Much has been made in recent years of the need for community participation in the democratic process and economic development. The current goverment in particular emphasises the concept of stakeholders in society.No one can object to these principles. However as representatives of the community organisations it is necessary for us to take these ideas beyond academic theory and to develop practical models. For all of us this can prove a formidable task challenging on the one hand the organisational structures and relationships of both community groups and statutory bodies and on the other hand the political integrity of the groups.
We will increasingly have to see ourselves as partners with the statutory bodies whilst retaining our independance and our ability to represent the client.The interface between our sector and the agenicies is a grey area in need of examination. Clients on the fringe of society by their very nature do not fit neatly into social slots. In dealing with or representing these clients community groups must exercise a great deal of flexibility and innovation.
Goverment policy is encouraging the community and voluntary sector to become social partners in combating social exclusion.
In order to become partners it is necessary for the community groups to professionalise and re-structure to interface with the statutory bodies.
The process of " professionalisation" restructuring and partnership could compromise the community sector's ability to maintain a broad community base, its political independance and flexibility, and its relationship with its clients.