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Making a difference: participation and well-being

Kagan, Carolyn (2006) Making a difference: participation and well-being. New Start Publishing.

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Abstract

Is community activism bad for your health? Everyone agrees that regeneration projects benefit when local people get involved; not many have stopped to ask how such involvement affects the participants. In an ideal world, people who take an active part in their communities gain confidence and pride from what they do. Everyone wins as the neighbourhood improves and the activists increase their sense of satisfaction from a job well done. But research summarised by Professor Carolyn Kagan in this report suggests that far from being a source of wellbeing, participation can actually increase stress. It tells of community activists working under unrelenting pressure: isolated, without supervision, coping with local conflict, without time off – and without pay. By definition, these activists are themselves already under considerable stress from the constant grind of life in an area of deprivation.Their community involvement then often results in them giving hours of emotional support to other group members, who may have been struggling all their lives with poor facilities and living conditions, and sometimes addictions, abuse and even violence. On the one hand, local people may see the activists as the problem solvers of the community; on the other, their links with the authorities can provoke suspicion or even hostility.

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