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From services to ideological formation: Building community agency in Palestine

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Title: From services to ideological formation: Building community agency in Palestine
Author(s): Araj, Tahreer A.
Director of Research: Summerfield, Gale
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Summerfield, Gale
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Gasteyer, Stephen; Reisner, Ann
Department / Program: Human & Community Development
Discipline: Human & Community Development
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): Civil Society Community progressive Change Community Development Gender and Development Social Movements Community Agency
Abstract: ABSTRACT This research project examines the extent to which delivery of services provided by grassroots non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can lead to progressive community change. While locally grounded in the socio-political context of Palestine, this research addresses broader questions concerning the role of organizational ideology in community and social changes specifically in the Middle East. This is carried out through researching the efforts of Palestinian NGOs whose mission is to improve the economic, social and political conditions of rural Palestinian women, farmers and youth, and to assist in community capacity building at various institutional levels. A six-month ethnographic case study was conducted of two prominent, well-established Palestinian grassroots NGOs that have been working in the agricultural sector for more than 20 years in West Bank: PARC (Palestinian Agriculture Relief Committees) and UAWC (Union of Agriculture Working Committees). This case study involved the following specific actions: reviews and content analysis of annual reports; in-depth individual interviews; group discussion; and participant observation at the organizational and local community levels. Findings illustrate how the allocation of donor funds serves neoliberal purposes by co-opting left-leaning ideologies throughout certain acquiescences through the support of technical assistance-based community development, which does little to challenge existing power structures. The acquiescences and discourses of these organizations shape the orientation of grassroots NGOs and as a result inform the performance and roles of practitioners in these NGOs. Accordingly two different operating rationales or frameworks evolve in which the community development practitioner’s work can be identified in these grassroots NGOs: the professional and the activist. Each framework is linked to or influences the practitioners’ orientation and therefore the community development efforts to promote community progressive change. Findings also demonstrate gender mainstreaming within grassroots NGOs and the commitment to gender equity and social justice at a substantive level, which is represented in their mission statements, as well as their polices and goals. However, the structural level doesn’t reveal the process of social transformation and is tied to project implementation in different ways.
Issue Date: 2011-05-25
Rights Information: Copyright 2011 Tahreer A. Araj
Date Available in IDEALS: 2011-05-25
Date Deposited: 2011-05

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