MRD Community Development Course Journal

Hi, I'm Stu Harvey. I'm about half done my MRD, with Community Development and Rural Restructuring this term and Business Development next, leaving Thesis (and possibly some extras). My main interest at present is the use and role of Media (narrowly - Photography) in Rural Development. I've decided to use this space for an ongoing journal of learnings from this course, with a weekly entry added.

Week1: My first week has been spent getting my head around WebCT, and its strengths and weaknesses as viewed from the front-end...not a bad little piece of software. It certainly does make possible the richness of diverse geographically-placed input. The chance to read the core input at a sweep initially works well for me in terms of my personal learning style. I appreciate the opportunity to post items to later modules as they emerge. This allows them to be considered in the present context by other class members, while retaining them as components of a later discourse as well. I see the main focus of the upcoming week as being that of project selection delineation.

Week 2 In Saturday's Brandon Sun I saw my first political cartoon about the World Trade Center disaster. The context was a TV announcer saying (frame 1) "Terrorism strikes American soil" (frame 2) "At this tragic time, we'll answer that all-important question..." (frame 3) " How did this affect the markets?" I think they missed the point, it is the other way around: How did the markets affect this tragic time? Why was it the World Trade Center that was hit? Was it because it was an easy target for amateur pilots? Was it because it was prominent on the landscape or photogenic for CNN? Was it because it would disrupt New York maximally? Or was it because of something that was going on in the buildings... like world trade activities of some sort?

The New York events have colored the thought of most of us this week, and I am no exception.

Week 3 & 4My wife's dizzying whirl of final days before Thesis defense has opened my eyes to just what is involved in all the corrections needed, and the amount of work involved in a Thesis....and her successful completion of her Masters of Education has shown me just how jubilant a moment that is...and how much "decompression" follows such an accomplishment! All just in time for me to start my own journey shortly into "Thesis-land".

Now I'm able to get some keyboard time, I reflect back on the last two weeks and remind myself of what I used to say to students while working at Student services:

  1. That the events around us while studying do not detract us from our studies, they are our studies. That University is a whole person experience. That the particular things that demand attention from us do so because of our unique personalities, and are typical of what will continue to demand our attention in our chosen line of work.
  2. That the courses are an abstraction from reality, and that reality is of a piece. So studying for one is like studying for the other.

So my time has been spent with:

My RCD project is a consideration of power issues in Rural Development with special consideration of Sun Tsu's Art of War and the Christo-centric Biblical view.

Getting my mark weighting changed following our group session has made the work load sit easier on my shoulders as well...a good move for me.

Week 5An interesting overlay of readings predominated this week:

The issues surrounding the granting of "permission" e.g. to "develop" or not, within a town region, province or country continue to fascinate me... not so much in the formal Political sense, as in the informal, behind-the-scenes sense.

Week SixThe release of the Nobel Prizes for the year this week brought to mind an earlier name of a recipient Dr. Roger Sperry who shared the prize in 1981 for his work on the left-brain and right-brain phenomenon. As one wag put it, he discovered that between the 16th and 26th week of gestation, male babies have two chemicals wash over the right hemisphere altering it so that the caring capacity diminishes and the left hemisphere dominates (great for war and logic and such like)...proving that males are born half brain dead!

In terms of the week, with the start of the war, and the assorted discussions on WebCT, I couldn't help "hearing" echoes of these two approaches to "community development".

A good lead from Meir Serfaty on "community power" as both a book and a set of keywords, opened up some interesting material as I work on my major paper. Singh's excellent handbook chapters on the nitty gritty of field community development kept it all grounded and the third-world in perspective (in ways other than our bombing the heck out of it).

At the end of my intro-presentation the other week, someone asked "are you going back?", to which I can't recall what I mumbled. This week I received a phone call from Saskatchewan asking for some I guess the answer is yes.

Week Seven This week was characterized by problems with WebCT which ate up about 4 hours of life sorting out...and interfering with one full day in which the program was not accessible. Fortunately, I had a backup of everything I'd sent or posted so recovery was not too bad, and my existing web site was very simple to add a section to.

I finished Katar Singh's excellent book on Rural Development which helped me answer a bit more of the puzzling question about how our involvement in Community Development (economic or otherwise) fit in to the larger picture of our Global Village Community Development reality. Having an experienced, qualified, and up to date author from a developing country talk about RCD from his reality was very helpful to me.

