Topic: Healthier Communities
Title: Public Administrators can assist in creation of healthier Communities through Citizen participation in Emergency Management, Conflict Resolution, and Community Giving Circles
Concept: When we begin to think of healthier communities, most times this concept is correlated with physical health. In this paper, discussion will be had to build healthier communities with citizen participation, focusing on:
- Emergency Management for communities
- Conflict Resolution within the community
- Community Giving Circles and inclusion of community members
Thematic Statement: Research and knowledge are the keys to understanding citizens in a community and society as a whole. This paper addresses gathered information which will assist in development of an awareness of society. Public administrators are well served who develop that understanding and awareness of society, so they can begin to cultivate active citizen involvement in a community.
Significance of the Study: Public participation has been on the decline in recent years. Many papers depict citizens as lacking in knowledge and skills for citizen participation. This paper draws on input from many articles and authors who have different ideas of public administration, community, social skills, and then compiles those ideas into a concise composition which will inform public administrators about the problems associated with public participation, and ways in which those difficulties can be handled.
Sociological Paradigms can be described as theories or perspectives used to guide study and interpretation of human behavior with regard to social phenomena.
Burrell & Morgan (1979), in Sociological Paradigms and Organisational Analysis, set out four sociological paradigms, which “offer alternative views of social reality, …to understand the nature of all four is to understand four different views of society. They offer different ways of seeing.” (pp. 25) These four paradigms are: The Functionalist Paradigm (objective-regulation), The Interpretive Paradigm (subjective-regulation), The Radical Humanist Paradigm (subjective-radical change), and The Radical Structuralist Paradigm (objective-radical change).
Emergency Management for communities:
There is a lot of research in the realm of Emergency Management in the U.S. The focus for this paper is Emergency Management, with particular attention to research on the aftermath of two of the largest catastrophic events in recent United States history: The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, and the August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina destruction in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Three articles researched include:
-From 9/11 to 8/29: Post-Disaster Recovery and Rebuilding in New York and New Orleans (written by Kevin Fox Gotham and Miriam Greenberg, 2008).
–Disaster Relief as Bad Public Policy. (written by William F. Shughart, II, 2011).
–The Next Catastrophe: Ready or Not? (written by Christine Wormuth, – 2008/2009).
In Gotham and Greenberg’s Post-Disaster Recovery and Rebuliding in New York and New Orleans, the research began as a qualitative research document following the narrative pattern set out by Creswell, but also Creswell’s case-study pattern, in a direct study of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, and the difficulties with getting help for the survivors. Much of the comparative analysis has pointed to government bureaucracy and FEMA being unprepared in the face of the disasters themselves, as well as inept rebuilding and revitalization for the communities. Facts are gathered in a positivist epistemology manner and in the research, they used “a combination of data sources including government documents, planning reports and newspaper articles…this diverse range of information allowed for the triangulation of data sources to enhance validity and reliability” (Gotham, 2008, pp. 1041). The research later includes quantitative data with regard to restructure of taxation, funding mechanisms and awarding of grants, and economic consequences during the rebuilding phase of the two catastrophes.
In Shughart’s Disaster Relief as Bad Public Policy, the focus of the narrative research (as described by Creswell) is on Hurricane Katrina, with fact finding and paying close attention to specific dates prior to, during, and after Hurricane Katrina. I think this article is written from the ontologic critical or objectivism view, because of the research being done within the society, generalizing where society is and aiming to improve society. Shughart carries out in-depth research on the inadequate levees that were in place in New Orleans in 2005, which were built with Federal funds and were known to be inadequate for years prior to the storm. Research on the public sector was performed through government agencies and transcripts from hearings held after Hurricane Katrina. Shughart also does a comparative analysis between the public sector acts and private sector acts, and emphasizes the “fragmentation of bureaucratic responsibility….with unclear lines of authority” (Shughart, 2011, pp. 523), especially regarding FEMA and how FEMA’s response to the disaster was sluggish and inept. This article also has quantitative insertions with regard to the moral hazard of the storm, through audits of FEMA, relief funds, how many Federal employees were deployed to give assistance, numbers of deaths, numbers of displaced individuals, accentuating the billions of dollars in loss of homes, businesses, and in economic losses for New Orleans.
