Nyomtatóbarát változat
The Outcomes and Difficulties of the Community Development Process in the Upper-Kiskunság
Mészáros Zsuzsa
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közösségfejlesztés, esettanulmány
Esettanulmányok, Közösségfejlesztési partnerségépítés Közép-Kelet Európában
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27-28.03. 2003, Transylvania
Zsuzsa Mészáros
The Outcomes and Difficulties of the Community Development Process in the Upper-Kiskunság

Introducing the Small Region
The severely disadvantaged small region of the Upper-Kiskunság and the Dunamellék is situated 70 kms to South of Budapest, on the left side of the Danube, in the North-Western area of the Great Hungarian Plain. Its local governmental system comprises 10 villages. The area covers 501 square miles, and its population is about 32, 000.
The main area of our community development work covers 5 local communities of the small region: a town and 4 villages with 600-1700-3000 inhabitants. All the roads run to the town, where the public institutions are situated: court of justice, police department, health centre, 2 secondary schools. Each local community has its own primary school.
Kunbábony is a small group of hamlets with 300 inhabitants, which belongs to Kunszentmiklós and does not have an independent public administration or a school. Kunbábony is the location from where development work started out, as the training institution of the Hungarian Association for Community Development, the Civil College is situated here.
The community development process was initiated in February 1997. The Hungarian Association for Community Development employs one worker to do the work, but the programme operates with regular help from at least five community development volunteers. Tamás A. Varga, Ilona Vercseg, Ferenc Péterfi, József Huszerl, Edit Kovács, who have initiated the process which has been going on for ten years.

We have encountered the following problems during exploring the area, building contacts and gathering information:
- unemployment, lack of economic potential, poor education, lack of enterprising
- the shortcomings of the infrastructure and institutions
- land of low (gold crown) value, agricultural experience obtained in former agricultural co- operatives and big farms, lack of innovation, dispersed pieces of land, neighbouring national park
- lack of communities, lack of organisation, 1-2 civil organisations with few members
- young people lack communities of their age group, there are not any community places, no one deals with them after finishing school
- local authorities function in an autocratic way, there are no development concepts and no one to take the initiative, and the local governmental union only functions out of necessity and with a regional development objective

During our community development work, we have tried to find solutions to the above problems through involving local residents.

The Stages of the Development Process
I.. 1997-1998. Getting to know each other, revealing problems and the involvement of local residents.
Methods used:
1. Visiting institutions, local authorities and existing institutions, introducing ourselves personally and in writing. Meeting in the Civil College, discussion about the region and possible objectives.
2. Preparing community development interviews with about 200 families in five local communities in the region, with the involvement of university students and community development professionals.
3. Community discussions in each local community.

II. 1998-1999. Training community workers
Methods used:
1. In the exploratory stage of the work: finding local residents who would welcome change in their local community, and who could take the initiative in involving the community.
2. One year of training (1 weekend per month) with working meetings.
3. Field work: together with the participants of the community worker training course, launching local development processes.
For example:
- In Kunbábony: organising cultural and community events, helping elderly people ant those in need through providing seeds and advice for producing plants for home use, launching and running a local newspaper, improvement of local facilities: setting up bus stops, creating a playground, trash collection.
- In Kunpeszér: founding a local cultural association, launching cultural and grant programmes, organising the running of the cultural centre.
- In Tass: setting up a leisure park with young people, organising open air programmes, improving local facilities, renovating bus stops, planning the establishment of a community place for the youth.
- In Kunszentmiklós: planning the running of a youth centre together with young people and local community groups, employing a youth referent at the local authorities, establishing a youth organisation, independent running of a cultural centre.
III. 1999. Formalisation and institutionalisation
Methods used:
1. Planning the organisation of community workers in the Upper-Kiskunság, founding an association.
2. Fundraising for employing the participants of the community workers’ training course. Two persons have been employed by the regional association.

