Grassroots community engagement: The key to success in a community building program

Peter O'Meara, Catherine Pendergast, Anske Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Governments in Australia are allocating resources to rural communities to increase their sustainable social, economic and environmental development. One of the projects funded for this purpose was The Gippsland Community Building Program , undertaken in three rural communities in Victoria in two stages from 2001-2004. A facilitator was appointed for each community project, and local government developed a model of governance in response to the characteristics and needs of the community.External evaluation of the program was undertaken in two stages over two years and consisted of a document audit, interviews and focus groups. Indicators used in the final evaluation to analyse the impact of each project on its community were citizen participation , community structure and development instruments . The governance structures were found to be particularly important, although results from each community project were also affected by the community s characteristics, the project design, and the role of the facilitator. Better project outcomes resulted from transparent governance structures, and consultation with and encouragement of the grassroots community to become actively involved and take responsibility for outcomes with assistance from the facilitator. Governance structures that encouraged inclusive local grassroots ownership of projects were associated with successful community building programs. Community capacity is the interaction of human capital, organizational resources, and social capital existing within a given community that can be leveraged to solve collective problems and improve or maintain the well-being of that community. It may operate through informal social processes and/or organized efforts by individuals, organizations, and social networks that exist among them and between them and the larger systems of which the community is a part (Chaskin 2001).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155 - 164
Number of pages10
JournalRural Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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