Adolph Berle's book Power is proving excellent as well as I probe a totally foreign region of study (as I lack much Sociology or Political Science). Once again, having an author who is experienced, qualified, and articulate (I hunch he is a "Perceiver"-"Teacher/researcher" in the "Gifts" ideal type system). His five principles of power do indeed serve as an interesting grid with which to assess power situations. It certainly did give me new perspectives on some past involvements in RCD.

Of course, our trip to Winnipeg to celebrate Carol's Graduation with her M.Ed. this week was the real highlight…one I look forward to myself.

Week 8

This week saw two main activities relating to the RCD course:

1. I continued reading Berle's book and reflecting on his system for assessment of situations from the perspective of power dynamics. The balance of his book is an assessment of a number of institutional situations which he has been involved in over his life. These are interesting, especially as a History Major, in that he was so closely involved with the negotiations of the Treaty of Versailles after WW I, the New Deal, and so forth. Even more interesting is watching him apply his system and observe its utility as a tool of analysis. Being able to watch several applications of it has enabled me to begin my assessment of how well it might fit as an assessment tool in rural community development situations.

2. The second activity was setting up the framework for a segment of my personal web site in which I might share my learning's of the RCD area of work with some practitioner-friends in the field. These people are primarily ministers on the prairies dealing with parishioners who are struggling with the effects of globalization and rural restructuring. As the purpose of Masters level "course work" is primarily to survey the field, I have chosen this venue as one context of learning. By forcing me to process and re-think all the base material in the context of these ministers, I think it will help me learn it more thoroughly, and personalize it. As the saying goes, if you want to really learn something, teach it. It will also put materials into these people's hands "right quickly".

Steinbach Trip - Between Weeks 8 and 9

The Trip to Steinbach for the community-based class seminar proved to be an excellent chance to do several things:
  1. We had a chance to see another Manitoba sub-culture up close, meet some of its leaders, and hear a variety of reflections on that group's history, journey of faith and present challenges. The tour of the historic site set the stage admirably. The local venue provided for easy access to many of the leadership and local citizens, even in the short time we had on site. The meals together gave a chance to enjoy some excellent traditional cooking...just loved that noon soup!
  2. we were able to meet some of our distant on-line Darrel who was able to get down and join us. as well as Kim, Garry, Mona, and Charlene who we are not able to see much around the University. Having a chance to travel together and spend overnight on site gave plenty of chance to talk informally within a context of the RD program. It reinforced my thoughts that somehow the building of community amongst the Department would be a worthwhile endeavor, though the how-to of it still remains somewhat ambiguous.
  3. We had some excellent input from both professors and resident experts in a variety of professions on topics relating to rural community development.
  4. We had the unexpected pleasure of being able to meet Igor from Russia (here on an exchange of some sort) and chat with him about the current Russian situation…now there's restructuring with a "R" !!

The event was superbly organized, and the facilities were first rate. The one thing I though would have been helpful, had the longer event been possible, would have been some sort of break-off groups to consider some of the material we were absorbing. The long breaks did this a bit, but much of that time was spent resting our minds. Such contact would have given more chance to "shake down" the information and get local people's input and reflections.

But over all, it was an event well worth repeating...Thanks to all who put it together, and provided funding for it. Particular thanks to Garry Enns, without whom, it would have been impossible.

Week Nine

The balance of the week after the Steinback trip saw the end of Berle's book and a start into Tweeten's Foundations for Farm Policy. Though somewhat dated and based in the USA, his analysis of farm policy issues is very refreshing. He's likely a "Perceiver - Teacher/Researcher" in the "Gifts Model", and as such goes after the operating principles relating to Ag policy. His opening chapters on "rural and urban values" is a very good summary of both historical development and "present" status. With Canada being somewhat behind USA in many things, the age of the book is perhaps lessened somewhat.

Roughing in the structure of the web site segment on Rural Community development was finished this week as well. A "shadow index" which uses the class format to access portions of the differently structured web site section was developed. This index also links to "assignment responses".

In general, I find that I am heavily into the processing phase of the MRD program. Every week if find that the many separate threads of the overall program are converging. A good feeling indeed!

