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Many Jamaicans across the island can now contribute to the governance of their communities and parishes. This is possible through the Community Development Committees (CDCs), an entity facilitated and supported by the Social Development Commission (SDC).
Director of Governance at the SDC, Richard Billings, tells JIS News that one of the main functions of the CDCs is to provide a forum for Community-Based Organisations (CBOs) to mobilise community members to unite to solve issues or problems that affect them.
bring about positive change in their communities. So at the SDC we basically focus on how to get communities to work together, how to get them organised and more importantly, how to get them to be active and more proactive in terms of community governance, and how to improve their particular situation,” he explains.
Mr. Billings notes that the SDC assists community organisations to come together to have dialogue about issues that affect them through the formation of a Community Development Committee. This involves identifying the various community-based organisations, such as Parent Teachers’ Association, youth groups, church groups and neighbourhood watches, in that particular community. Once these organisations are identified they are then sensitized about working together to resolve broader issues that affect the community.
“There are organisations in the community such as the Parent Teachers’ Association (PTA), who are sometimes concerned about their own interests but not the wider interests of the community. The challenge is therefore to get community members to see beyond the organisational interest. What we do is facilitate people and their CBOs coming together in a community, which we refer to as a Community Development Committee,” he informs.
Therefore, Community Development Committees are an amalgamation of individual community based organisations, when these groups come together to discuss development issues, make plans and advocate for positive changes within the community, a CDC is formed.
The next step the Director explains is the formation of an executive body or a steering committee. There also has to be ongoing efforts to encourage persons to be involved in the CDC by building awareness and knowledge in order to make plans and execute those plans to foster community development.
The work of the Social Development Commission however does not end with the formation of a Community Development Committee. Another key function of the SDC is community-based research.
“We have a research process that generates information about communities, and what exists within communities, for example, how many people live there, the history and the economy, the social and environmental elements. This gives us a profile of the community,” he says.
Mr. Billings notes that the information that is garnered from this research is used to form a profile of the community. “Profiles are used to look on the issues that are facing the community and how to prioritize them, and then a strategy can be worked out to address these issues. so community members come together then to develop a plan of action. This is the essence of community development planning,” he explains.
He notes that Parish Development Committees (PDCs) also have a vital role to play in the functioning of the Community Development Committee. The PCD’s facilitate a forum for bringing together the citizens in a parish with the local authority as well as members of the private and public sectors.
“The way it was originally configured was that you would have CDC and then the CDC would send their members in to the PDC to have dialogue and plan with the local authorities and other stakeholders about the development concerns in the parish. The CDC representative share information about the community priorities and provide feedback from the PDC with their community, so that citizens aware of what was discussed and what was agreed,” the Director explains. The SDC has worked with the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), the Jamaica Social Policy Evaluation (JASPEV), the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), and United States Agency for International Development (USAID), to develop community capacity to plan and leverage resources for local initiatives.
At present there are 785 communities islandwide and 353 of these have a Community Development Committee. SDC pools parishes into regions to include Kingston and St. Andrew and St. Thomas, which has 133 communities with some 77 per cent of those communities having CDCs. St. Catherine has 49 communities with about 36 CDCs which translate to some 73 per cent, while Portland, St. Mary and St. Ann have approximately 50 per cent CDCs. Trelawny, Westmoreland, Hanover and St. James, have 244 communities with some 27 per cent of these having CDCs. The remaining parishes of St. Elizabeth, Clarendon and Manchester have 212 communities with 34 per cent being CDCs.
Mr. Billings notes that the Social Development Commission, which functions under the Office of the Prime Minister, is committed to working with civil society to advance community involvement in governance, by encouraging citizens at the community level to participate in and promote an integrated sustainable development process that links community planning and action with parish and national development priorities.