Community Participation : A Review of Four Participatory Housing Projects in Developing Countries
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Although community participation is a popular catchword in contemporary development planning in developing countries, there is no consensus as to what it means and what function it should perform. The diversity of definitions and approaches reflects ideological range of interpretations of development. Community participation, therefore, is a complex and controversial issue in development planning. What are the roles of the state, the community, funding agencies, professional planners, architects, and social workers in participatory housing projects? When and how far should the community participate in projects? Should participation be limited to the 'boundary' of a community and a project? What type of community participation is 'appropriate' for development? What are the necessary conditions for successful community participation for development? These are some of the fundamental questions this thesis addresses. This thesis argues that for community participation to bring about fundamental and meaningful change in housing, it should not only involve the community in decision-making, but more importantly it should create an opportunity for capacity building , consciousness raising, and empowerment that will ultimately lead to community desired actions. Here, empowerment means to enable those who have been marginalized economically, politically and culturally to claim in every respect, a status as full participating members of a community. Empowerment requires putting in place mechanisms that allow the marginalized to seize and fully utilize opportunities for equal and active participation. For empowerment to take place, real power should be develved to local communities and financial and technical assistance should be accorded to the communities.