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Demystifying power in community development practice


This article seeks to understand the issue of power as the root-concept of empowerment as the main objective of community development practices. The empowerment objective requires distribution of power to powerless people or community. This could be problematic if community development practitioners already have power over communities, including a mining company. This study examines to what extent the idea of empowerment could be embraced by the mining company in the implementation of the community development programmes as a part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) framework. This study also exhibits a model or mechanism by which the distribution of power can be conducted in community development practices. The study was conducted in a mining project located in a West Sumbawa district, Sumbawa Island, Indonesia. This study found that the company, in the powerful position, has used the power to secure its operations. It is shown from the tension between two different agendas of the mining company, including the production/commercial framework (with its primary focus on profits) and development agendas, emerged in the implementation of its community development programmes. The mining company has distributed its community development programmes to placate the protest actions of the local community. This has resulted in unintended impacts of these programmes including financial dependency and resistance of the local community to the company. This study, however, found the fact that the power could be distributed by employing an ongoing and comprehensive assistance model to increase capacity of the community to have control on their own development programmes. This model, in a limited way, has succeeded to empower the community in conducting their own development programmes independently.


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