Roles of Community Organiser
The community organizer having the essential characteristics and skills as also knowledge about the principles, process and steps of community organization, will be in a position to apply the same in the community setting through the assumption of appropriate roles.
The diverse roles of a community organizer are discussed here. These roles are neither exhaustive nor mutually exclusive.
The primary role of the community organizer is that of a guide who helps the community to discover the ways and means of achieving its own goals. As a guide, he helps the community to move effectively in the direction which it sets for itself. While the organizer has some responsibility to help the community choose this direction wisely, based on the many factors which may operate in the given context, the choice of direction and method of movement must ultimately be that of the community. Thus, he is not a person to shoulder the responsibility or solve problems of the people. Instead, he provides the various options or avenues, and shows different ways of dealing with the community problem s. As a guide, he is required to provide the much needed information and ideas which the community may initially lack. For example, in a community facing the problem of unemployment, he should be able to provide information about the various employment schemes, options for self employment, the terms, conditions and sources of availing credit, and other relevant information to those seeking employment. The ultimate choice and means of deriving employment/income generation rests with the community.
In a situation where the community organizer perceives the need and relevance of a particular project for community development, he may stimulate a need with respect to this project. He may encourage discussion on the project and may suggest the advantages of action on the same. But his role as a guide does not permit him the liberty of launching action on this project unless the community is ready and is desirous for such common action.
The community organizer transfers or transmits information and knowledge to the community. Often community members demonstrate an ignorance of information and ideas. Sharing of information enables the community to use this information to meet its needs or resolve its problems. Thus, the organizer being an essential link between the community and the outside world is expected to play the role of an effective communicator. The communication between him and the community may be handled through diverse forums, including individual contacts, group meetings, group discussions, public meetings, written material etc.
The community organizer can also rely on the use of different techniques like skits, role plays, street theatre, and audio-visual shows to disseminate the requisite information. A greater reliance on the locally accepted and indigenous channels of communication is desirable, as it leads to more effective communication. Local leaders, and local groups like women’s groups, youth groups, children’s clubs etc. are some such options. The ability of the community organizer to play this role effectively will, to a very large extent, etermine the quality and the intensity of the community organization process.
The community organizer plays the role of an enabler by facilitating the community organization process. As mentioned earlier, he is not expected to carryout the work by himself but is expected to enable the community to plan and execute work related to achievement of its needs/problems autonomously. It is through the performance of this particular role that the community organizer is able to facilitate a process of capacity
building and empowerment of the community.
Within the ambit of his role as an enabler, the community organizer enables by first awakening and focussing discontent about some community condition/s, followed by facilitating members to verbalise their discontent.
Thereafter, he helps them to see the commonality of their feelings and nourishes the hope that something can be collectively done about the same. He further enables the community to organize to act. The role of the enabler requires judgment about how much of encouragement can be given, how much anxiety relieved, how much support provided at different stages so that the community is able to move at a comfortable pace and with sufficient self confidence. Enabling the community to maintain good interpersonal relations, cooperative and collaborative attitudes and practices, and to deal with inter-group tensions, conflicts and other blocks also fall in the domain of the community organizer.
As an expert, the organizer’s role is to provide information, knowledge and advice in a number of areas about which he has specialized expertise. Often, the organizer has to provide research data, technical experience, and resource material, advice on methods which the community may need and require in the process of achieving its goals.
The organiser may serve as an “expert” in community diagnosis and analysis and may help the community to understand its own structure, dynamics, potentialities and constraints. He is expected to be skilled in research methods, able to conduct studies and formulate research policy. He may also have expert knowledge of organization and procedure. He should also be well informed and able to provide information about programmes, policies, legislation as also resources provided by government departments, private agencies, international organizations, and ways of securing the same. He should be able to facilitate the bridging of gaps between community’s needs and available resources.
The worker as an expert does not superimpose or insist on the acceptance of his “expert knowledge”. This is only offered for consideration and discussion, to be used as effectively as the community is able to adopt it.
The community organizer initiates work by developing an intensive understanding of the community. Often he is expected to enable the community to understand itself in terms of its multiple dimensions. It may entail diagnosis and treatment of the community as a whole.
He may help the community to face its underlying forces and attitudes which may be creating tension and conflict among the groups in the community. Further, after enabling the community to recognize these deep rooted ideas and practices, verbalise about them, and begin to cope with them, the community is helped to develop a capacity to function more effectively as an integrated unit. Thus, as a counselor and social therapist, the organizer deals with the deep-lying and often latent forces which threaten to disrupt the community organization process.
