculture will need to go well beyond the narrower sectoral aspects. The traditional priority given to food and fibre have to be complemented by other policy priorities: use of landscape, bio-diversity, innovative manufacturing, recreation and the development of natural and cultural heritage. Future emphasis will be on land use rather than on the production of food and fibre.

Because agriculture alone will not sustain a rural population, depopulation is likely to continue and such displacement of rural people is usually a permanent structural shift and not a temporary economic adjustment -jobs that are being rendered obsolete in fanning don't come back. Structural weaknesses are also impeding development prospects of rural areas: the gaps in infrastructure; too few job opportunities; inadequate services; not enough opportunity for basic or further training, all impact on the demographic structures. This form of inadequate infrastructure also discourages companies from setting up in rural areas. Therefore, significant agriculture related changes which impinge on the social, economic, environmental and demographic issues are presenting major challenges to rural communities. Such changes have altered the incomes and purchasing power of the rural community to the extent that rural communities and rural community resources are now forced to provide opportunities for farm family income improvement through demand enhancement of agriculture related and other products, or, through the provision of part time or full time employment. This is the situation in many rural areas of Europe.

While part time farming is increasingly becoming a reality for many farmers of the future, agriculture is still deemed an important engine of economic growth, particularly in the promotion of long term sustainable economies of rural area. There can be no rural life without agriculture -it is the cornerstone of rural economic development. Therefore, the maintenance' of a healthy agriculture economy remains a critical component of any comprehensive effort aimed at rural economic development. Efficiency, effectiveness and competitiveness are imperatives for agriculture development. This includes the adoption of improved production practices, up-to-date management and marketing technology, entrepreneurial and innovative practices which provide scope for flexibility and creativity in the diversification of the economic base. Capitalising on value added by extending production to "Kite Marking", that is, making products from raw materials and exploiting niche markets, is an important imperative.

The liberalisation of global markets demands that farming of the future will not only be competitive and efficient but also compatible with sound environmental management and food safety practices. This has now become a very sensitive issue which is visible in the consumer driven market. It is highlighted in such issues as healthy and safe foods, access to clean water, freedom from pollution and waste, survival of rain forests, conservation of rural landscapes, animal care and other environmental issues. This' green' imperative has become the key factor in competitiveness and will continue to be a strong factor in future competitive strategies.

Future policy measures within the European Union envisage that direct payments to farmers will be decoupled from production and instead these payments will be linked to explicit conditions relating to farm practices, for example, hygiene, landscape management, environmental management, animal welfare, etc. Such policy changes will force the decision to continue as farmers or as custodians of the landscape. This may lead to agriculture becoming a two tier sector, that is, a progressive highly commercial sector increasingly operating in a competitive free market environment and a sheltered segment whose main function would relate to maintaining a high intrinsic value in terms of landscape, thereby contributing to the public good (Frawley 1997).

In the past, the agriculture rural development policy focused strongly on improved farm prices, often with strong, governmental financial support inputs. This may have had a positive effect on farm family income but it did reduce the capacity of rural areas to be competitive in manufacturing in construction and in service producing industries. Because of this contra entrepreneurial support structure which kept land in use when over production already existed and because of the monoculture approach to agriculture, that is, treating it almost exclusively as a food and fibre system, agriculture by and large decoupled itself from the manufacturing and service industries. In so doing, the rural community was denied the challenge to use their potential capacity to have a stake in commercial development outside the monoculture approach. For example, agriculture has four distinct development dimensions (See Figure I), all of which have not been exploited but which offer opportunities for production and processing. These are:

  • Food & Drinks System: Dairy products, meats, fish, cereals, fruit and vegetables, beer, wine, juices, etc.
  • Skin & Fibre System: Leather, fur, wool, linen, wood, jute, paper, energy, etc.
  • Pharmaceutical System Medical and veterinary remedies, chemicals, cosmetics, aromatherapy oils, herbs and spices, culinary oils and products, etc.
  • Service System: Agri-tourism: leisure facilities, accommodations, farm restaurants, sports facilities, learning and hobby facilities, entertainment facilities, culture and heritage.

Trade: retail, wholesale, hiring, renting, transportation, contracting, etc.

Skills: farming, carpentry, engineering, professional, etc.