IV. 2000-2003. Regional Economic Development Programme. Expanding the adaptation of community development methods to the whole region.
Antecedents: from 1997 – Co-operative Development Programme
In 1999: secondary school training programme for developing economic culture
From 1999: mentor programme supporting the unemployed

Methods used:
1. Involving the prominent representatives of the local governmental, civil and business sectors from every local community of the region through personal contact.
2. Regional economic planning workshop organised 4 times, with approx. 50 participants.
3. Developing a leading project – setting up an information node in each village.
4. Training for the leaders of the information nodes.
5. Establishing a foundation for regional economic development.
6. Organising a regional economic exhibition and launching a regional newspaper.
7. Preparing and launching local job creation schemes (e.g. employing gypsies, constructing a greenhouse, raising seedlings, town embellishment, running a community centre: Internet Café, tele centre).

V. Reconsidering regional community work.
Methods used:
1. Preparing a 3-year strategic plan with the community workers’ association in order to be able to reach further community activities in the region. Formalising co-operation among civil organisations.

2 of the abovementioned processes should be pinpointed as they are unprecedented in the Hungarian practice of community development, and are methods that can be adopted anywhere, having considered local conditions.

I. Network of community workers
II. Co-operative development process

I. Network of Community Workers
Why did we think that community workers were needed in order to find community solutions to the problems that exist in the region?

The institutions of democratic decision making had not been established in the small villages, and they were rather underdeveloped in the town as well. Although a few communities had existed in the region, but most of them were leisure, cultural and welfare organisations. They did not get involved with community affairs, and they did not take an active role in preparing for decisions. They lacked the access to information, and they did not have a chance to learn about new alternatives either. There were few examples of community initiatives.
We found that in case we had a community worker active in each of the Local communities, this could greatly strengthen local community initiatives, and it would provide local people with an access to information, contacts and good examples.
The network has contributed to having the given local community and its tighter communities recognise they own resources, and, where necessary, supplement it with other external resources. It has sought opportunities of co-operation among the non-governmental, business and local governmental sectors. It has prepared local actors to seek new solutions itself, or it has organised community training courses for them. It has promoted the publicity of problems and solutions in local communities and in the greater area concerned: in the small region, region, etc.

Why is it desirable to have community workers be active in the region as a network?

Community workers act in “solitude” in their own local communities, without a professional background of support. It is therefore desirable to have community workers working in several nearby local communities with similar characteristics and problems, because they will be able to support each other’s work as well. It will also provide them with the opportunity to launch joint programmes and add up the resources of their local communities.

The following methods have been used for training community workers:
- For a year’s time we met once a month, when we held theoretical and practical training courses. These events proved to be a good opportunity to get to know each other’s local communities. The time we spent together has proved to be of community forming value.
- The community building process launched by the local community worker has provided us with field work in each of the villages. The community workers paid visits to each other and they held meetings before and after community discussions and actions.
We have always tried to prepare community workers to work independently, and it was therefore a great pleasure to us to learn in 1999 that they decided to found their own association. Since then, the trained community workers of this association have become major actors of the development work performed in the Upper-Kiskunság area.
The outcomes of the process presented in part one resulted from this network, and without it, they would not have been feasible.

We were looking for people in the local communities who were willing to act not only for the leisure or school communities of their families, friends or children, but who were able to see the world in broader contexts and to take up the conflicts community work entails, and who were not depending from local power factors. It was difficult to find such people in this region, where people said such things about themselves as “konok kunok” (stiff-necked Cumanians) and “people of servant mentality”. Indeed, there was only one person we have started to work with who was born here and whose roots bound him here. One of the reasons for this is that family and friendship ties are very strong in the local communities and it is rather difficult to overcome them.
Decision making is the privilege of local authorities (boards of representatives). Communities (or where communities do not exist, local residents) are not involved in making decisions or in implementing them, and in this way they do not take part in the solution process, and do not feel that it is their issue, even though it is them whom the effects concern.
We have experienced this local governmental attitude not only at the beginning of our work but ever since then as well. No matter that new communities have been established since then, no matter that we have been through 2 local governmental elections, the mentality has remained the same. Those in power are unwilling to share decisions, the responsibility, and the potential results stemming from their implementation. At the same time, communities are also unable to join hands and demonstrate such power that could stimulate local authorities to listen to their voice. A few constraining conditions are already affecting this region as well: such as the social inclusion and commitment to partnerships constrained by EU programmes, and some programmes implemented by the communities which have brought inevitable results. However, these are just isolated cases, which fail to bear an institutionalising effect.

