Community Capacity and Governance – New Approaches to Development and Evaluation
The characteristics of the community through social agents lead to the functioning of the
community. This understanding has been amended and further depicted through the A-A-A
cycle. As noted earlier in this chapter, characteristics are called attributes here, social agents are
referred to as community agents or simply agents, and the conditioning influences are described
as contextual influences to better convey the importance of special issues and historical context.
The A-A-A cycle provides a comprehensive description of the multiple factors and interrelationships
that are necessary to facilitate the growth of community capacity overall. The A-A-
A cycle is explored here in relation to rural development, and its effectiveness in developing
communities is under consideration. This study represents a preliminary step in the development
of the A-A-A as a conceptual framework.
Figure 11 is the A-A-A cycle diagram, showing the
development of community capacity powered by the Attributes acting through the Agents to get more
sophisticated and beneficial Actions. The contextual influences can affect the quality and quantity of
community capacity attributes, the methods and effectiveness of community agents, as well as the quantity,
quality and sophistication of community actions. The community capacity attributes represent the basic
characteristics to describe community capacity. The attributes are SCOR: a) sense of community (S), b)
commitment to the community (C), c) the ability to set and achieve objectives (O), and d) the ability to
recognize and access resources (R) (based on Chaskin et al., 2001, p. 12; Miyoshi & Stenning, 2008, p. 41).
The community capacity attributes represent the basic characteristics to describe community
capacity. These attributes are based on the community capacity characteristics as outlined by
Chaskin and colleagues (2001), but departs slightly in wording and nuance, particularly for the
last two attributes regarding objectives and resources. The original characteristics of community
capacity are listed as sense of community, commitment, ability to solve problems, and access to
resources (Chaskin et al., 2001, p. 12).
Ability to solve problems has been modified to the ability to set and achieve objectives in
order to convey the importance of planning and accomplishing activities within a community,
which is of vital importance to development and economic growth, not merely the recognition of
problems. Furthermore, focusing on problems sets a negative tone in community activities, as
well as sets lofty goals that are prone to underperformance, noting that problems are often multifaceted
requiring multiple and varied solutions; therefore, solving a problem entirely is difficult.
This kind of complexity can lead to this attribute being evaluated negatively if a community
cannot “solve their problems.” Describing the positive steps that a community is making
towards achieving desired goals makes the description of the characteristics of community
capacity more proactive.
Access to resources can be addressed as the ability to recognize and access resources to
reflect the importance of knowing that something in a community has value, either for social or
economic purposes, in order to be able to access and then use it. Labor assets, such as senior
citizens, items such as abundant fruits or trees, or traditional and under-appreciated skills can be
overlooked within a community; thus never be accessed. Only saying access to resources also
has the connotation that a community needs to look outside their own area to find resources,
which can devalue the importance of local resources and undermine the further development of
community capacity. The changes of the community capacity attributes are attributed to Koichi
Miyoshi. Miyoshi recognized the potential pitfalls with the original wording in the Chaskin
Framework and offered the changes as a part of the JICA trainings on rural development and
community capacity (2007-2009) (see also Miyoshi & Stenning, 2008). However, it should be
noted that I have further elaborated the explanations here.
A community agent can be defined as any actor that brings about change within the
community. Community agents are the actors and/or the catalysts for action in a community and
leadership is the mode through which they affect the larger community. Actors within the
community who recognize themselves as stakeholders and act accordingly duly activate and
fortify the community capacity attributes to promote, perform, and rouse ever-increasingly
sophisticated and beneficial community actions.
The community agents encompass the three levels of social agency, as described by in the
Chaskin Framework: individuals, organizations, and networks of association (Chaskin et al.,
2001, p. 19) and serve to describe the active and potentially active stakeholders within a
community. Through these social agents community capacity can be utilized and built; thus,
they are the main actors affecting community capacity. Capacity building strategies, as well as
interventions and local policy, often identify these specific agents within a target community to
enact their plans. Community agents are the conduit through which the attributes flow to
produce activities and they promote and influence the development of the attributes so that others
can produce actions. The stakeholders in the community can be described as community agents
once they have begun to truly contribute to the collective activities of the community (Chaskin et
al, 2001, p. 19).
