A perspective on community development through partnerships
This thesis is about community development through partnerships in rural areas through a case study of North Sutherland in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. It examines whether participatory and collaborative approaches benefit rural communities and enhance their quality of life. Community development begins by seeking identities through looking at the environment in which people live and the relationship between people on which social activities depend. This approach has the effect of getting people to realize their roles within social networks. At the same time, a dynamic structural change in the approach to planning has been experienced in the Highlands and Islands. Working closely with the Scottish government, and the private and voluntary sectors, the mechanism of these initiatives has structured the framework of community governance in the area. The key question is what kind of distributive patterns are associated with the outcomes being produced. To answer this, this thesis looks at how new forms of governance have emerged and what they intend to deliver. Moreover, it is important to clarify what the outcomes of community development are intended to be. This study is based on theory and practice. It defines the framework of `community development through partnership', constructed through the application of an institutionalist approach to the analysis of planning practices. The main concerns of this institutional analysis are the process, mechanism and conditions of community development, and the links between different elements such as policies, the role of actors, and the funding of community development projects. These analytical ideas are supplemented by regulation theory, urban regime theory, and intersubjectivity. The thesis outlines a wide array of policies and programmes from both European Union and the UK government / Scottish Parliament in order to understand the current picture of rural development and give a perspective on `spatial planning' for rural areas. It examines the institutional capacities of four partnerships in the case study area. Some significant findings from the case study in North Sutherland are summarised in relation to three themes: changing governance; institutional capacity; and political coherence. These findings are discussed in depth through the notions of `heuristic processes' and `potential space'.