Grassroots development: theory and practice

This post is part of the series Rural Development From the Ground Up. Read the full series here.

This series aims to unpack the theory and practice of grassroots development. Grassroots development is also called development from the ground up, bottom-up development, or community-led development. In Spanish it’s called desarrollo de base: Development from, or of, the base.

Unpacking ideas is a bit like unpacking crates: the deeper you go, the more you find. The next few posts will dig through some common ideas about working with rural communities ‘from the ground up’ and explore what these ideas from theory actually mean when we put them into practice.

First, we’ll unpack the idea of development. We’ll consider what development actually means in terms of practical actions for change. Why is ‘development’ such a powerful idea, and what kinds of practical actions does it encourage – and overlook – in rural places?

Next, we’ll unpack where development initiatives come from. Who drives actions for change? Do development initiatives come from outside or inside rural communities – or both? Why is development from the ‘grassroots’ such a compelling idea, and what do bottom-up development approaches offer in terms of practical rural solutions?

Those posts will take us all the way down to the grassroots: to consider the idea of rural communities and who we are actually talking about. ‘Rural communities’ are neither homogeneous nor easily defined. Grassroots development is all about people, so think personalities, personae and politics, and prepare to dig deep!

Only then will we reach the bottom of the matter, the solid bottom of the metaphorical crate. Our questions here are framed by social theory, but they are deeply practical: how much space is there in the crate? How much space do rural people have to create the futures they want?

And most importantly, how can we create more space?

That’s the question that’s waiting, so let’s get started.

Published by The Bush Prof

Professor Robyn Eversole is a practical regional development academic based in rural Tasmania.

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