Wormuth’s The Next Catastrophe: Ready or Not?, is again a narrative evaluation, which also does case-study comparison and contrast of the U.S. Government preparedness and response to the 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina disasters. Wormuth gathers data in an epistemologic interpretivist view, trying to determine why “there is still considerable confusion over who will be in charge during a disaster” (Wormuth, 2008/2009, pp. 94). She gives the following analogy:
“Despite these signs of progress, current efforts to provide homeland security, particularly at the federal level, are not unlike the governmental equivalent of a children’s soccer game. There is a tremendous amount of activity and considerable energy on the field, but the movements are often not well coordinated” (pp. 94).
The research also has an ontologic objectivism view, seeking to surmise where society is, with regard to preparation for future catastrophes, and aims to point out that the U.S. “will need to rely on a network of relationships between government organizations, private corporations and small businesses, nongovernmental organizations, possibly individuals” (pp. 94) in an effort at improving society as a whole. Wormuth further sets out four policy recommendations, in trying to improve society and government, so the U.S. would be “ready to respond the next time the unthinkable happens” (pp. 105).
Conflict Resolution within the community:
Conflict and dispute are a natural part of life, as people deal with one another in families, school, business associations, church connections, sports functions, in the work place, and in many other aspects of life in society. Conflict arises as parties are interdependent on one another. This paper will describe conflict and dispute, and then discuss and examine the methods and benefits of Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADRs) in today’s society, with particularly examination of conflict in family relationships such as divorce, child custody and visitation, and family property and estate division. This paper will also focus particularly on the ADR of mediation and will further discuss the reasons why ADRs are not utilized as much as they could be.
Santeramo states that “anger in divorce cases destroys families” (Santeramo, 2004, p. 321). Divorce is often the result of financial disparity, infidelity, and/or a loss of trust between the parties. He further indicates that the judicial system heightens the problems in families, because when the divorce case goes to court, the parties are forced to view one another as adversaries. In a divorce situation, emotions are so high between the parties that it is difficult to reach any type of settlement agreement, and then a Judge has to make the decisions as to which party will get what assets, and how child custody and visitation will be arranged. This causes a lot of stress and angst between the parties, including the children, and may truly not be in the children(s) best interests, as a Judge simply cannot know the ins and outs of a complicated relationship and only has a limited amount of evidence and testimony with which to make a decision which will affect many lives. ADRs may be able to help in many divorce cases, if individuals are made aware of the existence of alternate dispute resolution and are able to find avenues in their communities with which to obtain relief from the conflict.
Domenici and Littlejohn further state that the benefits of mediation are convenience, durable results, efficient, effective, preventive, preserves relationships or redefines them in a healthy way, and mediation as being private and confidential. They describe that family mediation can deal with divorce, “concerns over property, custody, finances, etc., while attempting to build a relationship that will continue as the couple raises the children” (p. 39).
Mediation should not be focused on solving the problem, but instead should be seen as a means by which the parties can make good decisions about the situation they face together, and reach an outcome that will be a long-lasting, workable solution. The U.S. is in need of trained people who can make a difference, who can help make a social change. It is common knowledge that every year in the U.S. the number of civil lawsuits being filed in the courts is increasing to the point that our courts are overflowing. Since it is adults who are filing the lawsuits, it seems to makes sense that if there were more conflict management and mediation training classes in communities, educating adults on the benefits of conflict management through mediation.