Anything that is undertaken by individuals, organizations, or collectively in a community can
be considered a community action. Community actions can include routine tasks such as local
budgeting, administration, and planning, as well as problem-solving and community
improvement initiatives. Additional community functions are the production of goods and
services, communication and organization and advocacy (Chaskin et al., 2001, p. 22). The
various activities that any part of a community takes part in can be considered a community
action and these then lead back to the further development of community capacity.
The outcomes achieved by a community lead to a more sustainable community overall and
specific desirable community conditions (Chaskin et al., 2001, p. 22). When community actions
occur and become more sophisticated through policy interventions and projects that involve the
community, the attributes of community capacity are fortified (Saegert, 2005) and the progress
of the A-A-A cycle can be seen. As a community cycles through, their overall capacity and
ability to set and achieve objectives relevant to their needs and desires increases and leads to
more beneficial actions (in terms of public policy structure, public service delivery, and private
entrepreneurial activities). A diverse variety of community actions will then lead back to a
greater amount of Attributes, which inherently reflects development and the potential for poverty
alleviation through an increase in resources, including resources such as fiscal means, productive
measures, external networks, and social capital.
Greater community capacity leads to more community outcomes, which leads to increased
community capacity (Miyoshi, 2006). This idea is also supported by researchers in the fields of
community building and social capital (Putnam, 1993, pp. 171, 177; Wellman & Frank, 2001, p.
259). Any community-based activity brings numerous personal and community-wide benefits,
thereby fortifying the overall capacity of the community and leading to increasingly
sophisticated community actions and policy structures. In this way, an articulated A-A-A cycle
can enhance poverty alleviation efforts and rural development.
The contextual influences on a community are not directly related to community capacity,
but rather, these factors can affect the quantity and quality of the attributes of community
capacity, as well as the function of its cycle. These factors are considered to be the basics of the
community that cannot necessarily be changed through mere capacity building activities and are
taken as the inherent circumstances of the community. Contextual influences include basic
conditioning influences such as safety and security, structure of opportunity, and the distribution
of power and resources (Chaskin et al., 2001, p. 24). However, in addition to basic conditioning
influences, a few more considerations can be added and modified, as indicated by findings of my
earlier study of community capacity in Indonesia in 2006 (see Wachowski, 2007). In the context
of a developing community the basic economic condition and physical location of the
community must also be taken into consideration, as well as the maturity of civil society,
institutional development, and political stability, accountability, participation, and history and
culture. These factors affect the function of the A-A-A cycle, as well as predict potential pitfalls
and prescribe potential entry points for intervention strategies and policy.
The A-A-A cycle is designed to visually display the adapted community capacity framework
so that it can be better understood and utilized for evaluation and policy making, particularly in
developing countries. The development of this framework comes about in response to the
criticism that focusing on development interventions or capacity building is not sustainable or
beneficial the community in the long run (Gorgan, 1981, p. 652). Rather, the framework is
intended to provide support and guidance in policymaking, in concordance with the policy
management cycle, to help communities better reach their human development and quality of life
To further refine the A-A-A cycle and its basic components a section is devoted to each “A”
and the contextual influences. The attributes are explored by descriptions of successful cases of
rural development in Japan that showcase their best attribute of community capacity. The cases
of rural revitalization describe efforts that have been made over the past decade, demonstrating
development plans occurring in already modern Japan. The background setting of these cases
diverges greatly from situations contemporarily found in developing countries. However, this
does not mean that their examples are any less relevant. The Japanese cases are discussed to
clarify the tenents of the revamped community capacity framework in order to progress the
overall concept. The relevance of the A-A-A framework to developing countries is better
articulated by the Himeshima and Pagudpud cases, because the historical development of
Himeshima is discussed here and Pagudpud is a developing community.
Community agents are discussed in depth through a historical exploration of Himeshima,
Japan and how the leadership of community agents manifests and develops into community
leadership at large. Community actions are discussed in part in the sections about attributes and
actions, but the way that community capacity cycles through community actions is discussed in
the latter part of this chapter. After delving into the A’s, the contextual influences are addressed.
2.2. Community Capacity Attributes
The community capacity attributes, or SCOR are described at length in this section. SCOR
describes the key factors that are related to the capacity that a community can develop. First, this
section will introduce each component of SCOR then a case study to fully describe that attribute
in context is examined.
