This article is trying to explore Social Justice Model of community development and comprises the reviews and perspectives that are published and practiced different parts of the world over a period of time. I am neither pursue to explain the various dimensions of ‘social justice’ in the academic debates nor discussing the connotations surrounded to this term. Rather, using social justice as a concept which how practically used as a model for community development.
Social justice model community development predominantly focusing on empowering communities to address structural disadvantages. There is a heavy emphasis on Human Rights, valuing local knowledge and acknowledging people’s skills in terms of participation and planning. In practice, this model is a combined approach of distribution and redistribution of goods, power and resources; also the politics of recognition. As Frase (2009) and Lister (2008) advocates this integrative model is allowing people to take control over their local resources and raise the genuine voice of the community, it also helps people to tackle injustice and become more inclusive and accountable.
This model of community development is working by potentially raising the critical consciousness of the people to understand the social context. Groups and individuals gets the opportunity to reflect on their situation, analyze the available options and act on their reflections. Literatures says that many social action initiatives are working based on this model, but rarely call this as Social justice model. The essential elements of this approach is aligned in a three-tiered process in most of the initiatives.
In the first stage, small groups are discussing issues related to identity, class, gender, race, and sexuality in order to create a self-awareness. This self-awareness also helping residents to understand their social location. This process constructively impact and gave insights from one’s own experiences into the experiences of others. In the second stage a social-awareness is being created to understand the mis/use of power, privilege, dominance, and other socially created identities and various oppressive factors which are affecting resident’s life. This stage also includes an internal social awareness about the formal/informal relationship of the members within and outside the community. The third level is a strategic-awareness to help members to understand the key strategic relations impact on their day-to-day lives. This stage allows people to understand the power structures in the society. Finally a Global-Awareness to empathize to other oppressed group around the world. Based on these understandings and critical awareness, residents develop an action plan to address the injustice, oppression, and inequality in their community.
Social justice model community development has an important focus on politics of recognition. Taylor (1997) argues that the social recognition shapes the identity and expectations of individuals and groups and the absence of social recognition can create serious and negative impacts on one’s life. The struggles of recognition manifested in different levels of life and it happens throughout the human history. For instance, lack of political/policy recognition to a particular group can create systemic barriers to employment, education and healthcare for that group. In this model of community development people analyses the recognition which they are getting from different corners (as a youth, women, visible minority etc) and raising voices for inclusion and acknowledging identities.
This model can be incorporated with many other models of community development. This approach is using as an initial engagement strategy in many community development projects to raise the consciousness of the people and act towards a goal. Successful implementation of this model requires a great amount of time, sincere efforts, resources and dedicated professionals.