The Ninth Colloquium of the International Socio-cultural Community Development Network (RIA) intends to question, through the notion of « territory », the various issues and challenges confronting socio-cultural community development today.
It is jointly organised by the Social Work sites of the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland (HES-SO).
It has the goal of highlighting the current forms taken by socio-cultural community development, the territories in which it is deployed, as well as
the ways in which it is conceptualised by various stakeholders, be they professionals, volunteers, citizens, politicians or researchers.
Community development is declined in a broad range of modes; it takes place in a variety of professional fields, intervenes with all types of populations of all ages, and mobilises a wide array of intervention methods. It thus is active in many kinds of territories, but is also acted upon by their specificities. Moreover, it is found, under various names and designations, in many countries from the Southern to the Northern hemisphere.
In connection with the evolution of its target populations as well as of the context of its interventions, the very identity of socio-cultural community development, as well as its territories, give rise to many questions on the part of the authorities, of citizens and of professionals themselves. Modes of intervention change, as do collaborations with other social work or health professionals, and the social expectations faced by professionals evolve; these changes have an impact on either broadening or restricting opportunities for community development.
Four specific thematic axes will structure exchanges at the colloquium :
1) Contexts as territories
This first axis pertains to questioning the ways in which contexts structure the range of potentials for socio-cultural community development. Here, the notion of territory pertains to the variety of intervention contexts that range from Northern to Southern countries and from rural to urban areas. The notion of territory also refers to public policies, whether local, national or international and thus to the social actors that mandate, frame or finance community development activities. The disengagement of the State results in placing the various institutions active in the field of socio-cultural community development in the midst of a competitive market; this process has an impact on the methods to be utilised. This axis will thus focus on the diversity of professions concerned with socio-cultural community work and their interdependence with ever singular contexts.
2) Professional territories
This axis will question the professional territories of socio-cultural community work in a three-fold dimension: firstly, through delving into their relations with other professions, regardless of whether the latter belong to the field of social work or not. What are the specificities of social-cultural community development when contrasted to other social work professions? Are we witnessing a continuous increase in the differentiation of socio-cultural community work or, on the contrary, a growing homogenisation of the professions of the field of social intervention? Do the values, the utopias and the instruments that characterise community development really still exclusively belong to it, or are they increasingly mobilised by other professionals? Second, is the territory of tasks attributed to socio-cultural community work by public policies evolving? Do the same activities still justify, in the eyes of policy-makers, the deployment of interventions by community work professionals? In an era in which sustainable development, to quote but one example, has become the watchword of every intervention, what is the role assigned to socio-cultural community development – and what role does it wish to play? Finally, this axis has the goal of questioning the issues of inter-professional intervention for today’s socio-cultural professionals. As they are increasingly integrated into networks, or work in institutions that employ different types of professional staff, community work professionals intervene more frequently in an inter-professional context than on their own. We will thus examine the ways in which socio-cultural community development asserts its specificity in these professional contexts.
3) Target populations as territories
While it potentially works with all types of populations – children, families, the elderly, whether marginalised or not – socio-cultural community development has in fact long been focused on youth and on working-class populations, calling upon its connexion with popular education and with its militant roots. Yet today, because of societal changes and at a time when other population segments are designated as problematic (due for instance to the increase in life expectancy and to population ageing, or to global migratory crises), socio-cultural community work is more and more frequently called upon to focus on new groups (for instance the elderly, or immigrants). This axis will question the ways in which this extension of the territory of socio-cultural community work challenges its practitioners. What responses should be provided to the needs and expectations of these « new » target populations? Are the classical instruments of sociocultural community development able to provide appropriate responses to their specific demands? More broadly, this axis will examine the possible pertinence of articulating conceptions of socio-cultural community development with specific target populations.
4) Methodological territories
The goal of socio-cultural community development is not to integrate populations in an assimilationist perspective, but to support them in the process of constituting themselves as actors of their own lives and their own environment. What tools should be used for the attainment of social citizenship and cultural and social democracy? Can the collective dimension and the direct involvement of target populations still be considered as pertinent objectives? What methodologies do professionals use in order to achieve them (for instance: social diagnosis, participative evaluation, etc.)? Also, in a context in which innovative approaches are increasingly brought to the fore in social intervention, is socio-cultural community development capable of imagining new methodological horizons? What responses do community works professionals provide in terms of new, creative approaches and how do they challenge existing practices? Finally, during the past few years, technological change has influenced our relationships to time and space. As a result, socio-cultural community development sometimes finds itself having to intervene in dematerialised and de-territorialised spaces. How does it deal with this challenge?