Community Development is collective, participatory and empowering. It is concerned with the rights of communities to be involved in decisions that affect them, concerned not just with outcomes, but how these are achieved and building on their consequences.
It is focused on the development of a more just and equal society with all those women, men and children who are particularly excluded, discriminated against and marginalised. The value of community development is globally recognised and its founding principle of participation has become a key tenet of UN Treaty Body implementation.
Pavee Point started off life as the Dublin Traveller Education and Development Group in 1985.
A group of Travellers and settled people began meeting in the winter of 1983-84, with a commitment to the value of collective community development, where people became conscious of their own power and identity, rather than continuing to react to pity and subordination.
Over two years, the philosophy and approach of the Dublin Travellers Education and Development Group (DTEDG) was debated, discussed and agreed by the Travellers, community workers and returned missionaries. Finally, with funding secured from ANCO (later FAS) and two rooms loaned by Meath Street Catholic Parish, the first education programme began in January 1985.
Photo: John O’Connell, the first Director of Pavee Point.
Creating the Conditions
The first DTEDG leadership programme, and later initiatives, set out to support the creation of the conditions for community development and solidarity work through direct involvement of participants in actions and initiatives.
Events for and with Traveller women and older Travellers were planned and organised, dramas with Travellers depicting Traveller life were practised and performed, and solidarity actions undertaken with the Dunnes Stores workers anti-apartheid strike and the miner’s strike in the UK.
Local issues including evictions were directly addressed and participants engaged actively in meetings of the National Council for Travelling People, an established national umbrella organisation for local Traveller committees.
The community work approach and its underpinning principles of empowerment and participation was not hard for Travellers to identify with, but it was hotly contested by local committees and professionals using social work methods which individualised both the problems and the solutions.
This thinking and its associated pathologies remain evident in some work with Travellers. For some issues, social work and counselling are appropriate interventions; but then and now it’s important not to confuse them with community development or collective empowerment.
Today in Pavee Point
Community development and collaborative, participatory work continues through to the present day in Pavee Point, where community development principles underscore the work of all programmes.
This work includes:
– Direct work on the collective involvement of Travellers in action and initiatives on their own behalf at local and national levels
– Development of initiatives and actions to elaborate and articulate Traveller identity and culture, and name and address the racism experienced by them and others in Irish society
– Supporting this work through collective education and development processes
– Engagement with the state to inform/and frame policies, procedures and legislation in ways which support Traveller rights as an ethnic group and address discrimination and racism
– Support and work with Travellers and Traveller groups across the country in order to build solidarity and a critical mass for change
– Engagement with international human rights organisations and other groups to better establish national cases and in order to build international solidarity for change
– Solidarity actions and involvements with other marginalised groups so that similarities and differences in issues to be addressed can be named and alliances built
– Engagement with media, opinion makers, educators and others to address misinformation regarding Travellers and promote new perspectives
Photo: Maggie McDonnell, Missie Collins, Tessa Collis and Bridgie Collins.