Jordi Longás Mayayo holds a Doctorate and a Bachelor’s Degree in Education and a Diploma in Social Education. He is a professor in the Blanquerna FPCEE [Faculty of Psychology, Science, Education and Sport] at the University of Ramon Llull. He is the coordinator of the Social and Community Education Master’s Degree program (URL). He is the president of the NGO Acció per una Ciutadania Solidària. He is a researcher in the consolidated research group PSITIC.

Contact: Císter 34, 08022- Barcelona. E-mail:

Ana López Murat holds a Master´s Degree in Social and Community Education from the University of Ramon Llull and holds a Diploma in Social Work from the University of Alicante. She is a member of the PSITIC research group of the Blanquerna FPCEE [Faculty of Psychology, Science, Education and Sport]. Currently, she coordinates the gender area of the development NGO AESCO, in Valencia.

Contact:  E-mail

(Consolidated research group PSITIC, of the University of Ramon Llull)

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02B Jordi Longás

This article presents the research evaluation of a social-educational action project that is being carried out at the Community Care Centre of Mbocayty de Asunción (Paraguay) by the ALDA Foundation, in the framework of Human Development. Justifying the social-educational approach of the community action as valid and in line with this model, the objective of the research is to identify the attributes of the project in the levels of design and implementation that are aimed at community change and social transformation from a model of educational and social action. The methodology corresponds to a qualitative design that triangulates sources of information and instruments. The results allow us to conclude that in the experience that was studied, the social-educational action was shown to be a teaching method directed at community change and at social transformation. From teaching, it contributes to the building of a framework for theoretical and practical reflection, around the development of community praxis aimed at human development.

1. Introduction

The ALDA Foundation ( promotes comprehensive social-educational projects as a strategy for social transformation in disadvantaged areas in Paraguay. ALDA considers education a broad and comprehensive method, as well as a basic right and a tool for social development according to the Human Development (HD) model, which is necessarily linked to the empowerment of individuals and communities.

HD (UNDP, 1990 and 2000) is understood to be the process aimed at attaining respect for human and social rights, such as: health and life expectancy; access to knowledge and resources in order to have a dignified and independent life; the possibility to participate in public and shared affairs; and the opportunity to have a sense of belonging to a community. As a development process, it seeks to create environments that broaden people’s opportunities to live productively and creatively—environments that we could call “educational.” In the context of questioning the conventional concept of development, HD is proposed as an alternative from the moment that establishes action based on empowerment as a fundamental and constituent characteristic of the model. By this process, those targeted by the action become players who strengthen their skills, confidence, vision and prominence as a social group to promote positive changes in the situations they live in (Pérez de Armiño, 2002; Rowlands, 1997).

Insofar as empowerment means increasing and strengthening skills while at the same time emancipating and reducing social vulnerability, this development approach is inseparable from social participation, from lifelong learning and from joint construction of knowledge. Thus, education acquires a central role in community development processes, and the traditional concept of social education is expanded (Civís and Riera, 2007). In this sense, the objectives and arguments of HD are tuned to the proposal for community-oriented social-educational action that we will justify later and that supports this research.

Initially, ALDA’s founding line was to improve formal education by supporting schools and teachers. However, in view of the harsh reality of academic failure in primary education in the contexts ALDA was involved in, in 2005 ALDA decided to start a revision of its strategic framework for action. Without forgetting its program with the schools called “ALDA Educa” [ALDA Educates], ALDA considered influencing “outside of school” in order to broaden opportunities and educational supplements for boys and girls. The idea of implementing leisure time projects for children arose. This advanced ALDA’s theory about changing towards a model of community social-educational action, and the proposal to promote Community Centres.

As a first pilot project, the Community Care Centre (CCC) was created in the informal settlements of Marangatu, Santa Librada and Colonia Elisa, in the district of Mbocayaty in Villa Elisa, an integral municipality of Asunción’s urban belt. These settlements are “invaded” districts that are a result of the flow of internal migration. They are tolerated by the local government, although they generally have no legalization of property, are poorly backed at a social level, and have all kinds of deficiencies in housing, infrastructure and living conditions.

Following the action-research model, this initiative has allowed ALDA to outline a proposal of a community action model that it starts to replicate in other similar zones. The social-educational action ALDA proposes follows three strategies: a) expand social and educational opportunities for children from a broad perspective, b) foster shared responsibility for education with families, community organizations and social-educational institutions, and c) boost connections among social-educational agents/players.