In Topor’s Mediation as an alternative to Conflict Settlement (2012), they point out the benefits of mediation include “economy of stress, time and money” (p. 395). I have made a comparison table of the benefits Topor listed, (2012, p. 395) comparing the court system agenda vs. the mediation agenda:
Court System Agenda Mediation Agenda
Deadlines are imposed Date/time of mediation session is set by parties
Disregard the parties’ schedule Mediation may be re-scheduled by parties
Court held in a court room Parties decide where mediation will be held
Court open to the public Mediation is confidential, presence of others has to be approved by the parties
Formalism prevails in court Focus is on the will and interests of parties
Solution is imposed by Judge/Jury The parties decide if an amicable solution is reached
This table shows the rigidity and cost of a dispute being settled through the court system, versus the flexibility and much less cost of a dispute being settled in a mediation setting. Besides the benefits of flexibility and less cost, the benefit of mediation being in a private setting versus being in a public setting presents far less stress on all of the parties involved.
Most often, parties enter into a lawsuit without thought to the damage it will cause (financially, emotionally, self-esteem-wise, relationship-wise, physically, their reputation, etc.) to themselves, their immediate family, and to future generations. In the aforementioned example, Fohlberg concludes that “each of the brothers was able to pursue his own aspirations and the needs he felt most important for his family, the attorneys had the benefit of satisfied clients and the prospect of continuing work for the next generation…it was perceived by all as a good set of outcomes” (p. 2).
CONCLUSION of Conflict Resolution within the community:
Through good communication techniques and educating people on what ADRs are, including mediation, seeking commonalities between the parties, thinking positively and encouraging collaboration between the parties, mediators and facilitators can help parties reach transformative moments wherein long-term relationship connections can be made. If our society can learn to understand conflict and what makes conflict happen, learn to listen to others, and build effective community mediation programs, we will likely see an ease in our court systems and happier citizens in our communities.
Community Giving Circles and Inclusion of community members:
Communities are generally made up of diverse people with diverse perspectives about life. A community could be depicted as a family, or a religious group, or a city/town, or a state, a country, or many other groups of people. Inclusion could specifically address a feeling of belonging in persons with disabilities, the elderly, persons with mental illness, persons who are illiterate, or any other variety of specifications. For the purpose of this paper, community will be considered as a city/town and its surrounding areas, and inclusion will generally be more explanatory of a sense of belonging in a shared society and shared community.
It seems that inclusion, or a sense of belonging, many times is referenced when talking about students in schools, and is also relative to a person’s identity. In Building Identities: Living in the Hybrid Society, Nilufer Pembecioglu (2012) states, “Identity may be defined as the distinctive characteristic belonging to any given individual, or shared by all members of a particular social category or group” (Pembecioglu, 2012, p.46). This article talks about how a person’s identity is built and established, and is an ever-changing phenomenon, and is very much influenced by today’s media and today’s social influences.
Inclusion is necessary: Sue Roffey, an Australian author, in Inclusive and exclusive belonging- the impact on individual and community well-being states that Klem & Connell (2004) indicate “Research has also demonstrated a strong relationship between school connectedness and educational outcomes, including school attendance, staying in school longer; and higher grades and classroom test scores (Roffey, 2013, p.43). When a person is positively connected with others (students with other students in schools and with teachers), self-validation, emotional support, achievement of goals, and resilience can be part of a person’s identity.
Inclusion appears to be not only important, but actually crucial for the overall health of the community and contentment of the people who reside therein. An ethical public manager can be effective in creating a community of participation and inclusion by enabling participants to become active in working together to address problems. This is essential to a community because as participants become more active and involved, there is a feeling of inclusion, problems are solved, which in turn can create a feeling of safety, satisfaction, and fulfillment in a majority of the community residents.