II. Co-operative Development Process

The already mentioned lack of organisation has manifested itself in all areas. Small farmers were unable to performed profit-making activities. They lacked the necessary technologic knowledge and necessary instruments either. They did not even know what sort of agricultural activity was worth starting, since they had not got any marketing experience either. Some farmers had some preliminary experience in growing ground paprika, but marketing was rather eventual.

The methods of developing community enterprises/co-operatives in practice:

1. In 1997 we organised a training course preparing for community enterprising, which was attended by 16 local residents from Kunbábony. The 2x5 days training course offered participants the opportunity to acquire general enterprising skills and prepare their own business plan. The possibility of collective enterprising has already come up during training. At first, they were considering raising rabbits, and they set up a small stock to start with. Due to the lack of experience, however, their enterprise failed.
2. As a result of training, paprika growers joined hands in some issues during the following year: they bought the seeds together, lent machinery to each other, and they rented those machines no one had collectively, but marketing was still organised on n individual basis.
3. Due to the failure of marketing, a local entrepreneur (who had also attended the community workers` training course) went to see small farmers the following year, discussing the possibility of co-operation.
4. the individual discussions were followed by public meetings where
- the possibilities of collective purchasing and marketing were planned,
- the position of individual farming in the new co-operative was measured
- the founding document, organisational rules and management of the co-operative was developed
5. We founded the co-operative according to existing law, and it started functioning in 1999 with 15 members.

The Outcomes of the Co-operative
An average of 4-5 families produce about 350 q of paprika on 12-18 acres of land. In 2001 they bought from non-members as well in order to produce the contracted amount. Through making a collective contract, they managed to reach a higher price, from which they left in a few forints per q to cover administrative costs. They purchase seeds together, they use machines together, they organise transport together as well, and they pay attention to conforming to technology through keeping an eye on each other’s crops.

Only those people could work effectively in the co-operative who had some capital at the start up, whose family members have taken part in the work in the fields and who trusted that the co-operative would pay their money after selling their crops.
The co-operative does not have a paid management, and so it can provide a minimal level of organisation. They are unable to take opportunities or to develop.
The changing agricultural politics and legislation give the priority to family farms and production groups instead of the new type co-operatives.
This co-operative is to small to be able to meet to the requirements of the EU. When it was established, it provided its members with an extra income , and it is still able to do so but they will not be able to make a living out of it.
Having recognised the need for attending training, the leader of the co-operative is taking two courses in advanced farming, where he can share experiences and information with other farmers. This can give a new impetus to the functioning of the co-operative as well.

Pattern to Follow:
As a result of the development process in Kunbábony, and with similar methodological steps, a new pig raising co-operative has been established in the region. This co-operative is only functional if the interests of members require so, which means that marketing was more profitable within the co-operative than on an individual basis. This co-operative has an agile young leader with strong individual interest, who has the necessary information and contacts. The establishment of the production group is in progress, which improves their chances of accessing sources.

For a good community enterprise–co-operative, it is indispensable to have all the members recognise the advantages community enterprising as well as their own interests, and to have a leader who is recognised by the community both professionally and personally, and who is capable of organising, renewing and keeping up with the altered circumstances.

We have attempted to assist the establishment of a community enterprises in other areas as well. The basis of this is the job creation programme. In the framework of a community information café, a tele centre and a community centre, we are currently preparing the community to run the place. The method is that new community services are launched in the framework of a job creation programme, while the mode of further operation is planned with the involvement of local citizens.

The financial background of community development work has been provided by the Hungarian Association for Community Development through involving external sources. The region has not supported this sort of work so far.
The regional and local associations have managed to raise funds for local projects, but not for the development work itself.
In the Upper-Kiskunság community workers started working believing that this work did not have any time limits. The initiator is a totally independent organisation. There are no expectations of performance or obligations to conform, only our own professional commitment. This attitude has brought visible results, but the local authorities of the region still fail to value this work, although in six years time we have achieved that they acknowledge it and count with it as a factor.