Week 10 My how time flies! This week was nose down to two main things:

When I look from this vantage point at the approach I have taken to my three courses this term , and the elements I wished to ensure that I had attempted to grasp, I find that the term has been indeed satisfying. Three main holes in my understanding are rapidly closing, and my comfort level and comprehension levels are rising each day.

  1. I understand the daily farm reports more and the significance of news items from the farm sector for the larger off-farm community.
  2. I am hearing the power dynamics in daily events with far more comprehension than before.
  3. I am becoming increasingly aware of the role both media and photography play in Rural Community Development.

The task of translating the theoretical material into practical assistance for people came home this week in two community incidents...and made me realize that the next step is indeed practicalization of all this. Getting to the stage of familiarity with concepts is still a jump or two from being able to manipulate them in helpful ways in the context of ministry. Getting there though!

Week Eleven

Finishing up Tweeten's book Foundations of Farm Policy was a delight of the week, although it raised as many questions as it resolved in the complex area of Ag. policy and the enormous effect the Ag. restructuring has had on our North American Society, both rural and urban. Grasping some sort of basic understanding of this dynamic was one of my primary objectives in taking the MRD program, and establishing an operating platform on which to work in the future in this area has been very satisfying.

Putting the annotations on the articles on my web pages for the course has been very helpful in pulling together my understanding of the overall field of Rural Community Development. It has been of great value to me to do it in my own useable format and through the marvels of digital indexing, to provide a course-appropriate window onto that work that fits the layout of this particular course. Making my learnings available to my collogues in ministry as I go has also been very useful in many ways.

The end of the week was saddened by the news of the death of a senior citizen student in 2nd year arts, Ted Hartley, whom I had done academic advising with last fall in Student Services at BU. Ted had retired and decided to go back and get his degree which circumstances had not allowed over the years. I t is always so refreshing to chat with someone in the community who "just wants to know". I am indeed sorry that he "graduated early" as a "life-long learner"

Charlene's thoughtful taping of an Oprah program on the impact of photos on community was a nice touch, along with her conveying a number of excellent articles. Thank-you Charlene!

Week twelve

This week saw the layout for my "Power dynamics in RCD" project roughed out, and a lot more done on my RCD Web site... so nice to see the light at the end of the tunnel looking "shaped" rather than a dot!

Events had much to contribute to reflections on community and their development:

Week 13

This week saw the first draft of my power dynamics in RCD paper drafted and a huge part of the Community Development segment of my web site finished up. A return to Tweeten in regards to some detail in the Ag Restructuring dynamic so central to the rural scene filled in some confusing parts of that particular dynamic, and added to my ability to fill in parts of he community development web site as well.

Week 14

This final "full week", topping out at 94 hours will likely be the longest in the term. Huge amounts of it were spent on the sections of the web site. I disconnected the "Web-CT module based index" from the RCD section of the web site as it was of minimal value and was increasingly difficult to maintain, making it misleading and frustrating for people visiting the site, and detracting from the section's quality (as it was an overlay). I may re-connect it later if I feel it is worth the effort.

The customary WebCT interactions with class, the printing out all discussion modules for future reference before they were zapped, a few offline communications, as well as an explanation of my web site-use philosophy in a posting summed up my WebCT participation. The snowstorm was an unfortunate interference with hearing some presentations but hopefully they will all be rescheduled on the Monday and Wednesday classes.

The main accomplishment of the week was the completion of the bulk of the Rural Community Development segment of my web site and cleaning up of some of the interconnections like the ones leading to the "Advanced Skills" section which is due to be completed after the winter break for that course. All the off-line materials have been annotated now and entered in their respective places on the site, an structurally laid out for adding more over the years (of both off-line and on-line resources).

A serendipitous discovery of D.G. Hartle's little book A Theory of The Expenditure Budgetary Process Through a reading reference helped me to see that the money and power dynamics in life interface in the budgetary process, and something of the nature of that "political-economic" dynamic is. My grade seven "introduction to scientific method" class taught that one sign of a good experiment is if it raises new questions for further exploration. I guess this is a good experiment! I can't wait to get at that new avenue of exploration of power dynamics in Rural Community Development.