In the process of community organization, the organizer encourages and provides direction to the community to carry out collective, self help initiatives. In developing societies like India, people are often victims of a chronic ‘dependency syndrome’ and therefore fail to spontaneously mobilize of action or even take crucial decisions on their own. In such a context, the organizer as an animator helps the people to come forward and participate in all phases of the process, from planning to evaluation. By raising suitable questions/issues, he assists in conscientising the community and stimulating people to overcome their attitudes and blocks to participation.
The community organizer collaborates with his colleagues, co-professionals and other organizations working in the community. In contemporary context, the importance of maintaining collaborative partnerships with other organizations is well recognized.
In the situation where there are also other organizations working towards similar problems, a collaborative effort is not only more desirable but also more productive and feasible. Therefore, the community organizer is expected to network with such other organizations to establish effective linkages and collaborations.
The community organizer enjoys the trust and confidence of the people and is often relied upon to advise them about matters of vital importance to them. His expertise and experience is relied upon by the people, who often seek his guidance and expert advice. As a consultant, he makes himself available to people, who are in need of his inputs. He is also able to furnish his expertise to community groups and community organizations.
The community organizer is often perceived as a role model and a source of inspiration by the people. He needs to be conscious of the influence that he is able to exert on the community. His behaviour and approach are often emulated by the people who look up to him for his knowledge, skills and expertise. He also sets innovative models of working on community issues which could be replicated in other communities facing similar circumstances/problems. By proper planning in approaching a problem and executing the plan and documenting the whole process will be of great help to others. The problem solving process sets a model for others to follow.
The community organizer innovates, performs and constantly strives to improve upon the techniques through the process of community organization. This gives a lead to the people of the community and enables them to try out new ways and means to find solutions to their needs and problems. Community organization is not merely for solving problems, but the broader goals of capacity building of individuals, groups and the community as a whole have to be meaningfully achieved.
Innovative ways of improving the capacity of the people, introducing new and more effective ways of community building, as also reviving the traditional and indigenous systems from within the community form an integral part of the role expected from the organizer.
The community organizer stimulates and sustains active interest among the people for reaching a solution to their needs and problems. The community organizer encourages the community to take up a minor task and complete it successfully. This in turn enables the people to take up more difficult tasks. In such a process, the people at times may not take any initiative or may be content to live with the existing situation. In such a context, the organizer motivates the people by making them observe, analyse, understand and respond to the situation. When people are discouraged, because they are not able to achieve what they wanted or there is resistance and opposition, in such situations the organizer plays the role of a motivator to help them continue efforts inspite of difficulties.
In the process of community organization, the community organizer enables the people to become empowered by gaining accessibility and control over resources and acquiring skills in decision making. He/ she accelerates the actions and reactions of people so that they are able to achieve the desired results. As a catalyst, the organiser is able to increase the response level of the people. The catalyst role further enables the people to become independent and become better equipped in responding to their own needs and problems.
The role of the advocate is to represent or persuade the members of the community and prepare them to represent their issues to the concerned authorities in order to bring about an effective solution to their unmet needs. The advocacy role is an important one in the present context of community work. The needs and problems of the people have to be presented at appropriate forums and the required support and networking obtained in order to increase the pressure on the oppressive forces. In the role performance of the advocate, the community organizer champions the rights of community groups. He/she speaks on behalf of the community to gain access to services or to improve the quality of services provided. Thus, as an advocate, the community organizer argues, debates, bargains, negotiates, and confronts the forces working against the interest of the community.
The community organiser helps the community to articulate its needs, clarify and identify its problems,explore appropriate strategies, select and apply intervention strategies, and develop people’s capacities to deal with their own problems more effectively. A facilitator provides support, encouragement, and suggestions to the community so that people may proceed more easily and skillfully in completing tasks or solving problems. A facilitator assists the community in finding coping strategies, strengths and resources to produce changes necessary for realizing goals and objectives. A facilitator helps client systems to alter their environment in the desired direction.
The community organizer intervenes in disputes between parties to help them find compromises, reconcile differences, or reach mutually satisfying agreements. The mediator takes a neutral stance between the involved parties. A mediator is involved in resolving disputes between members or between the community and other persons in the broader environment.
The community organizer as an educator conveys information to the community and those in the broader environment. The organizer provides information necessary for coping with problem situations, assists the community in practicing new behaviour patterns or skills, and teaches through presentation of role models. The community organizer makes available information necessary for decision making.