Citizen participation, community development corporations, efficacy, community development, collective efficacy, poor communities


In this paper, I focus on the role of community development corporations (CDCs) in fostering public participation in the local political process. Using survey and interview data gathered from CDCs operating in the Mississippi Delta region of Arkansas, I show that the CDC is an important intermediary between the citizens and the local political arena. While, according to this study's findings, the CDCs' long-term goal is to develop a lasting sense of efficacy among CDC participants, leading to direct political participation by citizens, the nature of CDC funding does not fully support these efforts. As a result, these critical activities remain at the fringes of their official mission. By focusing on short-term outcomes rather than long-term development process, the money spent to improve the CDC constituency's capacity appears to miss its target. The results of the current study 1) shed light on the disconnect between the needs of CDCs and the objectives of funding agencies; and 2) help community practitioners interested in community development to better understand challenges related to engaging citizens in local issues and facilitating citizen participation in ways that enhance collective efficacy in poor communities.

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