The CCC focused our research interest due to the social-educational orientation of the community action, which can be analysed from the model we worked with for our research (Longás, Civís, Riera, Longás, Fontanet and Andrés, 2008). In its three lines of action and in the evolution of the experience, the role of education was recognized. The combination of education and social action was what was hypothetically creating a substantial change in community development. From the social pedagogy field, we have defended a model of social-educational action in networks, which is comprehensive and integrating, and which includes all players involved in education and in improving education (Civís, Longás, Longás and Riera, 2007). In other contexts, this type of teaching action has created shared responsibility and collaboration among players, leading to community development processes.

Firstly, in order to define the significance of the social-educational orientation in the community action, we must affirm that we understand social reality to be the fruit of the construction that its main figures make of it (Habermas, 1987). That being the case, the best way to re-conceptualise social and community action is from educational approaches. In fact, education is, in and of itself, social action, because all educational actions have social and political impact, to the extent that they promote human development, enable recognition of rights, and broaden horizons. And, in turn, all social action that aims to overcome welfarism and to emancipate people becomes an educational process and a shared learning process. If we furthermore consider the value and function of educational actions in contexts of exclusion with groups of people that are deprived of social rights, we could easily conclude that educational action is, in and of itself, social action. This is because in order for educational action to be significant, it will inevitably educate for the development of individuals and of the community itself. In this context, linking once again to the postulates of HD, participation from the various community players proves to be a cornerstone, since this is simultaneously a learning process and an action aimed at improvement. Therefore, we understand social-educational action to be a type of action that, from the players’ participating and learning, seeks well-being and full development for individuals, becoming a community action model.

We have used the concepts “community” and “community development” several times without having specified their meanings. These concepts are fundamental to framing this research we now intend to address.

Although the concept of community includes a myriad of diverse, specific realities (Llena, Parcerisa and Úcar, 2009), the process driven by the CCC brings us closer to the dimension of explaining and constructing complex social realities that Caride (2005) considers a distinctive sign of the community-building process. Habermas (1987) defines community as the social subject or “subject of action,” able to generate knowledge, build meanings and play a leading role in its processes of change. Thus community—even in its most fragile or incipient state, as is the case of the Villa Elisa settlements—is shown to be a dynamic system, in which the interaction of relationships forms a structure for its social fabric, and to be an open system that is influenced by its environment and by other systems.

This systemic feature of dynamism and openness of human groups could lead us to conclude that all communities are subject to a continuous process of change. However this, from our perspective, cannot be interpreted directly as community development, since in order to achieve community development, there must be community actions that have an impact on the community in a certain direction.

The concept of “community action” has been used generically to refer to the wide variety of social action practices that have the community environment in common (Caride, 1997). Although these are actions carried out in the community and by the community, and whose aim is the pursuit of improvements for people’s quality of life and/or well-being (Llena et al. 2009), we agree with Civís (2005) in underlining the importance of the orientation of the community action’s aims when defining it as such. As a social and educational action, the community action contains a political dimension, and its underlying conception—both of social change and of development—will guide the action towards one goal or another. Consequently, its conception and positioning vis-à-vis social change and the role of those targeted by the action will set a tendency towards welfarism or a tendency towards empowerment and social emancipation.

Thus, two issues arise: firstly, how to define and check that a development project—beyond being oriented to work with the community—is truly a community action; and secondly, how to confirm that, in addition to the design and implementation, the project actually affects the community development that the change and/or social transformation is supported by. Given the considerable complexity and extent that responding to these two issues entails, we present in these pages our approach to assessing the community action model, and we are leaving the second issue for a later publication.

For us, change plays a pedagogical role in community action. Learning and change are related processes. Change-oriented organized actions—with varying degrees of formalization—incorporate learning in their development. They involve awareness-raising and reflection processes, as well as the development and incorporation of knowledge and skills. Moreover, teaching/learning processes are integrated into their environment, which is complex and dynamic. Learning is a process of change that is oriented towards development and personal growth. It is, to a greater or lesser degree, directed and supplemented. Learning integrates formal, non-formal and informal settings, and is oriented towards citizens’ social and personal development. Therefore, we discuss the principle of educational shared responsibility within the community framework (Civís et al., 2007). There is a parallel between the educational process and the processes aimed at HD. Due to all these reasons, we assert that community action has a social-educational value and component.

In an analysis of the interrelation between education and community action, three stages of social-educational impact have been categorized: a) activities and projects that are formally considered social-educational, b) the educational aspect of many community actions, and c) the existence of a paradigm of social-educational community action that tends to consider the community an educational agent (Civís and Riera, 2007). From this standpoint, we observe that a social-educational orientation to the community action is justified in the presence of the educational component, at various levels of formalization and from various perspectives in communities. This is also true in the construction of social processes (relational, communicative, socializing and comprehensive processes) for the comprehensive improvement, growth and learning of individuals and of the community that their development involves. Therefore, from the framework of social education, an integrating action model is defended. With it, social-educational value contained in the community action is boosted as a facilitating element in HD processes. Following Civís (2005), this social-educational community action model is characterized in accordance with the attribution given to the 9 dimensions (presented in Table 1) for analysing the community projects.

