Community Development Positionality Paper

Abstract

This position paper summarizes the key takeaways from the selected reading and connects them with my life experiences. This paper will show how the context of Green and Haines’s (2016) book, along with other scholarly articles, connects the various ways with the community that I currently live in Augusta, GA, and Taiwan, where I was born and raised. I will apply the contextual theories and terms to real-life examples from my life in order to evaluate and analyze any success or room for improvement for community development.

  1. Environmental Capital: Climate Change Challenge
  2. Human Captial: Healthcare Challenge
  3. Thriving Cultural and Creative Capitals

Keywords: environmental capital, cultural capital, climate change, healthcare, community-based organizations, Augusta, Taiwan

Environmental Capital: Climate Change Challenge

While natural disasters rarely devastate an entire country, their effects are localized and will have an immediate impact in smaller regions (Green & Haines, 2016). In community development, it is common to mitigate the natural hazard, a probability, or potential for damage by natural disasters. Once the risk is identified, developers and policymakers must cope with it by adapting and a focus on minimizing negative impact while optimizing the positive. The US should be the most focused on adapting to climate change as it was the largest emitter of greenhouse gas in 2000. While the US has a very organized emergency response team through FEMA and large non-profits like American Redcross as identified by Green and Haines (2016), the US lacks in prevention and much needed effort is desired. 

As a nation, Taiwan has adapted recycling as a way of life, in schools, work, and residential homes. Waste pick up services and recycling is calculated within the municipal taxes. When I immigrated to Augusta, Ga, in 2006, I realized that recycling and conservation were more of a mellow, optional subject that one could learn more about from non-profits, such as the Phinizy Swamp and not an obligatory subject in the school or mandate from local government. What was more shocking to me is that not only are recycling companies privatized, but some waste services are also. In Columbia County, neighboring to Augusta-Richmond County, waste services are not part of property taxes, and thus landlords and homeowners have to make contractual obligations with private companies.

Community development faces challenges when services are privatized, as for-profit companies do not have the same bottom-line. Environmental capital is an essential aspect for a community to have strong sustainability, which means it must store resources to higher levels rather than maintain them at the same rate for future generations (Green & Haines, 2016). The City of Augusta and many parts of the US are lacking behind in environmental conservation.

Human Captial: Healthcare Challenge

To understand what factors correlate with health disparities, Brulle and Pellow (2006) focus on the need to integrate environmental inequality and its health impacts. They concluded that in order to prevent environmentally related health problems and address environmental inequality, an understanding of how social and environmental factors influence health is necessary (Brulle & Pellow, 2006). With a lack of environmental protection, communities that are inundated are already at risk for health issues from pollution; having limited healthcare makes it even worse. “Although the United States spends more money per capita on health care than does any other nation in the world, the overall health of the population lags behind that of most industrialized countries largely because of persistent and growing disparities in mortality, morbidity, and disability between socioeconomic statuses” (Brulle & Pellow, 2006, p. 103).

Taiwan has established national healthcare for all its citizens, similar to other industrialized countries. While the Affordable Care Act made a historic debut in the US, it only provided coverage for a fraction of its citizens. There are four hospitals within a ten-mile radius of downtown Augusta: University, VA, AU Medical Center, and Trinity. I am confident to say that there are more than adequate healthcare resources in this city. However, accessibility to these resources can differ based on employment and income as statistically proven in many cities of the US.

Nevertheless, such a disadvantage in Augusta is overcome by its local institutions of health sciences. Low-income residents of Augusta benefit from the low-cost services from the Dental College of Georgia, College of Allied Health Sciences, and College of Nursing. Operated by faculty and students, “Associacion Latina de Servicios del CSRA” served many Hispanic migrant workers who do not have access to private health insurance. Also, other non-profit organizations in the area include Safehome of Augusta, which provides shelter and counseling for domestic violence victims, and many religious organizations, such as Catholic Social Services, that provide families in crisis with essential needs and faith-based healing. They also frequently partner with local homeless shelters as well.