For many rural areas, these dimensions of agriculture provide a vast unexploited potential for f development of small indigenous businesses. To exploit or develop this potential, research, entrepreneurial capacity , innovation and economic ambition are required.

Figure 1

3 Community Economic Development -Building Positive Rural Futures

To enable rural communities to exploit their advantages and to overcome their difficulties a new vision is required. A new vision is not one which is driven by the idea of modernising rural areas but it is one that enables rural communities themselves to take advantage of their potential to take control of their own destiny through a holistic approach. New types of enterprises develop best in a community that is in control of its own independence.

Every rural region has something unique. Usually that uniqueness has been seen as a weakness in the past, something which holds rural areas back from real integration in the modem world. Increasingly the uniqueness of different rural areas will be seen as their main strength in defining their identity and competitive strategy, focusing attention on new goods, services and activities which can be identified with each rural region. These have the potential for the creation of new economic activities through the development of new and unique enterprises done to economies of scale. Rural tourism is a particular example of such development.

To harness this potential a holistic process is required, that is, a process which will acknowledge that rural society is a socio-economic model in its own right and must be preserved in the interests of society as a whole. Therefore the approach to development needs to be multi-sectoral, integrated with a wide range of rural players who have a variety of interests that can contribute to the diverse economic and social conditions and to the environmental situations of individual rural communities.

Development of a rural community is about channelling community energy into a progressive self help process which would enable people to choose their futures, to analyse their own situations, generate solutions to their problems and plan their development for their own desired futures. This is to be done with the fullest reliance on the local community initiative and with active participation and partnership with governmental and local bodies and other relevant utilities. Therefore community economic development can be seen as a process whereby the community is actively involved in mobilising their own resources and in activating their hidden potential in order to create wealth, employment opportunities and well-being for the community and its individual members and to enhance the ecological integrity and cultural identity of the area. It implies an area based approach with continuous progressive change and development of the community by the community, that is, a 'bottom up' approach as distinct from the 'top down' approach which focuses on structural and physical development in the community.

Rural Development is now seen as one of the linchpins of the European Union (EU) policy. The EU manifesto on rural development (Cork Declaration 1996) states that "RD policy must be multi-disciplinary in concept and multi-sectoral in application with a clear territorial dimension based on an integrated bottom up approach, encompassing agriculture adjustment and development, economic diversification -notably small and medium scale industries and services and the management of national resources".

Although many countries in Europe are working towards this manifesto, bringing about this desired change is not easy and it presents a major challenge for rural communities and policy makers. They must ask how to transform the pressures of global competition into wealth creating opportunities for local areas through a new process of development. This will require an approach to diversification which is based on economies of scope. Using the logic of economies of scope and integrating small scale initiatives in the different sectors of activities to provide economies of scale is a very effective means of helping local communities meet the competition from mass production. A community strategy that is vision driven can facilitate such development and can help to change the mind sets from a dependency mentality to independence where self reliance and self sufficiency are fostered leading to interdependence where small scale clusters network in order to provide the economies of scale necessary for competition (Gannon 1996). Interdependence is a luxury that only independent people can enjoy.

It is important to recognise that not every area can be transformed to a level of independence by exhorting them to follow the formula of vision and creativity. Mannion (1996) argues that areas that are prosperous have the capacity to identify, develop and link new functions to real demands and markets, while those areas in decline have little internal capacity to develop new functions and they lack the organisation and support necessary to develop competitive and marketable alternatives.

Therefore, future rural development strategies need to take into account differences in the capacities of rural areas to adjust and diversify their economic activities and they need to enable areas in decline to reach a level of preparedness to participate in the development process. Such policies will need a strong focus on territorial rather than sectoral development. The imperative of 'capacity building' to service those and all aspects of development including a community culture and human and institutional capacities are vital.

Capacity Building

Capacity building is about building an on-going learning system, which enables individuals, local communities and relevant institutions reach a level of capability and preparedness to embark on a co-operative and co-creative development to the benefit of all. A major reason for the failure of local development projects is reflected in the lack of provision of an enabling environment for Capacity Building in relation to (i) Human Resources, (ii) Institutional Capacity, and (iii) Community Culture.

