Community development work is underpinned by a set of values. The first of these centres on anti-discrimination and equality. According to Lifelong Learning, Community Development work ‘challenges structural inequalities and discriminatory practices. It recognises that people are not the same, but they are all of equal worth and importance and therefore entitled to the same degree of respect and acknowledgement’.
This is a pretty radical position and one that is by no means self -evident. ‘People are not the same, but they are all of equal worth and importance and therefore entitled to the same degree of respect and acknowledgement’. So a convicted killer is of the same worth and importance as a Nobel prize winner? We should treat them both with the same degree of entitlement and respect?
We should offer equal respect and acknowledgement to a learned professor and a teenager with an ASBO? To Nick Griffin and Bonnie Greer?
This about approaching what Rogers called ‘unconditional positive regard‘ and what Gandhi was getting at when he said,
“All humanity is one undivided and indivisible family, and each one of us is responsible for the misdeeds of all the others.”
This is not about valuing and acknowledging people’s opinions, actions, beliefs and ideas equally – but about valuing the human being that stands behind them.
The latest draft of the occupational standards for community development workers go on to say:
Community Development practitioners work with communities and organisations to challenge the oppression and exclusion of individuals and groups. This will be undertaken in a way which:
- Acknowledges where there is inequality and discrimination, and rejects and challenges any form of it
- Supports and develops anti-oppressive policies and practices
- Respects, values, supports and promotes the value of difference and diversity
- Promotes and supports diverse communities to agree on their common concerns and interests
- Acknowledges the diverse nature of society and seeks to understand and support others to understand the nature of social diversity and oppression with respect to marginalised communities and minorities.
This requires an incredible act of tightrope walking.
- To reject and challenge inequality and discrimination without oppressing?
- To promote the value of difference and diversity while helping diverse communities to agree on common concerns?