Development from within: an exploration of how the strength based approach espouses people-centredness- a case of the Catholic development commision (cadecom) project in Dowa, Malawi
Mazinga, Martino Kamwano
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Strength Based Approach (SBA) is a new thinking in the alternative approaches to community development discourse, an approach which is grounded on philosophies that promote utilization of locally available resources, skills and capacities for self-transformation. Strength Based Approach offers a paradigm shift, from the needs-based or problem-based perspectives to development, to a more asset-based, strength-based or resource-based approach that is oriented more towards development from within. This paper draws attention to how the Strength Based Approach can be considered an archetype of people-led development along the people-centeredness development paradigm. The paper establishes how, in practice, the Strength Based Approach links with concepts of “community participation”, “community empowerment” “social learning” and “development sustainability.” The study’s central question is: Whose reality counts in development work and what constitutes active people’s participation in the development process? Using CADECOM project, in Dowa district, Malawi, as a case study, the study establishes that the Strength Based Approach, as a participatory development approach, engages people in the development process; putting them at the centre of the development process. Conclusions are made that self-reliance and independence of thought in the development process are key to sustainable development. Data for the study was collected through a series of eight Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) and 11 Key Informant Interviews (KIIs) with communities and officers who participated in the CADECOM project that adopted the Strength Based Approach, as a community engagement mechanism in the livelihood project in Dowa. Strength Based Approach is categorized in the realm of development from within; it is people-centred and resource-centered. While acknowledging the many advantages of the strength-based approach, visa-a-vis the needsbased approach, the study finds implications with the approach in situations when communities are resource constrained and cannot attain their desired development aspirations from their visions. Visioning is an important element of the Strength Based Approach; however, people cannot be limited to dreaming about their future in view of the only resources or strengths around them. The study recommends further exploration on how the SBA can be effectively implemented alongside Rights Based Approaches (RBA). Again, further academic research is required to establish the impact of illiteracy in the implementation of SBA, among rural communities, majority of whom are illiterate, given that in this approach, inspiration for selftransformation emanates from the community visions.