Strategies Adopted In Mobilizing Individual And Community Members For Community Action And Development
Communities can mobilize to work for changes that will benefit the social, emotional, financial and physical needs of citizens.
Each community is a microcosm of a nation. It includes a dozen publics. It is the educational and professional groups, members of fraternal organizations, women’s and garden clubs. It is business and industry, civic leaders, youth, media, labor and church leaders and the elderly. It is the community at large, which may react differently as a group than its members would as individuals. (White, 1)
Mobilizing the community begins when:
- Concerned citizens organize to take a stand.
- Needed community changes are determined.
- The public is concerned about the problems and need for collaboration among the community groups and individuals.
- The community at large is involved in the situation.
- Emerging community leaders are recognized and encouraged.
- The efforts for change are kept going after the coalition is ended. (Owen and Miller)
Prerequisite for Mobilization
When individuals and organizations come together to work on an issue, it is common to see them scramble over “turf” issues and for multiple, unrelated programs to result. The group needs to come to a consensus of moving toward collaboration. For this to happen, there needs to be time allowed for trust building. This is where the different individuals and organizations examine their capabilities and motivations. Ideas are exchanged, problems resolved and participants learn to give and take. (Dye and Wood 1981, 2)
For successful coalitions to happen, working relationships must be developed between each member of the coalition and the groups must put the plan into practice. Coordinating mechanisms can help.
In addition, it is necessary that any collaborative effort be as open as possible. Involve the broadest circle of agencies and organizations to encourage collaboration around the common issue. It is essential that any collaborative effort does not threaten or duplicate existing efforts on the same issue. The coalition also must recognize that the public will be pushing for action and results.
What is Needed to Mobilize a Community?
- Concerned citizens ready to take a stand, say they want something different and are willing to work to see it accomplished.
- Emerging leadership that inspires and guides the project.
- A common community vision of the results.
- Involved people who recognize that the means to achieve their goals will vary but who support the common goal.
- Recognition and encouragement of those who contribute to reaching the goal.
- Specific plans and goals to reduce impact of at-risk situations.
- Leadership that encourages, builds and finds strategies but doesn’t become the focus of the situation.
- Recognition that human relationships are important.
- Time. (Owen and Miller, 7-8)
Who Needs to be Involved?
The natural allies for mobilization are those persons who have a common interest in an issue. This can include community-minded individuals and all persons and groups affected by the issue.
It is important that the group have linkages either by representation or delegation to the power structure, government agencies, key communicators, advisory boards, local businesses and educational institutions.
Membership in a community coalition falls into three categories:
- Activists who take an active role and provide leadership, write grants and serve on subcommittees and steering committees.
- Helpers who work on a limited basis or on specific designated tasks such as letter writing, newsletter distribution, etc.
- Communicators who share the work of the coalition to the outside through educational sessions and coalitions with other groups. (Burghard)
Strategies to Use
Various strategies are used to form coalitions. It has worked successfully to form an organization of the diverse groups who have a common interest, identify and recruit potential members, and establish a governing board. The coordinator of the group facilitates the decision-making process and helps members work together. Due to coordinating effort and visibility, formal groups are able to carry out large projects. Unfortunately, this strategy requires more time and effort to develop and operate.
Another strategy is less formal and can be applied to a community of any size. It targets particular segments of the population through building informal networks.
Various methods for mobilization can be used, including a town meeting approach or speakouts. Their common factors are they are process oriented activities and include individual, follow- up and concrete portions.
The initial large meeting allows for education and suggests the democratic process. Sign-up sheets at this meeting will help with the next phase, which is done by subcommittees who follow through on assignments and issues. It is here the individual is recognized and appreciates the openness. Finally, there is the concrete work of the subcommittee that shows the community they are working for change. (Burghard 1986, 40)
Public Relations Plan
When launching a new program or mobilizing the public to action on a community need, an effective, comprehensive public relations plan must be developed. This generates greater support and involvement in programs and activities that address the need. A new program must be recognized and perceived as an asset to the community.