As with all geometric progression growth in life, the learning curve is "hockey stick shaped". The learnings this term are indeed "doubling each week" with a resulting rapid rise in curve. Tiring, but excellent.

Week 15 (and final course related entry, with evaluation)

This week saw the two sessions of excellent presentations, and the opportunity to sit in on the presentations of the sustainability course students...what an excellent byproduct of the storm!

I was quite pleased with the interaction and class involvement in my own presentation. It was disconcerting to get feedback that the main point of the fourth layer on the wish list was obscured by my attempt to make sure people understood the contextual problem it was addressing. I knew my background context would be foreign to many, especially Yihe from China, so I had tried to take extra pains to set the contextual situation of the split in the Protestant Canadian Church and its implications for those of us doing personal empowerment work within that context.

As a result of this feedback and my wife's feedback on my final paper on the same subject I spent "an all nighter" (I'd sworn off those, but this was unavoidable)tearing apart my paper and rewriting my paper in hypertext in an effort to put the focus on the level four of the wish list instrument and making all background material secondary to it structurally. I found that if I put the page change links for the continuity flow items on the web-page, and the popup links for the supplementary information, it made a structural statement about the relative importance of each. I also found that by integrating it into my web section for Community Development, putting parts into the "skills" section, other parts into my intervention approaches section and parts into my "perspectives" section, it factored out different types of information and helped me ensure that a full coverage of the topic was being made.

Being able to put it on the web now put me a bit ahead in this course and gave me a bit of an idea of how long it will take to convert my other course papers to hypertext and integrate into my site. Writing in hypertext is a completely different activity from writing in long-form. It is much more than additional coding. I find it is a structural type of thinking, which is:

On the downside, using a freebie program has its limits in that it has no spell checker and the headings can't even be transferred to a word processor for spell checking. That means it has to be considered as a rough draft one until I can afford a proper web arrangement.

When I consider the topic in my final presentation, I feel good about both that piece and the larger study context in which it was embedded. Resolving problems such as the bridging of the "take-hold" and the "let-go" sections of the Protestant Christian Church, tends to emerge when the time is right rather than when one wants a particular answer. Often the reason we cannot break through to resolution is that we have not got sufficient components in our thought patterns to grapple with or comprehend the answer, an need to add some more life and learning in order to resolve our puzzle. Such was the case here.

At the first of this term I wanted to examine the power dynamics involved in Rural Community Development. One of the main reasons for this was that I had encountered many instances of people who were quite violently moving along the horizontal trajectory, "taking hold" of their lives and doing great damage to others in their path. Many of these persons were committed Christians. I had learned that the book they were reading from, literally or otherwise, was Sun Tsu's Art of War. (Some of them could have stood a thorough study of such a book because they were not ver good at what they were trying to do, for all the chaos they produced.) I had wanted to examine the inter-play of Nee's perspective vis-a-vis Sun Tsu's in the context of rural community development dynamics, to see how the vertical and horizontal planes interfaced for someone doing community development while committed t the diagonal trajectory.

I quickly learned that the power dynamics involved in rural community development were both diverse and complex, and that I had insufficient background to grasp the dynamics upon which I had hoped to be able to reflect.

One of the first realizations was that I had no idea what the nature of power on the horizontal plane actually was. That seemed to be fundamental to grasping how that power was exercised and dealt with by people in the political, economic, and social spheres. I realized very quickly that I was not in the conversation, despite my familiarity with Sun Tsu, Nee and the Scripture.

I quickly started into learning about power on the horizontal plane, only to find that very few authors dealt with the issue in depth. Many spoke of it as an assumed phenomenon, few stopped to ask what it actually was. Adolf Berle's book Power, in which he outlined his five principles of power as an analytical tool for assessing power situations was extremely helpful in this regard, and the closest I came to anyone who grasped the issue I was trying to understand. Berle's walk-through of several institutional expressions of power in the United States in order to illustrate the usefulness of his analytical tool, was very helpful.

Examining the early development of United States Farm policy (in pursuing information for the Rural Restructuring course) in light of Berle's book, helped me to understand a bit more of the commodity pricing power context in which Rural Community Development on the prairies takes place. Comprehension of the readings in both courses, as well as general understanding of the local situation has grown exponentially over the term.

