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Harnessing the community sector

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The aim of this paper is to evaluate critically the prevailing policy approach that seeks to cultivate the community sector by the 'third sector' route of developing existing community-based groups. Analysing the extent and nature of participation in the community sector using both secondary data from the 2000 General Household Survey and primary data from a case study of the community sector in rural England, the finding is that a culture of participation in 'third sector' groups is relatively alien to lower-income populations and that such groups are much more used by relatively affluent populations for the purpose of developing their social networks. If the intention of harnessing the community sector is to improve the material circumstances of lower-income populations, a third sector approach of developing existing community-based groups is thus found to be inappropriate. Instead, it is argued that a 'fourth sector' approach is required. This seeks to further cultivate the prevailing culture of participation in one-to-one reciprocal exchange that is predominantly used by lower-income populations to improve their material circumstances. The paper concludes by outlining how this might be achieved. El objectivo de este artículo es evaluar criticamente el actual enfoque político que intenta cultivar el sector comunitario por la vía del 'tercer sector', desarrollando grupos comunitarios ya existentes. Utilizando tanto datos secundarios del 2000 General Household Survey como datos primarios de un estudio del sector comunitario de la Inglaterra rural, los resultados del análisis del alcance y la naturaleza de participacion en el sector comunitario indican que una cultura de participación en grupos 'tercer sector' es relativamente ajena a la población de bajos ingresos, y que las poblaciones relativamente acomodadas aprovechan tales grupos para desarrollar sus redes de conexiones sociales. Si la intención de utilizar el sector comunitario es de mejorar las circumstancias materials de poblaciones de bajos ingresos, entonces es inadecuado un enfoque 'tercer sector' para el desarrollo de grupos comunitarios ya existentes. En cambio, se sostiene que es necesario un enfoque 'cuarto sector'. Esto intenta adelantar la actual cultura de participación en intercambios recíprocos 'uno a uno' utilizados predominantemente por poblaciones de bajos ingresos para mejorar sus circumstancias materials. Este artículo concluye por delinear como esto se puede conseguir.
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Keywords: community involvement; community renewal; rural England; social inclusion; third sector

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2005

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