Human Resources are the bedrock of any development process. Human capital should be seen as a unique creative resource in which individual development is as valuable as the organisational growth. It is the use made of capacities that determines success. Therefore, capacity building is essential for empowering people to open to new attitudes to change and to be motivated in order to reach a level of preparedness to operate to their maximum potential for the development of their community. It requires a continuous learning process in self reflective behaviour, interpersonal relationship, balancing individual and group needs, developing ability to perceive problems and opportunities and in acquiring skills, talents and interests that ensure decision making and productive capacity for establishing sustainable development.

Institutional Capacity. For many rural development, projects institution capacity is the weakest link in the development chain. \\I1len existing institutions, government offices, local authorities or relevant policy makers, administrators and professionals are indifferent or unaware of what community economic development means or of the need for an area-based approach to development, they are unlikely to provide supportive policy for development (Mannion 1996). This is where institutional capacity building for community economic development starts. It is about transformation in thinking and in policy making. It requires seeing how every level of the relevant institutions and organisations can be mobilised to strengthen their resources, productivity and organisational vision for the support and development of their community. This may require changing the individual mind sets and systems which are entrenched in the 'top down' approach, an area-based 'bottom up' approach where development is based on communication, joint decision-making, shared responsibility, interpersonal relationships as well as partnership and ownership. This approach involves active co-operation and the integration of various stakeholders ranging from central and regional government departments, development agencies, local development bodies, financial and educational institutions, community organisations and private individuals. Local partnerships between public or private institutions, community members and private actors are deemed the ideal mechanism for facilitating such co-operation.

The designation of an institution with the responsibility and authority to lead and co-ordinate this development is a significant statement of intent in formulating and implementing a coherent rural development policy. Without institutional attention it is difficult to encompass the horizontal concerns for integration "and bottom up decision-making. Institution capacity building has also to ensure that the overall policy identifies and articulates rural issues in the appropriate framework and not as a by-product of a sectoral focus.

Community Culture Building is a vital part of capacity building in local communities and in organisations. The concept of community is now being used to advantage in many corporate organisations and businesses. A community culture is not a type of organisation structure or a place or a feeling. It is a process where the community members retain their individuality yet the total is greater than the sum of the parts because it operates like a group of leaders where all capabilities in the group are utilised when the different people lead or contribute as appropriate. Therefore, community culture needs to be built on shared leadership and accepted by all. This entails fostering the ability to listen to others and to respond from the wisdom of the heart and not from the platitudes of the ego.

Implicit within the process of building a community culture is developing:

  • a commitment and willingness to co-exist
  • open communication to foster a sense of community
  • a clear understanding of purpose by all
  • vision based thinking -commitment to community’s vision, goals and priorities
  • leadership which is responsive to challenge and change
  • shared responsibility for the development of the community
  • commitment to authenticity, honesty and transparency
  • trust and co-operation in local development activities
  • inclusiveness -open to all who wish to participate
  • a sense of belonging and pride of place with a sense of culture and heritage ( Gannon 1998)

Enlightened action for the good of all has to be the central motto of community culture. Relevant capacity building should endorse a holistic learning approach that enables shared leaderships and the community spirit of commitment, enlightenment and enthusiasm.

Building a community culture within the context of rural community economic development l is of significant importance in enabling the formation of area-based groups and, in particular, in raising local consciousness about needs and possibilities. Also, it is important in bringing local people to a level of 'preparedness' to participate in area development.

4 New Paradigms in Mastering Change with Local Communities, Businesses and Organisations

In a society where customers are strong currency, development of the future must focus on intellectual capacity. This recognises that people are the most important part of the development process. Their knowledge, resourcefulness, behaviour and commitment translate directly into ideas, currency and process which gives a new definition to wealth and well being that is -it is people dependent. It is now widely accepted that the new paradigm in mastering change and in the development of organisations and communities is about people and relationships.

The way we choose to relate to ourselves, to each other within communities, between economies, between businesses and in organisations has a major influence on the results of the development of our tasks or in, our lives. It is said that 85% of success in life is determined by our social skills and by our ability to interact positively, effectively and co- operatively with others. The primary reason for dismissal from jobs and for failure and frustration in life is because of poor social skills rather than lack of competence or technical ability. Therefore, survival for many may depend on their ability to shift into new ways of relating.