2. Objectives

The objective of this research study is to analyse ALDA’s CCC community project in Mbocayaty and the validity of its design and implementation as a community development proposal in accordance with the social-educational community action model (Civís, 2005).

3. Method
We are presenting a qualitative study, consistent with the epistemological framework and the objective set.

We observed by participating directly in the ordinary activities at the CCC (activities with groups of boys and girls, parent meetings, team meetings, etc.) and by accompanying the community facilitator (house calls, neighbourhood meetings, etc.) without any selection being made beforehand of the scenarios to be observed.

Twenty-one interviews of four groups of informants were conducted. They were representative of the various players involved in the CCC (Table 2).

To collect information, three different techniques or tools were used: document analysis of the project, minutes, activity logs, and reports of the CCC; field logs to record observations during participation in CCC and Foundation activities; and semi-structured interviews of the players involved. The first script was aimed at interviewing ALDA’s technical team. It was prepared in accordance with questions related to the analysis categories in order to obtain information about the development and orientation of the action carried out at the CCC. The second script was used to interview the various community players and to learn about their perceptions of the project and about the types of relations and interactions they have with the CCC (Table 4).

After three courses of implementation of the ALDA CCC in Mbocayaty, this study began. Fieldwork was done during a 3-month stay, participating every day in the work of the CCC and the ALDA Foundation. Afterwards, we proceeded to the processing and analysis of the information collected.

From the CCC model (specified in the documents and in the intentions of their managers), from the information provided by the players involved, and from our own observation of the activities and daily life of the CCC, we have sought to describe and subsequently assess the nine dimensions proposed for analysis of the community action with social-educational   orientation by Civís (2005) presented in Table 1. Bearing in mind that the obtaining of response values is not absolute, the information has been analysed in terms of greater or lesser “intensity” in order to characterize the tendency of the project’s action model to get closer to or farther from the social-educational community action model that is the reference. In this qualitative assessment of the dimensions analysed, we have used consistent and coherent criteria of the information from the triangulation of the different sources.

4. Results

We have been able to confirm that the project was born with the idea of improving childhood education, seeking to prevent absenteeism, dropouts and academic failure by education actions in extracurricular times and places. A project for informal education directed at children from four to eight years old and an early childhood education project (2-4 years old) were created. Impact on families was also considered, following a systemic logic or in the network of the intervention supported by the project’s positive impact on children and its effect on improving family prospects for the education of their children. Thanks to interest from families and greater shared responsibility for education (especially from the mothers), a program was organized to include families in the project in volunteer jobs. These volunteer jobs are providing training on parenting skills and social skills. In an almost natural way, participatory dynamics and community organization processes were created, and programs were empowered that—beyond the strictly educational objective—were aimed at improving health, social support, well-being and the defence of rights. Although at that date, integrating local schools in the Foundation’s community project through the “ALDA Educa” program had not been achieved, prevention of absenteeism and boosting academic success had been worked on. Recently, the project took the initiative to offer a vocational training project to young people. We interpret this as one more indicator of the project’s dynamism and of its dot-matrix growth from shared interest in education. Eleven professionals worked on the third course of implementation of the CCC. Five of them were members of the community. Over 2,000 hours of volunteer work from some twenty people should be added.

The main results obtained for the 9 dimensions of the community action model are presented below:

1) Overall Purpose: In accordance with the specified aims and objectives, the model is consistent with a model with a social-educational orientation, since it has attributes of a procedural nature (social-educational improvement and citizen development beyond obtaining a few specific achievements), of a transformative nature (empowering the community to promote structural, planned change), of an identifying nature (stressing the integration of community players into the process), of a preventative nature (self-organization and shared responsibility as a guarantee of attention to long-term needs), and of a guarantor nature (strategy for comprehensive, systematic and flexible action which a wide variety of supplementary actions are integrated into, with the welfare actions being more specific in nature).
2) Scope and organization of the objective content: It tends towards a global scope, following a matrix that crosses its impact on different levels of community players with the content according to various areas of development and well-being (Table 4). This organization favours compaction of actions, interrelation of areas, and comprehensive, flexible action that a broad range of complementary actions are integrated into. The result is an impact that reaches farther in the community.

