Blog Archives

Sandwiched between Patronage and Bureaucracy: The Plight of Citizen Participation in Community-based Housing Organisations in the US

This article examines how directors of community-based housing organisations (CBHOs) in the US define the role of citizen participation in their organisations. In particular, it describes how local political and administrative structures affect the scope of citizen participation in the governance and decision-making processes of CBHOs. This is an important topic since these organisations implement housing and community development programmes in urban neighbourhoods, and citizen participation has been considered important to the legitimacy of these efforts. The analysis is based on in-depth interviews with CBHO executive directors in Buffalo, New York. In particular, the executive directors of CBHOs that concentrate their efforts on the management, development and rehabilitation of affordable housing were interviewed. In addition to data from in-depth interviews, data from fieldnotes, the US census, IRS 990 forms and informal conversations with local government officials and representatives of intermediary organisations were used in the analysis. Existing theories concerning citizen participation and non-profit administration are elaborated upon and applied to CBHOs. The extent to which these organisations create opportunities for grassroots planning is considered and recommendations for expanding citizen participation are proposed.

Including Voices of the Excluded: Lessons from Buffalo, NY

This chapter examines two community development case studies related to social inclusion and exclusion in the public participation process. Each focuses on dimensions of public participation in community development organizations and processes. The first case study examines the role of public participation in the governance of community-based housing organizations in Buffalo, NY. Here, public participation is examined in relation to organizational autonomy, patronage politics and bureaucratic structures. This case study illustrates how grassroots control of community-based housing organizations is reduced by institutional constraints placed on community development activities. The second case study examines a neighborhood planning project in Depew, NY (an industrial suburb of Buffalo). The scope and impact of public participation is explored in the context of planning techniques applied to neighborhood revitalization efforts in Depew. Competing interests among residents, business and local government are explored. This case study focuses on the manner in which university-based consultants working on community development projects approach resident empowerment. Constraints on achieving full participation due to limited capacity in the public sector are discussed. Combined, the two case studies highlight the barriers to expanding the voice of disenfranchised groups in the governance of grassroots organizations and the planning of neighborhood development projects. Lessons are drawn from these case studies to outline strategies for expanding the scope of public participation in community development activities, particularly in relation to the role of disadvantaged groups in grassroots decision-making.

Computer-Aided Qualitative GIS: A Software-Level Integration of Qualitative Research and GIS

A growing number of geographers are conducting mixed methods research involving the integration of quantitative and qualitative data in GIS. Contributing to these efforts, this chapter describes software-level modifications that adapt GIS to enable inclusion of qualitative data as well as interpretive codes associated with these data. These innovations enable GIS to serve as a platform for dynamically integrating quantitative and qualitative data throughout the analysis process. Further, this chapter shows how GIS may be meshed with computer-aided qualitative analysis software (CAQDAS) to support inductive interpretive analysis. The value of GIS is in its ability to represent both qualitative and quantitative data along with their spatial information, and the value of CAQDAS lies in its ability to provide better means of storing, managing, and analyzing qualitative data. The system described here enables researchers to take advantage of all of these capabilities as they are working with multiple forms of data. Further, the linkage between GIS and CAQDAS that I have developed enables researchers to carry out many different forms of analysis, such as exploratory data visualization, conventional forms of spatial analysis, grounded theory, and other approaches.