Within the new philosophy of development, emphasis is being placed on social intelligence, that is, (i) intrapersonal intelligence which is intuitive, creative and innovative, and (ii) interpersonal intelligence which provides for the ability to get on well with people and to get things done. Both of these two forms of intelligence will be critical for enabling people to cope with chance and to be open to new ideas and innovativeness.

Up to now, the whole socio-economic philosophy was infused with competition, so much so that it almost became the basis for everything, business, education. living etc. In today's world, transformation conditions awaken us to a new mode of relationships, togetherness, understanding, and synergy. This new mode embraces the five Cs -the watchwords of success for community economic development, as well as for business and organisation development for the future. These are:

1. Co-operation which is working together through self directed co-operative team work. It leads to higher production with higher quality. Within Community Economic

Development programs, many local action groups are developing economies of scale and scope through this co-operative networking process.

2. Connectedness. This is fostered by co-operative team work. It is about a willingness to co-exist which creates interconnectedness leading to a community culture and a community spirit. It provides for a sense of place, a pride of place and a local identity.

3. Competition. This is about moving towards excellence through striving together. That is striving to make greater efforts to compete with oneself in moving towards excellence. In the new paradigm the meaning of competition is no longer about conflict or aggression. It rises above it and is about value creation. The limits of competition in the old sense is illustrated by De Bono's story: Two boys in a forest see a bear in the distance charging towards them. One boy stops to change his footwear -he puts on his runners. The other boy says "why, you know you cannot out run the bear". He replied "I'm not in competition with the bear, I hope to out run you!"

4. Co-Creation is about creating together. It combines the best of co-operation and competition and produces a synergy that leads to innovation, new ideas and new developments which is accepted and owned by all.

5. Compassion starts with the self. It is about understanding and accepting ourselves and others, and thus enabling a willingness to co-exist as a group for the good of all concerned. Compassion is a quality no leader can afford to do without.

These five C's will be the key components of competitive strategies for positive rural futures.

5 A Holistic or Global Management Approach to Development

A holistic approach to management embracing the concept of wholeness and interconnectedness forms the new paradigm for organisation and business development. This is known as a holographic or a Global Management Approach (GMA). In this approach, management is vision driven, it incorporates the five Cs (as outlined above) and it operates through core teamwork where each team contains a reflection of the whole when they network together towards the quality of the final product.

This concept is fundamental to Community Economic Development or to any learning/developmental organisation, and is built on:

  • The ability to manage and lead when the essence of power is promoted through decisions being made and legitimised by participants.
  • The ability of each individual's effort to work for the task and the good of all.
  • Involvement in systems thinking, that is, being able to bring one's thinking patterns into alignment with purpose as well as relationships with other systems and subsystems, and understanding and appreciating the impact and significance of interactions. There is no effect without a side effect.
  • Building the appropriate capacities, that is, human, institutional and community culture.

A major emphasis of the holographic approach is focusing the mind on vision. An incandescent DESIRE for the outcome is the first requirements. Nothing will happen if desire is not there, because if the goal is not desired, it is not alive. This approach discovers the power of specific purpose and it ensures that the decision-making process encompasses a total perspective which accepts the unique capabilities of all. It starts with the question -what world would I like to create? And can that world be created through people, words, wood, stone, metal, fabric, recreation, etc. etc?

Through activating the synergy of working together and through the new type of leadership- management, it is possible with this approach to provide a custom tailored response to the precise needs and to the use of indigenous resources in each locality.

Leadership Management

The new form of leadership goes beyond the normal function of management and facilitation. It embraces direction, vision, inspiration and motivation whereas management deals with Structures, systems, process and efficiency. They are not mutually exclusive, a functional balance between the two is necessary. It can be said that leadership focuses more on people than on things, on long term rather than on short term plans, on developing relationships rather than equipment, on values over activities and on mission, purpose and direction rather than technique. The role of the leader within the new management paradigm has shifted from directing, and telling to facilitating and enabling. It is imperative that today's leadership is based on the concept of leading from the future. This requires the skills of trend awareness and envisioning. Trend awareness involves being a continuous learner and student of the immediate and global environment. Envisioning requires stepping into the future and visualising the desired future.