Analysis of the community problems: Dr. Jeffrey Callen stated “When we have our facts straight, it prompts morality and ethics” (Callen, Jan. 17, 2013, ISU Ethics Lecture). The Community Toolbox, contributed by Bill Berkowitz and edited by Phil Rabinowitz, outlines that analyzing community problems “is a way of thinking carefully about a problem or issue before acting on a solution. It first involves identifying reasons a problem exists and then…identifying possible solutions and a plan for improvement” (http://ctb.ku.edu). Community problems are generally complex and require a lot of analysis, thought process, hard work, and a coalition of public administration leaders and community members to come together to define the problems and then find solutions to the problems.
Creating Communities of Participation: In Feldman and Khademian’s The Role of the Public Manager in Inclusion: Creating Communities of Participation, they indicate that public managers must combine information and perspectives from the political domain, the technical domain, and the local or experiential domain. Feldman and Khademian expand on this theory by stating “The days of command and control are vanishing as the adoption and the implementation of public programs come to require the support of politicians, experts, and people with local knowledge” (Feldman and Khademian, 2007, p.305). The responsibility for this inclusive management falls to the public manager/administrator, where members from these 3 domains can share information and work collaboratively on problems and solutions for the community.
Storytelling aligns with building communities: Cheryl Wright, et al, qualitatively researched storytelling in early childhood, with relation to classroom community building. In Storytelling Dramas as a Community Building Activity in an Early Childhood Classroom, Wright, et al, states “Storytelling dramas provided children with the opportunity to learn about their individual abilities, learn about peers in the classroom, appreciate differences and unique ideas of others, and broaden their awareness of belonging to the group of children…Children share in meaningful experiences and show appreciation for each other’s stories through the emotional elements of storytelling” (Wright, et al, 2013, p.205). Over a 6-month period of time in a preschool classroom, children participated who had very diverse developmental levels and diversity in other skills such as speech and language, attention, and social interaction. The teachers were trained in Vivian Paley’s storytelling method, collected the stories from the children, and then helped them dramatize the stories. Other children in the classroom were chosen to act out the dramatizations. The children enthusiastically adopted their roles, which let the children conquer their fears, and increased opportunities for peer interaction and collaboration.
Wright, et al, further state that “The children learned to be accountable to one another and responsible for their actions during the drama activity they were “in charge of.” Valuing other’s ideas, contributing stories, and feeling that one’s own ideas were valued among peers develops a sense of belonging” (p.203).
Community gardens are another way in which communities are coming together to fulfill needs of community members, physically and emotionally. Citizens can come together to take an active role in local food production, which can also “be about creating and supporting people’s efforts to establish a sense of connection and about grounding people in place and creating and supporting efforts to find a sense of purpose and belonging, not just to a community, but to land and to nature as a personal and, sometimes rather intimate response to bigger picture issues over which we as individuals might feel we have little control” (Turner, et al, 2011, p. 490). Bethaney Turner, Joanna Henryks, and David Pearson, in Community gardens: sustainability, health and inclusion in the city, they talk about how much is learned from residents who participate in the community garden. Participants often come from many different walks of life and have diverse ideas of garden structures. Participants come together with their ideas and make decisions as to what their garden will consist of and how it will be structured, which helps people learn to work together. Community gardens tackle a number of challenges in communities, serving to increase social capital between participants, develop friendships, bring a feeling of inclusion and purpose, as well as sustaining local food systems.
In conclusion, community inclusion is grounded in equality, social justice, respect of beliefs and values, building of social capital, and taking advantage of learning from others. Sue Roffey quotes Narayan, et al, (2000), “Although cultures differ, there is strong evidence in multiple studies cited by Wilkinson and Pickett (2010) that societies which strive for greater equality and the ‘common good’ have better levels of mental health, less violence and criminality, and better social and health outcomes” (Roffey, 2013, p.38). The ethical public administrator can take advantage of ideas, programs, and community groups which have already been established, to use as a base for analysis and then ongoing implementation for creation of a feeling of connectedness in schools and communities, individual resilience, social capital, and a sense of belonging for community residents.
Resources: (not in order yet, rough draft of resources)
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