Public participation efforts in community planning processes are crucial (English, Peretz, & Manderschied, 2004), but without healthy citizens, a community will not have adequate human and social capital. In the US, the economy thrives with privatization and capitalism, which negatively affects poverty, inequity, and underprovision for public goods, such as healthcare (Fung & Wright, 2001). While Augusta outperformed other cities regarding its accessibility and resources to healthcare, it is nowhere near the level of Taiwan, where healthcare is equally distributed among its citizens regardless of socioeconomic status. Unfortunately, it would be hard for Augusta to improve accessibility issues due to the capitalist approach to healthcare in the US as a country.

Thriving Cultural and Creative Capitals

Even though I have been critical and harsh on Augusta regarding its challenges with the environment and healthcare, I want to commend the city for its thriving creative and cultural capitals. Sen believes culture as a constitutive part of development that brings the enrichment of people’s quality of lives “through literature, music, fine arts, and other forms of cultural expression and practice” (2004, p. 39). Sen also states that cultural activities are remunerative depending on the hosting organization, facilities, and the community’s environment. While the purpose of cultural or religious sites is focused on monetization, the linkage of tourism revenue with the cultural and historical sites is evident. The Creative Class brings specialized skills in music, dancing, and other cultural activities that bring identity to the hosting community (Green & Haines, 2016). In addition, these activities help to attract people to particular countries or regions, promoting growth in population in a community (Sen, 2004).

As a board member of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, I have seen the effort that we go through to carry out our mission to provide fellowship to our members and promote public awareness of Chinese culture and heritage. We collaborated with other non-profits, such as AU’s Chinese Student and Scholar Association and Confuscious Institute, the Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia and the CSRA and the Greater Augusta Arts Council. We participated in the area’s notable cultural events, such as the Dragonboat Festival, Moon Festival, and Arts in the Hearts. We performed traditional dances, eastern instruments, and served traditional cuisine.

Besides economic benefits, Sen (2004) identifies that even the operation of social solidarity and mutual support can be strongly influenced by culture. We served an educational purpose for many years. We partner with the Richmond County Library, Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History, to contribute information to the Augusta Riot in 1970, a result of racial injustice under the eyes of the law. The Chinese had a humble start in Augusta when they arrived as laborers to enlarge the Augusta Canal in the late 1800s. The population of Chinese people in the area prevailed through the bleak period of segregation and racial unrest, which resulted in the loss of many Chinese-owned grocers in the 1970 riot. They were able to sustain through a strong bond and formation of values in the community. This, in turn, is influential in the identification of the community as a whole.

Taiwan does not have a substantial cultural and creative capital as compared to the City of Augusta. It is understandably due to the difference in foreign immigration volume compared to the US for many years. The city also has a unique way of promoting the love of culture outside of typical museums, such as those in Taiwan, or social enclaves, like Chinatown in major US cities. In sum, Augusta could see improvements in environmental efforts, similar to cities in the US. The city does outperform on healthcare comparatively speaking, but what makes the city truly remarkable is its arts and culture.

References

Brulle, R. & Pellow, D. (2006). Environmental justice: Human health and environmental inequalities, Annual Review of Public Health, 27, 103-124. doi:10.1146/annurev.publhealth.27.021405.102124

English, M., Peretz, J., & Manderschied, M. (2004). Building communities while building plans: A review of techniques for participatory planning processes. Public Administration Quarterly, 26(3), 503-539. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/41288182

Fung, A. & Wright, E. (2001). Deepening democracy: Innovations in empowered participatory governance. Politics & Society, 29(1), 5–41. doi:https://doi.org/10.1177/0032329201029001002

Green, P. & Haines, A. (2016). Asset Building & Community Development (4th ed.). SAGE Publications.

Sen, A. (2004). How does culture matter? In V. Rao, & M. Walton (Eds.), Culture and Public Action (pp. 37-58). Stanford University Press.


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