3) Leadership of the development process: Almost all social sectors are present and participate in some way in the action (Table 5). Participation and involvement in the CCC is fostered and positive responses are detected. Leadership of the process is shared, although ALDA takes on most leadership roles and direct responsibilities. Neighbourhood organizations acquire a progressively more active role in the process and the municipality initiates a more effective involvement in it.

4) Specifying the targets: The action is aimed at diverse population sectors in the community, and it tends to be inclusive, directed at the educational community as a whole. However, for now, it has little direct impact on adolescents and adults or on families without children.

5) Role of citizens: It tends to be participatory in relation to the number of of opportunities  for participation at the centre  available to the population (Table 6). They have tried to incorporate participation in the design and implementation of the actions during the project’s different implementation phases. The type of participation is mostly passive in nature, as targets and/or petitioners in the actions. However, through the development of the phases, we observe that active participation increases, and even new avenues for participation—such as the creation of a youth commission—are opened.

6) Origin of resources: The resources are mostly external in origin. Incorporation of endogenous resources is promoted. It has some internal resources, although most are collaborative in nature and they are proportionately not very representative.

7) Geographical scope: The spatial extent of the action is demarcated by the territory of the three settlements that the action is aimed at. These are adjacent settlements. The Centre is located between two of them, which strengthens closeness and ties to the territory.

8) Time scope: Although initially, an involvement of four years was planned, prolonging the presence—the project’s end being conditional upon the community’s appropriating the CCC—has been considered. Actions have been taken in that direction, and the project is expected to continue in the long term through indirect support.

9) Model of relationship with the environment: Relationships are established—whether of cooperation or of knowledge and information exchange around common interests—with quite a few institutions with social-educational competences in the territory (Table 7). In its relationship model, it tends to create a network structure that facilitates connections among players, areas, and spheres of social action. However, this is a structure in which bilateral work predominates. Although it favours contacts and collaboration opportunities, it limits the cross-cutting nature of the actions and it limits integration of players in horizontal work structures.

Table 7.  Collaboration between CCC Mbocayty and social-educational agents in the territory.

5. Discussion

Firstly, we corroborate the presence of attributes with social-educational value in the action, through the variables that were studied. Social-educational value is emphasized as regards the purpose, geographical scope, time scope, as well as the organization and scope of its contents. Through the results, we can see high consistency between its attributes and a social-educational approach to the action. There is also consistency, although of less scope, between the role played by the citizenry and the model of relations with the environment of the action. In both aspects, it should be noted that social-educational community orientation is present in the approaches and appears as incipient throughout the implementation process. In this respect, something similar happens regarding its targets and the leadership of the process: the value is contained in their approaches and tends to increase gradually during the implementation.

Regarding the scope and objective content, its global and comprehensive character and its strategic capacity are observed. A high degree of cross-cutting is incorporated into the projection of actions and into the community outreach as a whole. The relations model can be related to its environment, which has a tendency towards systemic orientation, trying to bring more cross-cutting to the action, a broader scope and better social coordination through connections among territorial agents. Regarding the role of the citizens, we observe that the action of the CCC incorporates participation as a key element in its strategy. We see how, in the course of the implementation, participation tends to be more active, above all with respect to neighbourhood organizations. The increase of active participation is significant. It favours interaction and gives the actions a constructive nature.

The investment of the proportion of the origin of the resources represents the greatest challenge to the project’s consistency in relation to the promotion, sustainability and autonomy of the community action. This dimension is significantly distant from the model.

Given the consistency detected with respect to the action’s purposes and attributes, we confirm the CCC project’s social-educational nature, and its tendency towards promoting a social-educational improvement process, in line with the human development model. From the standpoint of theoretical analysis, we observe the interrelation with and strengthening of the local setting, the educational dimension and the dimension related to coordination and social backing. Their connection would potentially generate social growth processes that are global and continued.

It would be advisable to corroborate this statement by verifying the action’s actual impact on community development or on the community’s social capital, with respect to the strengthening and coordination of the community’s social fabric (Forni, Siles and Barreiro, 2004), understanding this result to be an indicator of the real process of social transformation that is intended.

In short, we are dealing with an experience of educational and community action, which is inspired by a social-educational orientation. This praxis is defined and built through the action, in a process characterized by the pursuit of proactivity and sustainability, within the starting theoretical framework. We are of the opinion that it is of interest to analyse a community social-educational action project which, located within the framework of cooperation towards development, seeks to promote community and human development processes through an intervention model that is more proactive than welfare-oriented, thanks to its comprehensive, integrating social-educational orientation (Civís and Riera, 2007).

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