May 23, 2013, 10:53 AM
Numerous government reports now embrace the idea of harnessing community self-help initiatives to rejuvenate localities. Fostering such activity is seen to bolster community spirit, encourage local solutions to local problems, promote local democratic renewal, and provide a vehicle for delivering support to those in need.
Low-income populations, in contrast, often do not join and instead rely on one-to-one help that they use for the purpose of giving and receiving material support.
To harness community self-help initiatives in rural areas in ways that improve the material circumstances of low-income populations, the 'third sector' approach of developing existing community-based groups will need to be replaced by what some referred to as a 'fourth sector' approach that seeks to further develop one-to-one reciprocity.
At the outset, however, it is necessary to define what is meant by community self-help initiative. Here, it is taken to refer to help provided for and by friends, neighbours, or other members of one's community, either on an individual basis or through more organised collective groups and associations. As such, it covers a heterogeneous range of activities.
On the one hand, it includes formal community-based and 'third sector' organisations. These range from formal voluntary organisations.
In popular culture, there persists a picture of a rural idyll in which everybody knows and supports one another. This view of rural life is regularly reinforced by studies that find community spirit to be stronger in the rural communities than in urban areas.