Examining the role of social capital in women-led grassroots community action in Villa El Salvador, Peru
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AbstractCommunity development is still a relatively untouched field both professionally and academically. As a profession, community development workers are still trying to understand what their role is in terms of best practices for themselves, the agency they represent and most importantly, the community they are working for. Academically, community development professionals can not rely on current research for guidance. The existing literature is marred by conflicting findings and the inability to reach agreed upon definitions of the major constructs of community development. There has been a wealth of research completed that documents the challenge in reaching agreed upon definitions of the most basic tenants of community development theory such as participation, empowerment and even community. However, very few have examined the current trends of community development from the perspective of the local people for whom professionals and academics are supposed to be representing. Using a grounded theory methodology, this study looks at the concept of social capital from the perspective of women involved in grassroots community action in Villa El Salvador, Peru. The unique experience of seven local leaders was shared though the use of in-depth interviews. The information gathered was used to locally define the current community development buzzwords, namely social capital, and establish its role in women-led grassroots community development initiatives. Through the grounded theory process three categories emerged from the data. These categories were: foundation for social capital, framework for community action and factors effecting sustainability. These categories provided the basis for two models for community development that relies on a strong foundation of social capital in order to begin and sustain grassroots community initiatives. The categories also examine from a local perspective the factors that affect the sustainability of community development efforts and speak to the importance of shared definition of the major constructs in the field of community development. The study concludes by examining the findings through the lens of existing literature, its contribution to social work, academically and professionally, and implications for future research.
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