Globalization and its Impact on Community Practice
The advent of economic globalization has led to a transformation of the environment of community practice, in both industrialized and developing countries. While the implications for both the block of countries are distinct, certain fundamental changes are common to both sets. Globalization has fundamentally changed the relationship between the market and the state, with serious consequences for low income people and low power constituencies. The growing dominance of market mechanisms has affected policy making at the national and local levels in ways community organizers are just beginning to understand.
The spread of privatization and the concentration of transnational corporate power, as also the influence of such organizations as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is impacting the local, national and regional frameworks. The emergence of the well integrated global market is leading to a number of changes including the shift of manufacturing and service industries to those areas of the world which have the cheapest labour and least restrictive regulations; the increasing use of technology; the need for fewer workers with high skills; a decline in the gender distinction of work with its resultant impact on family and work relations, and a widening gap in income, wealth, education, skills and status between different groups.
Many of the changes that underlie globalization are particularly damaging to the poor nations and to the low-income or disadvantaged communities. Governments of poor nations like India have been forced to divert human resources and funds away from the
more urgent development priorities, such as education, public health, and the social service sector. The choice of the development strategy is increasingly being influenced by the powerful nations and international organizations and is therefore moving away from public debate. Removal of subsidies in agriculture, removal of import restrictions, dilution of the Public Distribution System, unrestricted entry of foreign MNCs into the country, acceptance of intellectual property rights and many such changes are already having serious implications on both rural and urban communities.
While on the one hand, the public sector is forced to effect funding cuts on social programmes, the private sector is quite naturally concerned with lowering the costs of production, especially wages and benefits. All this will ultimately result in the destabilization of long standing institutions and communities, particularly in the subsistence model economies like India. Globalization is also leading to environmental degradation and commercialization of the natural resources, which often form the basis of livelihood sustenance for the poor and marginalised communities.
In such a context, community organizers have to reassess their strategies and approaches in order to effectively respond to the consequences of economic globalization. They need to recognize that previous strategies, which viewed communities and nations in isolation from the international environment are no longer adequate. Community organizers will need a strong international knowledge base and the ability to analyse the complexity of local and global situations.
They will have to create new approaches to respond to the growing gaps in employment, income and wealth. The focus of community practice at the local level will have to shift to take into account the changing priorities of national policies and their consequences. In the
context of the withdrawal of state welfare intervention, a larger role will have to be played by the non-profit organizations in resolving community problems.
Community based planning will increasingly become the responsibility of local NGOs, self help groups and volunteers. The organizers will have to facilitate the creation of alternative economic and political institutions at the local level, such as cooperatives and peoples’ organizations, and focus on how communities can become self sufficient centres of alternative, life sustaining culture through grassroots empowerment.(Weil, 2005) There will have to be a renewed emphasis on building social capital at the community level and on developing innovative models of fund raising and resource mobilization. Skills in facilitation of groups and organizations as the key to enlarging the focus of coalitions to represent communities to respond to their problems will need to be developed and utilized. Their skills as advocates and facilitators to prepare groups, communities and organizations to participate in social action and social movements will also need to be mobilized.
Thus, community organizers will have to assume responsibility to influence the direction of major economic and political trends by combining long standing principles of self determination, social justice, and democratic participation with updated skills and knowledge that reflect new social and technological realities. As the South African proverb states “we will learn the road by walking”.