Because the old management model Created the future by repairing yesterday's problems, we still tend to be locked into mind sets and management maps that build programs by looking at the failures of the past and the reasons. Too often, managers expend vital energy in cementing past successful practices into rules that are enforced long after their usefulness. In the old style management, there is also the danger of losing sight of the mission or purpose and becoming over focused on the method and efficiency, in other words, in doing things right rather than on effectiveness, consequently too many projects are over managed and under led. According to Farren, Kaye (1996), leaders are bridges that connect people to the future. They have broad visions and build alliances and partnerships based on shared aspirations.

6 A Model of Best Practice for Community Economic Development

Repairing the old and removing yesterday's deficiencies are no longer best practices for sustainable community economic development. Best practices are those that are founded in local needs, in potential productive capacity and are focused relevant to consumer use, and have inbuilt competitive strategies which reflect tomorrow's vision and needs. They include a participative process and area-based approach to development which makes it possible to adapt to the diversity of the local context, encourage micro enterprises and provide appropriate answers that will ensure sustainable development.

A structured approach to the "best practice" model for Community Economic Development (CED) has five critical components or elements which are:

  • People - community with its culture, interest, skills, philosophies and capacity building needs.
  • Organisation - with its structure, governance, strategy, policy and funding.
  • Productive Capacity - with its social, economic and cultural development potential - enterprises, services, institutions, infrastructure, heritage and culture.
  • Marketing - targeted and customised with its research, promotion and selling strategy.
  • Process -leadership/management with its facilitation, integration, co-ordination, co-operation and networking.

An overriding imperative which impinges on all of these elements is -how inextricably linked social, economic and cultural development are, and how dependent all components are on capacity building and training in regard to social, economic, cultural and technical requirements. (Adapted from Gannon A. 'Global Imperatives for Best Practices for Community Economic Development'; Australian Business Conference, Newcastle 1997)


The three most important factors of development are people, people and people. Their vision, skills, abilities, interests, goals and leadership are the main determinants of success of any - development (see Capacity Building). This is borne out by the Japanese who claim that their success came about primarily from innovation in human resource management and investment in people and not from technology as we sometimes believe. Today's experience in community development tells us too, that the way forward resides within the deep inner resources of people too many CED projects have failed in the past because development energy was disproportionately invested in the physical and technical and not sufficient in human capital. Investment in people is about building the capacity to enable people to visualise their desired future and to establish their own local action group for bringing about that desired change.


This is the ace of participation and partnerships. The bureaucratic organisation mode which provides system, order, stability, discipline and authority no longer services the needs of today. Changes in expectations have given rise to new organisational forms where more than efficiency is expected from the organisations. It needs to contribute to the community well being with shared responsibility for social and economic problems. Such new organisational forms require flexible structures consisting of teams, task forces and management by project - where bosses are replaced with shared leadership, where all are shareholders in the development process and where power comes from the creativity of the individual. This new organisational model is based on the concept of the five Cs (see 4. New Paradigms in Mastering Change) and their integration which provides for wholeness and interconnectedness.

The implications of this dynamic for local organisations and for the development of local areas are: the creation of leadership alliances, that is environments in which people at all levels take initiative, creativity and courage towards the fulfilment of a common purpose. It opens up the opportunity for networking and the building of alliances between individuals, small firms and partnerships with appropriate institutions, as well as the formation of cluster groups for co-operative activity in the development of economies of scale and scope. This dynamic also facilitates the sharing of new ideas and experiences, the transfer of good practices and the pooled use of production facilities, management and skills. The team is the core component of this organisation form.

For Community Economic Development, the organisation needs to be structured, dynamic, innovative and entrepreneurial with a clearly defined mission and relevant tasks -all of which are clearly understood by participants.

The Structure needs to be formally organised with its own board of directors, professional facilitators, specialised staff, special work groups/committees, all of whom are committed to a mission and are imbued with a passion for progress. Governance within the organisation should be holistic and participatory. Collaborative decision making, freedom for independence of the individual and an interdependence in the formal process and structure should be standard practice.