S - Sense of Community. The sense of community highlights a connectedness between
community members and recognition of a mutuality of circumstance (Miyoshi & Stenning, 2008)
and includes collectively held values, norms, and vision (Chaskin et al., 2001, p. 14). Another
way to describe the sense of community is a feeling of belonging and that members matter to one
another and the group (McMillan and George, 1986, p. 9). This attribute is indicative of strong
ties among members and fosters the development of other characteristics of community capacity
(Miller, 1992, p. 31).
C - Commitment. When people have a vested interest in a place and have so for a relatively
longer period of time, they are more willing to contribute to and demonstrate concern for it.
Commitment can be defined as the willingness of individuals, groups, and organizations within
the community to take responsibility for what happens there (Miyoshi & Stenning, 2008).
Furthermore, this means that the actors in the community see themselves as stakeholders and
are willing to take action and participate as stakeholders (Chaskin et al., 2001, p. 15). This
willingness to participate in community activities stems from the sense of community that exists
and begins to manifest into action. This is because “feelings of belonging and emotional safety
lead to self-investment in the community (McMillan and George, 1986, p.15).”
O - Ability to set and achieve objectives. Commitment falls short of producing overall
community capacity if it fails to result in action. Another major function of a community is to
solve problems that are nuisances for its members, as well as set agendas for improvements.
Crucial is the ability of a community (through individuals, organizations, or networks) to
identify issues and desires and devise strategies to address them (Miyoshi, 2006). The ability of
to solve problems and attain goals is the visible manifestation of a community’s capacity. A
community must be able to translate its commitment into action in order for it to be said that
there is capacity in this respect (Chaskin et al., 2001, p. 16).
R - Ability to recognize and access resources. Another component of community capacity is a
community’s ability to recognize and access resources. Resources of a community can include
economic, human, physical, and political resources (Chaskin et al., 2001, p. 16). The ability for
a community to obtain resources is one of the most important reasons to study community
capacity, as adequate resources are what generally separate people from a low and a high
quality of life.
Table 1 provides an outline of some indicators for the assessment of community capacity
attributes. These indicators are based on the previous descriptions of the attributes, which are
based on the Chaskin Framework. These indicators can be used to guide analysis on community
capacity. This table renders some useful indicators, but it is also prudent to provide more
situational and case relevant indictors for each analysis of community capacity.
Table - Indicators for community capacity attributes
Community Capacity Criteria
Sense of Community • Overall goal/vision
• Recognition of mutual circumstances
• Evidence of trust amongst members
• Positive relationship between members
• Shared sense of identity
Commitment • Responsibility taken for community situation
• Members recognize themselves as stakeholders
• Active participation in community activities
Ability to set and • Issues/desires identified
achieve objectives • Plans for action in place
• Progress made towards goals
• Some past objectives achieved
Ability to recognize • Variety of types of resources
and access resources • Multiple ways to access various resources
• Recognition of indigenous resources
• Use of indigenous resources
Source: Author, based on Chaskin et al., 2001
Each of the four cases presented here highlight a particularly strong attribute within that
community and how it contributed both to the development of community capacity and the
expansion of community activities. Imori-dani has a strong sense of community that enlivens the
community to produce higher levels of commitment and diversified activities. The case of
Ajimu demonstrates how commitment, particularly in the private sector, can spread through a
community to provide widespread benefits. The agenda setting of Yufuin connects the other
attributes there to produce visible actions. The recognition of under utilized resources in
Bungotakada shows how futile despair and dilapidated building can be transformed into pride in
the community, as well as economic prosperity. With these cases the attributes can be better
conceptualized and clarified in the context of a real community. By discussing four different
cases of rural revitalization, the different starting points for development can be noted, as well as
the breadth of applicability of the concept of community capacity across a variety of situations.
This section demonstrates that community capacity can be built on some particularly strong
attributes, and it is not necessary to have a robust accumulation of all attributes in order to
progress the cycle further. Additionally, the entry points for community capacity development
can occur at any place in the community capacity cycle or with a focus on any activity or
capacity characteristic. Each case introduces the characteristic of community capacity that is
particularly notable in that area and how it, in turn, fostered the growth of other attributes and
then proceeded through the A-A-A cycle and back to produce greater amounts of community
capacity and quantities of diverse, sophisticated activities.
