Weak State, Strong Community?
Promoting community participation in post-conflict countries
The purpose of this article is to explore the effects of community participation in school governance, as an element of development and humanitarian assistance programs, on social capital and civil society building. First, although participation in school governance is meant to produce multiple benefits for school and society, it may, in the long term, change perceptions of the role of the state, subsequently undermining the social contract between citizen and state. Second, so much reliance on community participation in the absence of strong democratic state structures may aggravate rather than assuage the social divisions that are particularly dangerous and pronounced after a conflict. Finally, newly acquired "social capital" (networks, norms, trust) and political skills among marginalized members of small communities do not necessarily strengthen civil society (see also Belloni, 2001). Rather than the vibrant civil society it is meant to produce, community participation, promoted with uncritical enthusiasm in the field of educational development and education in emergencies, runs the risk of leaving disillusioned and unempowered communities in its wake.