Organisational Policy should relate to national and regional policy and be in harmony with the wishes of the local community. Its Purpose, which is the basic reason for the organisation's existence, should be broad and inspirational, reflecting the vision of the community. It should provide a clear sense of direction for the organisation and for the community. Its Mission should be stated in clear achievable goals which provide a motivational focus to work towards. Its Strategy should be representative of the requirements of the community and should relate to available resources. It should be competitive, be a leader in quality and innovation and should ensure the development of the local area, the well being of the community and the enhancement of the environment. Its Development Plan should be flexible, focused and attainable, with a task description indicating why, what, how, where, who and with whom. The organisation should attract appropriate partners and funding, should maintain a stable funding base and be financially sustainable.

The Modus Operandi for community action where productive capacity is harnessed is based on the cluster group model, where specialised groups work on a focused development project, for example, product-groups produce small batches of their product to high quality standards. Through networking or clustering, they meet requirements of economies of scale as well as satisfying the economies of scope. Their success is based on teamwork with horizontal relationships between themselves, their partners, and with suppliers and customers.

Productive Capacity

First and foremost, people are the main factor of productive capacity in a local area. Activating productive capacity in the project area is about helping people discover ways and means of producing new goods and services and new uses of resources for new markets. This involves building on the resources which a community has available or can obtain, that is, converting resources from less productive to more productive use. This requires collective vision within the community. No one single sector offers solutions to all problems of any area and not all communities are equally endowed but new entrepreneurial opportunities exist in virtually every sector and in every community. This is confim1ed by the rich mosaic of hidden potential that has been tapped, where innovative products have been developed for external markets through the pooled power of cluster groups within local communities.

The leisure industry provides one of the major opportunities in productive capacity for local communities and one of its main vectors of development is Rural Tourism. By its nature, Rural Tourism forges a whole chain of income generating activities and services, some of which are inherent in the rural context. It serves as a lever to generate all kinds of products for the invisible export market through sales to tourists (foods, textiles, crafts, services, etc.). It also contributes to improved infrastructure as well as to the socio cultural and recreational facilities of a region. As a community enterprise, it can have a very significant effect in upgrading the economic structure of a rural area through income enhancement, increased employment opportunities and the improved purchasing power of the local community.

An entrepreneurial culture is an essential force in productive capacity .It provides the environment which empowers people to be enterprising and have a sense of ownership for t their development. It embraces the enterprise ethic which strongly values innovation and creativity as well as economic ambition. To accelerate productive capacity in local areas it is necessary to build the critical mass of first generation entrepreneurs who can provide the necessary impulses and are prepared to take risks in utilising local resources for the creation of new products and services for new markets.

Innovation and creativity have become the key resource maps of productive capacity. Innovation is the specific tool of entrepreneurs and is the means by which they exploit change as an opportunity for a new business idea that has an economic value. Productive capacity i must answer this definition of innovation if it is to be converted into a competitive strategy. It has to be unique, it has to be of a quality which surpasses the needs and expectations of the customers and it has to be in demand. It has to be based not on what others already do well, but on what others cannot do well.

A significant obstacle to productive capacity development is the lack of preparedness of many communities to change, to be creative and to take risks. Too often communities are blocked by jealousies and tensions and lack the vital sense of unity. Their everyday problems mask their view of the community perspective. It is important that such communities are enabled to step outside their conditioned prisons of perception and to ignite a can-do attitude to their development.


Marketing starts with the development of the product, that is, understanding and delivering what the customer wants. According to Drucker, marketing is so important that he sees it as the whole business seen from the point of view of its final result, that is, from the customer's point of view. Marketing should start with all customers in the market place rather than with ‘our usual customers' because it is now recognised that, for most businesses, approximately 75% of purchasers are somebody else's customers.

Marketing power is chancing. There is a shift of power from the maker of the products to the person who buys them and uses them and no longer is the customer forced to buy what suits the manufacturer. Customers demand goods and services that relate to their individual needs and values. The definition of competitiveness is also changing due to the changing needs of people, the increased affluence of 'society and the effects of new technologies. Walley ( 1993) argues that a uni-dimensional definition of competitiveness, as identified with price, is being replaced by a multi-dimensional definition which sees quality of design, of customers , service, of performance and uniqueness, as more important competitive factors than price. People in affluent societies are willing to pay the price for these qualities.