Although I was not able to get to the level of understanding of local power dynamics which was necessary in order to do the sort of reflection I had hoped to accomplish this term, there was a serendipitous discovery which happened which has more than made up for my disappointment with the delay in my work.

Had I not done the work on Berle and the problem of power, I doubt I would have seen the connection between the comments made by Andrew Murray on the difference between "will" and "wish" and the final piece needed to bridge the gap between the two institutional / philosophical branches of the protestant church - a clear case of gaining sufficient background in order to comprehend a problem, and even to realize that it was in fact a small problem within the larger one upon which I had wanted to reflect.

Completing the structural base for the web-site section on Community Development was good for me in that

One of the weaknesses of the course as it is currently structured is that it is really an introduction to (or summation of) the overall MRD program rather than an introduction to Community development as such. If less time was spent trying to integrate all the elements and more was spent on the material unique to that aspect of the course, more focus might be brought to bear on the community aspect of the Rural Development enterprise. It makes little sense to me to have a foundation course paralleling the courses to which it is supposed to be a foundation. This is a 30 credit hour program. Efficiency is of the essence. If integration is to take place, and I believe it must, then perhaps a different approach needs to be taken.

Perhaps a compulsory seminar of students and faculty (and alumni?) ?on the net?) would serve to integrate the materials of all the courses and provide some continuity for those starting out and those doing thesis, and those out in the real world. Then, the component courses could be freed to specialize with the assumption that integration is the result sought, but forged somewhere other than in the particular classroom as such. By the masters level it should be integrating already anyway.

In regards to grading input, I feel that there is a problem in the grading formula used by the department. As mentioned earlier, a five point spread between A- at 80% and A+ at 85%, then a fifteen point spread to 100% encounters problems when the meanings attributed to the letter grades are considered. If A+ is to be reserved for truly exceptional work which a few students do much of the time, and many of us do some of the time (termed "superior" in the calendar). in 3 credit hour courses it should be difficult for most students to do straight A+ work in all courses simultaneously, as the time is too short to absorb that much new content and produce well thought out material of a superior quality, given the lack of disciplinary underpinnings in an interdisciplinary program.

However, it should not be unreasonable for students to achieve over 85% on a regular basis in their work in 3 credit hour courses with no undergrad work in a particular area. Marks at this level should be hovering between 85 and 95% in my estimation, after all this is not a general program but a focused one which is opted into, by people focused in the field. A+ in my estimation should be reserved for those students who do that awesome blow your sox off piece of work in the 95-100% range. If it doesn't, then what do you give students who do that exceptional piece of work, the one they throw their hearts into and it all comes together?

Brandon is a city that , as one person described it, "is satisfied with mediocrity and arrives at that state very quickly". Those of us who care about excellence and wish to include it within our set of values, very quickly learn that if we are to live and work in this city, we need to disengage from the external rewards systems which the city and its institutions hold our as holding any reality beyond the subjective observations of an outside observer. We soon learn to set our own standards, and to push our own ceilings of excellence. We soon learn that one of our toughest critics is the person we see in the mirror in the morning and get on with our business. We live in a school division, after all, where it is literally against the rules to fail any kid before grade 8. A teacher must move the kid on to the next grade, the only coded distinction being that the is "placed" in the next grade rather than "promoted" to the next grade on his report card. And if a teacher starts insisting on excellence, the parents side with the kids (big time). So lets keep our perspective about "marks" and what them mean here.

That is to say nothing about the fact that marks across the Western World have shifted an entire grade over the past 30 years owing mostly to the fact that

So, marks? Who the heck gives a blip about them anymore. They are a joke. The only ones they seem to matter to are the employers who, like the proverbial frog boiled slowly, know something is different but can't quite put their finger on it.

Anyway, did I get over 85% when it all boils down to it, of course. Did I put together a rock your socks off output (=95% Plus), no. That would have been the case if I had had sufficient background in Political Science to be able to start in at a masters level platform and build up from there in the area of "power". "All" that got done in three months was I got the platform laid for starting. I am totally happy with what was done. I averaged 70-85 hours a week and peaked at 95, so that's all that can be done in a given period. So it looks like a half built pyramid - mostly foundation and a couple of layers up from ground level, and not good for much else than to build on...but not something I'd travel half way around the world to see at this point.

That's about it