query: real participation

colist-admin at comm-org.utoledo.edu colist-admin at comm-org.utoledo.edu
Mon May 29 21:40:26 CDT 2000

[ed:  thanks to Tanya, Dixie, and Neal and Orla for responses to Laura's 
participation query.]

From: "Tanya Kahl" <tanya_kahl at hotmail.com>

Two places where I've seen community residents,including low-income
residents, involved in decision making are in community health centers and
congregational based community organizing groups.  Community health centers
are required to have 51% consumer board membership.  I think each board
varies considerably in terms of actual involvement, but someone might be
able to identify some good examples.  In terms of congregational based
community organizing groups I mean those affiliated with networks such as
DART or Gamaliel.  Again, I'm sure there is more authentic involvement of
the low-income in some than others, but the boards are set up to have
representation from each congregation and those boards make the real
organizational decisions.


From: "Ray, Dixie" <dray at iupui.edu>
To: "'colist at coserver.sa.utoledo.edu'" <colist at coserver.sa.utoledo.edu>
Subject: RE: query:  real participation
Date: Thu, 25 May 2000 14:50:29 -0500
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  I believe that community health center  (CHC) boards are one example of
"real" community participation.  I have been involved as a member of  such a
board for 20 years.  These policy making boards are at least 51% consumers
and they make the decisions about programs, budgets, hours of services, and
the decisions to hire and fire their executive directors.  Some CHC boards
are more influenced by professional staff than are others.  Sometimes the
challenge is to keep the board out of the operations decisions and
functioning at the policy level.  Part of what makes this system work is the
federal requirement that the boards maintain their 51% consumer status and
are making the decisions in the appropriate areas.  Boards are supported by
training through the National Association of Community Health Centers
(NACHC) and the state primary care associations.

Dixie Ray


From: "Neal and Orla" <nnewman at gofree.indigo.ie>

In response to >"Laura C. McKieran" <lmckieran at nyam.org> question about real
people having real decision making power, I have been struggling with that
question for the last five years after moving to Ireland and taking the
reins of a "local development" company financed by the EU and the Irish
government.  "Area-based partnerships" are geographic focused, issue-based
and target-group sensitive action and funding organisations that bring the
state, the employers, the trade unions and community interests together on a
Board of Directors.  This Board controls a significant among of funding that
can be used for quite progressive (or, quite mainstream) activities
depending on the CEO, the area and the capacities of the staff.  In our
case, the majority of the seats on this Board are for community people.
They have the power to make policy decisions, steer funding in certain
directions, collectively challenge state agencies and move the whole agenda
forward.  The difficulty is that as the economy heats up in Ireland (fastest
growing in Europe) volunteers are getting jobs, people are more focused on
their own lives, it is getting harder to keep people mobilised as they
attempt to crack open tightly closed state organisations.  At the end of the
day, the structure is there for real people taking real control, but there
are other factors that make it difficult for local people to assert their
collective clout even within these:  language, meeting etiquette, resources,
etc.  It becomes a structural issue for the organisation (and staff) to
equalise the playing field.  

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