Two risks are then apparent. First, aid earmarked for a development project may be used by neighbourhood associations to further their own ends within the community. This is usually an obstacle that has to be overcome when “hunting” type behaviour (which will be described below) is very deep-rooted. Second, the project may serve to strengthen organizations run according to criteria that are incompatible with democratic culture.
The social mobilisation which development projects aim to support is caught between two different poles of attraction. On the one hand, there are the cultural traditions and local support networks which are indispensable in current survival conditions. These are the foundations of local participation structures. On the other, there are the State and political system. The participation in social life that is supported and to some extent initiated by policies to fight poverty is based in neighbourhoods that are already organised. In Haiti, for example, young people’s participation is to some extent the product of grassroots traditions that have grown up during a history of resistance to and co-existence with a totalitarian authority. In one sense, therefore, the mobilisation upon which all development projects depend is bound to be the heir of local support networks, partly resulting from the culture of survival and resistance, partly rooted in community life, partly governed by religious traditions, partly the offshoot of family structures, and partly the product of political traditions at the grassroots level.
These local inclusion7 structures and these underlying legacies are responsible for the vigour of the neighbourhood’s community life. But at the same time, they may restrict its potential to move towards a culture of citizenship. One way in which this legacy and these structures might evolve could be via political involvement (in the sense of becoming part of the public arena).
II.2. Neighbourhood organizations. On the basis of these local support networks, neighbourhoods acquire a range of organizations which perform a dual function. First, they represent the neighbourhood in the public arena and in relation to the State. Second, they launch and organize a variety of initiatives within the neighbourhood. Their action has a twofold purpose: they fight to improve living conditions; and they seek recognition, defend an identity and promote various values.
To an outside observer, neighbourhood organizations are the most visible form of collective action. They are in close contact with local support structures and the neighbourhood culture. Neighbourhood organizations thus work simultaneously with local networks and with institutions that possess the resources they need and which represent the society’s universal values. Consequently, they perform an important
7 They are “local inclusion” structures in the sense that they provide people with an anchorage in the neighbourhood, often being their main source of social integration.