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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Listening for the words and the music : learning about community development from low-income residents of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside Strathcona Coyne, Kathleen

Abstract

This thesis presents the story of what members of a low-income and marginalized community see as appropriate community development for them, an understanding of which involves appreciation of the words AND music of community development. In presenting this story, the thesis explores the role of community development in addressing social exclusion in inner-city areas and identifies how the knowledge and experiences of lowincome communities can inform theory and practice. Based on qualitative research undertaken in Downtown Eastside Strathcona, an innercity neighbourhood in Vancouver, British Columbia, this thesis also endeavors to exemplify research that is situated in the practice of the researcher, in my own community practice. To achieve this, I, a practitioner-researcher, worked with a community group with which I was already involved to develop a guide to community development from their perspective. The guide, entitled Getting the Words AND the Music, and the conversations that informed the preparation of it, were analyzed to determine the contributions that are made to community development theory and practice. In this research, I identified four key principles to which these residents of Downtown Eastside Strathcona make a unique and valuable contribution: community development needs to be inclusive of all community members, particularly the marginalized; resident involvement in decision-making should be promoted; social justice through the equitable distribution of goods and services should be pursued; and the contribution of residents and agencies working together to strengthen their community should be celebrated. While these principles are clearly evident in community development theory, the analysis suggests that fulfillment of these principles requires a commitment to resident-centred approaches, to learning to listen to residents, to promoting the voice of the voiceless, to ensuring access to services to meet basic needs, and to redefining community to be inclusive of all. I conclude this thesis by showing that, in the experience of this researcher, a commitment of this nature may require personal change and a comfort level with messy, unpredictable practice. This change, while at times uncomfortable, may also be a gift - an ability to discern the music of community development as understood by low-income communities.

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