Within a CED program, a competitive marketing strategy needs to have the seal of trust, quality and wholeness. It therefore needs to see the customer as an active partner in the business which gives the business a balance and provides for joint ownership of the product and the market through excellence in customer service. With such a partnership, you see and do things from another perspective. You develop your products to serve that market specifically. You define what standards, quality and uniqueness is required and you lead the trail that others follow" This process begins with value engineering, that is, by asking what value is, and what gives value to the customer. This requires attention to gap analysis, particularly in relation to quality, design, performance, suitability to purpose as well as the user's expectations.

Therefore, future competitive strategies will require value-creation, through placing significant value on quality, innovation, design and customer psychographics (how customers feel and behave) as well as speed to the market place. Because of the speed of change in products, the time response in the changing market demands and speed to the market place will be a significant imperative in the future. We are told that Japanese companies are 50% faster in getting new products to the market place than are their western counterparts.


The process, or the art of making it all work, is the pulse of development. It provides for actions in delivery of the total program. It is about leadership-management and efficiency. It is about meeting deadlines and getting things done on time. It is about executing the enterprise plan in all aspects of development, from vision through initiation, implementation, delivery and evaluation. It is about human relations and keeping everybody happy. Above all, it is about achieving satisfaction for all actors involved including community members, producers and customers.

For CED programs, each community should have the freedom to compose their own development menu in accordance with the management process. A golden rule in the development process is: " Always start from where you are, and not from where you would like to be". Getting Started and Never Quitting are the two fundamental commandments of the development process. Getting started Commences with the level of 'preparedness' of the community. Never Quitting is about motivation and not accepting failure but instead seeing it as a learning experience and feedback.

Leadership, management and facilitation are central to the development process. In complying with today's global imperatives, the new type of management imperative embodies leadership and facilitation.

Tasks pertaining to the CED Process are:

  • ensuring a holistic approach and a territorial focus inclusive of all sectors of the economy in the development program
  • establishing a clear vision for the future
  • identification of needs, problems and resources -using diagnostic tools
  • identification of providers/suppliers and the critical mass of entrepreneurs
  • forming community or local action groups
  • organising and linking individual supplier and other related interests .providing capacity building opportunities
  • enabling partnership development between relevant bodies
  • developing action plans
  • leading, managing and evaluating the total operation
  • delivering a satisfactory product/outcome
  • ensuring enhancement of the environment.

Through this development process, a network of the critical mass of suppliers and services can integrate resources and support initiatives that knit together the scattered energies of an area in a holistic development for the well-being of the community. For 'best practice' the process must be strategic, entrepreneurial, innovative, flexible and vision led. It must ensure local involvement and shared leadership and the use of networking in the co-ordination and integration of the development program.


There is nothing as constant and as challenging as change. It will be with us for ever. Mastering change is about changing internal representations of people. How flexible people are and how quickly they can respond to change and to developments will be the survival imperative for positive rural futures.

Change will continue to influence rural people and rural areas. Jobs in agriculture will not come back and unemployment and decline in rural areas will not go away unless there is a concerted effort and a revitalisation policy for positive rural futures. This needs to go beyond rhetoric and embraces the reality of transforming rural resources from less productive to more productive use. It requires an enabling environment for capacity building of people, institutions and communities and for the development of an entrepreneurial and innovative culture. It requires an institutional focus with a designated responsibility and authority that will lead, collaborate and integrate horizontal concerns beyond the level of sectoral development. It requires vision driven leadership and a holistic approach to management. It requires strengthening local capacity to ensure development through the bottom up approach thus providing for local initiatives, participation and partnerships. It requires new organisational forms that facilitate diversification and the growth of entrepreneurial energy to provide economies of scope and scale to a standard of excellence for global competition.

Economic efficiency, social equality, cultural identity and ideological integrity as well as maintaining, and managing the diversity of the rural landscape is now the major challenge for the policy makers, for the rural communities and for society as a whole. "Getting from here to there" requires an awareness of where we are and clarity of the desired goal. As illustrated by Alice in Wonderland, if we don't know where we are going, we don't even know we are lost!

"When Alice asked the White Rabbit which road should she take, he asked 'where do you want to go?'. 'I don't Know', said Alice. 'Then 'said the White Rabbit, 'Any road will take you there'".

For positive rural futures we need a 'preferred destination' infused with a massive desire to achieve. It is said there are two kinds of failure -those who dream and never do and those who do and never dream.


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