Barbara L. White, Ph.D., says an effective public relations plan will help those who are concerned contribute to the creation of positive attitudes where none exist. She also notes that it will intensify existing positive attitudes, convert existing negative attitudes and sometimes neutralize persistent negative attitudes. Sound public relations programs are planned for before, during and after a program’s introduction. The objective is to sell the program, to gain support and to maximize involvement. The program must be visible, viewed as a necessity and appreciated for what it offers. (White, 2-3)
To add a competitive edge to the initiative, program publicity must go through the following stages:
- Unveil the program- not once but literally hundreds of times.
- Promote the ad campaign behind the program.
- Tell the story of the people who developed it.
- Report on community acceptance.
- Report on the community’s reactions.
- Tell the story of the program’s success.
- Emphasize advantages to the community.
- Report on trends.
- Tell success stories of other states and other communities. (White, 3-4)
Guidelines for a local community public relations plan include:
- Select members for a public relations task force who represent the groups involved.
- Appoint a director of the task force.
- Conduct an awareness/opinion/attitude survey.
- Analyze the survey.
- Conduct workshops for all those involved in the public relations component of the program.
- Develop a multiple-year mobilization plan. (White, 4-5)
A public relations task force reaches the public in two ways:
- By person-to-person contact through speeches, meetings with civic leaders, annual meetings, special events, personal letters, employee contacts, participation in civic affairs, support of education programs, religious assemblies, public service events, open houses and ceremonial affairs.
- By use of local media such as television, radio, newspapers, advertising in direct mail, newsletters, billboards, displays, films, brochures, exhibits, theater and sports programs, business signs, etc. (White, 4)
The critical role of adult education in rural-urban development
Faced with the evidence of an appallingly low standard of living which the vast majority of men and women in Nigeria have, despite two and a half decades of national development and development plans, the Federal and State Governments now attempt to ensure that the real targets of development are the human beings who will remain central to all re-definitions and to all revised strategies. Some of the major problems of present day Nigeria are poverty, hunger, indiscipline, unemployment and under-development. To mitigate or solve these problems adult education is important. The momentum of change in adult education in Nigeria is strongly embedded in the Nigerian national Development Plans of 1970 – 75 and 1975 – 80; which guiding the Federal Government in its national planning process have the following objectives:
1. The building of a united, strong and self-reliant nation.
2. The building of a great and dynamic economy.
3. The building of a just and egalitarian society.
4. The building of a land bright and full of opportunities for all citizens, and lastly,
5. The building of a free and democratic society.
From the foregoing national development objectives, one perceives that “the nation cannot be strong (according to Eke, 1972) when the vast majority of its citizens live in ignorance”. For development plans to materialise, participation and commitment of the people is essential. People cannot participate if they are not made politically conscious of the significance of development to them as individuals or as a nation. Illiterate people cannot understand the significance of Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), defence and loyalty to the country, educational reforms, health campaigns, privatisation policies, nation-building efforts and of course, self satisfaction and self-reliance. Through adult education, the individual fulfils himself within the framework of his society. “Living in Nigeria is becoming more and more difficult” writes Ipaye (1980) “not because of inflation, not because of armed robbery, not because of the new political system we are experimenting but mainly because the individual Nigerian does not understand himself adequately well and as a result he does not understand his fellowmen”. For Nigeria to move meaningfully forward in its economic, social, cultural and political development, its adult population must be educated. In this view I agree with Nyerere of Tanzania who believes that people must develop first before the nation can develop. He put this idea forcefully when he declared that: We cannot afford to wait for the children.
First, we must educate the adults.
Our children will not have an impact on our economic development for five, ten or even twenty years.
… adults have an impact now!
At present the change in adult education process in Nigeria is manifesting in many ways as we are witnessing great efforts made by the Government in adult literacy in the country. There is the establishment of Agency for mass education in all the 30 states of the Federation including Abuja. The creation of various directorates for public education and enlightenment like the Directorate of Foods, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI), the laudable Mass Mobilisation for Social and Economic Recovery (MAMSER), the National Directorate for Employment (NDE), War Against Indiscipline (WAI) Brigade, Better Life for Rural Women and the Family Support Programmes. The achievements and objectives of these agencies and directorates have had a commendable impact in the country. The task before these directorates is to mobilise the people of Nigeria towards the attainment of our five national development objectives enumerated earlier in this section.