Thursday, May 11, 2006

Zero Sum Games & Community Development

Back awhile ago I talked about retail and zero sum games, summarized as such: if resources abound, competition is not a problem; if resources are scarce, competition is a problem. I suppose if resources aren't scarce, there's really no such thing as competition in that case, but that's besides the point.

Anyway, Mike Madison has a post up today on business zero sum games, basically arguing that there are ways that both parties can actually benefit.

Or as the President said, we can "make the pie higher"... er... something like that.

Funny that the same thing cannot be necessarily said for community development. Community, as opposed to Economic, Development deals directly with people, not necessarily infrastructure. From Wikipedia:

Community development practitioners are involved in organizing meetings and conducting searches within a community to identify problems, locate resources, analyse local power structures and human needs, and investigate other concerns that comprise the community's character. These practitioners, sometimes called social activists, use social resources to get the economic and political leverage that a community uses to meet their needs. Often, the social resources within the community are found to be adequate to meet these needs if individuals work collectively through techniques like cooperation and volunteerism.
The big question, however, is whether this facilitation can result in substantial change without external resources, e.g., money. Resources have to come from somewhere: in the community, from institutions, from government; growth and substantial change does not just *happen* out of thin air. Community Involvement needs an impetus to get started and resources to sustain it. So, in a region where resources are scarce (i.e., social workers are occupied, funds are diverted to infrastructure, workers move to other resources, etc.) is there inter-group competition that is hindering the growth of communities?

Groups can be entreprenuerial and innovative to some extent, but in the end, communities in an economically shrinking region are competiting for scarce resources, not necessarily considering the possibilities of cooperation, except to further their own ends. "Give" today and you may not be around to reap the benefits tomorrow .

And with Lord-only-knows-how-many communities in SWPA, that's a whole lot of competition... and fewer and fewer resources.

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