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Building communities through communication: Understanding community development success and failure using a narrative approach

By Anne Elizabeth Bell


Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI)This study uses narrative analysis to investigate public communication efforts of community development groups to provide a richer understanding of the indicators of group success or failure in this context. The subjects are participants of the Indiana HomeTown Competitiveness program, an initiative that seeks to develop local economic capacity to move rural communities beyond outdated economic models and generate more innovative, sustainable community development. Indiana HomeTown Competitiveness emphasizes four points: entrepreneurship, leadership, youth engagement, and local wealth or philanthropic giving. The impetus for this study is the pilot program’s need for a better understanding of the manner in which participating groups might generate engagement from external community members. To better understand the groups’ success or failure regarding public communication efforts, instances of seven pre-determined themes derived from narratives provided by group members are investigated. The themes, identified by existing research, include group relationships, group structure, group process, member attributes, external forces, group communication, and member emotions. This study uses a blend of quantitative and qualitative analysis to give broad perspective to successful identification of effective tactics which groups may use to engage community members in economic initiatives by means of public communication. Though the study is exploratory in nature, the findings indicate that group communication, relationships, and group structure are likely predictors of a group’s success or failure. The findings of this study also offer a reflection of actions that were successful and also actions that were not successful to program participants, and documents results for future program participants to use. The results also expand upon the available research regarding community development using communication theory. Using a narrative approach also identifies directions of further study to address the multiple discourses created by groups that give insight into community and group communication

Topics: Narrative, Community Development, Group Communication, Communication in community development, Community development, Narrative inquiry (Research method)
Year: 2012
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Provided by: IUPUIScholarWorks

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