Social capital and community participation in development : the case of the Direct Community Financing Programme in post-conflict Sierra Leone : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy in Development Studies at Massey University
Community participation seemingly appeals to a number of development agencies and institutions. Participation is seen as a means through which project outcomes can be improved. Nonetheless, "participation" as a concept is perceived, understood and defined differently. Therefore, different objectives are identified for undertaking participation. Some believe that pursuit of economic objectives has come to dominate development practice, and others believe that development practice has neglected its human or social aspects. Despite the rhetoric, past community development practice has either made little improvement in people's lives, or resulted in excluding some members of target communities. With the new institutional focus, and community empowerment as the objective of participation, the problem for development intervention is how to enhance community participation. Using a case study in post-conflict Sierra Leone, this research examines the Direct Community Financing programme, an externally funded development programme in ten communities in the Pujehun Port Loko districts. The study sought to investigate the extent to which social capital, as a community asset, facilitates community participation in development given the institutional environment and the objectives of the development intervention. The study finds that community participation is directly related to community level social capital, with high social capital communities recording high participation in the programme. The study also finds that community control, ownership and decisions over project activities, as well as the extent to which the projects meet community needs, also affect participation. Similarly, the institutional rules and the (designated) roles of stakeholders are equally important for enhancing participation. In contrast, a community's historical experience, discrimination and exclusion, selective participation and communal conflicts, among other factors, can negatively affect community participation.