Date of Award

2016

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Arts and Humanities

First Advisor

Professor Kathy Boxall

Second Advisor

Dr David Hodgson

Abstract

This thesis explores how everyday knowledge of community development practices can inform the theorising of community development in Australia. The literature of community development offers a rich source for understanding and explaining the tensions and dilemmas of collective endeavour in context, yet arguments for particular approaches to community development can serve to evaluate practice in context. In this research, however, case studies are positioned as a source of knowledge. The power of case studies lies in their ability to portray collective action and collective action is what differentiates community development from other approaches to problems. The capacity to work in context is also pivotal to community development and case studies are adept at showcasing practice in context.

The research reported in this thesis uses case studies of community development practices in the south west region of Western Australia to explore ways in which theoretical arguments for particular approaches to practice represent community development in the literature. A multiple case study design is used to establish twelve cross-case findings about how community development happens in four local communities. Each case is focused on the community development practice of a community group from the south west region of Western Australia. The thesis reports how the four community groups practice community development and then explores how the knowledge of these communities can inform the theorising of community development in the Australian context.

The research found that the case studies have the potential to inform the theorising of community development in ten different ways; for example, through unsettling the idea of the bottom-up approach to community development, by identifying the ‘threat’ that context may pose to the tenets of community development, and by unmasking the imperceptibility of process. The research also highlights ways in which community development practices are storied in the literature and offers fresh insights into the obligations of the narrator of community development stories. The thesis concludes by arguing that greater integration between case studies and theoretical propositions for practice, could reinvigorate the way the literature supports and encourages community development practices in the Australian context.

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