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Social capital, participatory management and community development: Sustaining a community organisation in Blacktown. Purpose of the Study.

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Social capital, participatory management and community development:Sustaining a community organisation in Blacktown.

purpose of the study
Purpose of the Study
  • The study set out to analyse factors which influence the ability of community based organisations to maintain responsiveness and sustainability despite profound social and demographic changes.
  • Measures of social capital, community development and participatory management were used to analyse the supports and inhibiting factors.
  • Children first Inc. is a not-for-profit community owned organisation which has been operating since 1949 in Blacktown, NSW
  • The social, political and demographic landscape of the area has been dynamic in that time.
  • The organisation was chosen because of its longevity with a dynamic community and its focus on catering to families from low socio economic backgrounds.
research questions
Research questions
  • What is the current role of Children First Inc in the community?
  • What are the key stages in the organisation’s development in response to community needs?
  • What is the current status of the factors which influence organisational development?

a) What is the level of social capital (for staff and families) within the organisation?

b) What management practices and procedures are followed?

c) How does the organisation address issues of community development?

  • What are the confounding factors regarding the organisations ability to respond to the community’s needs?
  • Can factors that contribute to an effective community organisation (which are generalisable across different contexts) be identified from this case study?

Within Children First

  • Historical data
  • Coordinator’s orientation
  • Social fabric questionnaires for staff/families (n=148)
  • Staff return rate: 66.66%
  • Family return rate: 30.25%
  • Total Response Rate = 35.5%
  • 2 x focus groups with staff (n=15)
  • 2 x focus groups with families/clients (n=8)
  • Interviews with management committee members (n=10)

Outside Children First

  • Interviews with community stakeholders (n=12)
  • Validation exercise with community players in other regions (n=14)
data analysis
Data analysis
  • Historical data.
  • Interviews and focus groups.
  • Qualitative data analysed with NVIVO (computer software program) according to the research questions.
  • Questionnaires analysed with SPSS (computer software program) in regards to:
    • staff - breakdown of service type in relation to work connections
    • staff - work connections scores with and without the project workers (comparisons to other studies)
    • families - social capital scores (plus subscales of proactivity and connections) by service type
    • families - social capital scores (plus subscales of proactivity and connections) and comparisons to other studies
component 1 historical data
Component 1: Historical data

Main themes emerging

  • change and growth is incremental and slow
  • “agitating” federal, state and local governments at appropriate stages is a key
  • networks within community – active volunteer resources leads to support from the local community
  • support from local council
  • committed agitator is key
  • sense of community, sense of meeting important needs
component 2 social capital questionnaires
Component 2: Social capital questionnaires


  • all services scored similarly in relation to work connections
  • feelings of trust and safety – OOSH lowest and preschool highest (see table 8 & 9)
  • value of life - OOSH lowest and projects highest (see table 8 & 9)
  • compare favorably with other studies of similar organisations
  • organisation scores higher when the project workers are included
  • the projects are scoring higher in most aspects (see table 10 & 11) (maybe have a sense of connection as are smaller teams & also no clients/families included in this data collection?)
component 2 social capital questionnaires1
Component 2: Social capital questionnaires


  • management committee has distinctively higher social capital when separated from families
  • staff rated higher than both MC and families in relation to social capital, proactivity and connections. (table 4)
  • scores in proactivity and other (helping others, stranger questions) – OOSH families scored lower and preschool families scored higher (table 6 & 7)
  • OOSH scored lowest in most social capital areas (see table 10 & 11)
component 3 focus groups and interviews
Component 3: Focus groups and interviews

Strengths of Children First

  • links are developed by staff/management inviting people to participate
  • community orientated – focus on children not profit
  • diversity of services & affordability
  • dedicated staff
  • dynamic and have a vision broader than local community
  • develops first hand knowledge about required services
  • provides feedback to service users
strengths of children first cont d
Strengths of Children First (Cont’d)
  • Executive Director seems to be key figure re effectiveness (supportive)

they are professionally run from Executive Director down to the young junior staff. They always appear to me as organised with the different programs they run for the children (com rep 4).

  • effective networkers (good working relationship with government and NGO’s
  • word of mouth – recommended
  • can chose level of involvement
  • branding – log, shirts, name tags
  • nice place to work
component 3 focus groups and interviews n 41
Component 3: Focus groups and interviews (n=41)

Children First perceived roles

- childcare/preschool

- quality services

- affordable services

- special needs

- support families

- community projects

- training

Processes which CF utilises to assess community needs

- surveys (some comments that this is not regular/standard procedure)

- staff/committee liaison

- advertisement/promotion

- unaware

social capital
Social Capital
  • Social capital, or the store of goodwill, co-operation and connections between people, is seen as an enabler for fostering the emotional and practical resources that support effective functioning in day-to-day life.
  • Living in a healthy connected community (one that rates high in social capital) is correlated with psychosocial, emotional, behavioural and biomedical outcomes in children and families (Herbet & Smith ‘97, Vinson ‘99)
assessment tool
Assessment Tool
  • An assessment tool was developed to measure how staff and management perceive important roles of the organisation
  • The tool is available as a brochure and includes-
  • Management
  • Professional Conduct
  • Leadership
  • Relationship management
  • Change management
assessment tool cont d
Assessment Tool (Cont’d)
  • Community Linkages and
  • Social Capital
  • Management Team
  • Staff Team
  • That action research projects be developed to test and refine the sustainability Self Assessment Tool and to identify strategies for enhanced responsiveness and sustainability for community organisations
  • That research be undertaken to investigate new, broadened concepts of community.
  • That organisations consider undertaking a hostorical & documentary review as a way to envision the continuity with their past and to reflect uponj directions for thee future.
recommendations cont d
Recommendations (Cont’d)
  • That organisations undergoing change, development and/or expansion undertake regular audits with all staff to ensure maintenance of effective communication and decision making processes.
  • That organisations identify and nuture key players in their communities who can provide a public face, network and mobilise support from diverse sources
  • That the contribution to facilitation of social capital for families be included in measures of outcomes for diverse types of children’s services.