Making sustainable development a reality: A study of the social processes of community-led sustainable development and the buy-out of the Isle of Gigha, Scotland
Didham, Robert J
This thesis examines the concept of sustainable development with a primary focus on its advancement and implementation at a local level. The local level is identified as the site where significant potential exists for people to engage directly in the practice of sustainable development. Community is analysed as the social network where meaningful associations between people and place are established. The cultural transformation of values and ideologies that frame development trajectories is examined as an important means for achieving lasting change towards sustainable development. This work is based on original ethnographic research that was conducted on the Isle of Gigha, Scotland following the community buy-out of the island that occurred in 2002. While working with the Isle of Gigha Heritage Trust and the development process for the island, research was carried out, employing the methods of participatory action research and co-operative inquiry, over a year and a half. This research concentrated on analysing the social processes that were enacted on the Isle of Gigha to increase the community’s ability to better plan and manage a programme of sustainable development. The idea of sustainable development for Gigha that recognises the natural heritage and cultural heritage as its primary assets is a strongly supported ideal among the members of the community. However, to formulate social processes that allowed for the active participation of the island’s population in development planning proved difficult, requiring regular scrutiny and revision. Community development engenders sustainability because the important criteria for individual support of sustainable development—which includes active participation and citizenship, care for the environment, and human well-being—are learned at a local level through a strong and supportive community. Three social processes are identified from the Gigha case study as significant for the ability of people at a local level to participate in sustainable development: forms of decision making, planning sustainable development, and the professional facilitation of community-led development. These social processes establish the three main themes of this work. Though this work focuses extensively at a local level, it also acknowledges that a thorough examination of sustainable development requires a critical analysis of global development trends and the ideologies that frame and define meanings of development and social progress. Thus, each of the three social processes is approached through three distinct analytical lenses: a critical analysis of socio-cultural development trends, a local analysis based on the Gigha case study, and a discussion of how these processes can be strengthened to establish social systems/infrastructures that encourage sustainable practices and behaviours. The majority of works discussing sustainable development describe the scientific and technological pathways for its increase. It is argued in this work that significant improvements for sustainable development require social change and direct transformation of values/ideologies that frame our understanding of the world and humanity’s development within it. This work examines how the identified social processes can be structured to support experiential learning and critical praxis at a local level thus creating a stronger understanding of the sustainable development imperative. An analysis of the agency and capacity of communities to produce their own programmes of sustainable development is presented in order to demonstrate how individual values of ownership, responsibility and accountability are engendered to create a stronger awareness and commitment towards transformative social change. This analysis also addresses how professionals/practitioners can facilitate this type of lasting change towards sustainability.