2.2.1. The Sense of Community of Imori-dani
The sense of community is truly what brings people together within a given context or area,
and it can be considered to be one of the driving forces behind the fortification of the other
community capacity attributes and the perpetuation of the A-A-A cycle. According to McMillan
and George (1986), “When people who share values come together, they find that they have
similar needs, priorities, and goals, thus fostering the belief that in joining together they might be
better able to satisfy these needs and obtain the reinforcement they seek (p.13).” A visible sense
of community promotes the other attributes of community capacity by instilling a pride within
the people in the community that fosters commitment and invigorates ideas and planning.
Imori-dani (Newt Valley) is the home of the Matsumoto community, a part of Usa City in southern Japan.
The community came together to help form a consistent view of the situation in the community and to
develop the vision of the community. The sense of community that was cultivated in Imori-dani has led the
community to have not only prosperity, stability of livelihood, physical improvements in the community, deep
social ties, and a sense of well-being, but also encouraged new residents to settle in the area.
The Matsumoto Village is a small and modest community
consisting of about 56 households, in which the primary economic activities include growing soybeans,
grapes, rice, and vegetables, as well as the relatively new activity of green tourism, which connects tourist
activities with agricultural activities. The village gets the nickname of Imori-dani, Newt Valley, because the
fields and houses are situated in a twisting valley that from above resembles a squirming newt. Furthermore,
the newt is a symbol of the community that is used for branding and marketing purposes.
According to the spokesman of the Matsumoto Village Farming Cooperative, Mr. Eiji
Nimiya, a common consciousness in Imori-dani started to form in the beginning of the twentieth
century when it was necessary for the whole village to come together to create a pond to collect
water for farming. However, even though there has been a budding sense of community in
Matsumoto since the Showa era2, the modernization of agriculture and high economic growth
weakened the “common consciousness” of the community (Nimiya, 2008).
Soybean cultivation began in 2000 with the introduction of government subsidies for the
endeavor. The young farmers in Matsumoto were inspired to start growing soybeans and they
subsequently formed the Matsumoto Village Farming Cooperative, which has been a main
contributor to the organization of economic activities within the community, as well as a conduit
through which the sense of community in Imori-dani has been developed. The collective
conversion of the land from rice to soybeans that the cooperative undertook was said to help
create a sense of “oneness in the village” (Nimiya, 2008).
The Showa e r a ( 1 926 - 1989 ) i s a no s t a l g i c p e r i o d i n J a p a n . Al t h ough t h e
p e r i o d i n c l u d e s t h e WWII a t r o c i t i e s , i t i s mos t c ommon l y a s s o c i a t e d wi t h
t h e po s t - wa r r e n a i s s a n c e .
Another step in the development of the sense of community in Imori-dani was the Village
Vision Building Workshop (entitled “This is our ideal Matsumoto”) that was held in July of 2000
as a part of an Oita prefecture program for agricultural promotion. This workshop, in which
community members from all age groups (elementary school students to senior citizens) in the
village participated, helped to establish a consensus on the community vision to “create a village
where anyone would want to live” (Nimiya, 2008). The workshop also inspired new ideas, such
as the combined exchange and production activities in what they called the Imori-dani
Matsumoto Village Building Activity. In Matsumoto, the year 2000 was when “the villagers
became one” (Nimiya, 2008).
The Imori-dani Matsumoto Village Building Activity has seen various positive outcomes for
the community. Production outcomes such as the use of local soybeans for a special brand of
tofu in Oita City, increased productivity of the fields through the rotation of between rice and
soybeans, and the cultivation of wheat and lotus flowers help to benefit the community
economically. The construction of the Village Farming Center, which is used for events, special
meetings, and hosting tourists, has resulted in increased communication and collective activities
within the community. Special events, such as the Firefly Concert and the Imori-dani Lotus
Festival, were conceived and organized. These events attract tourists, which in turns generates
income and contributes to the growth of the sense of community through collective activity and
pride in the success and uniqueness of the events. Market channels and commercial networks for
Matsumoto products were established, such as the direct sales location within the shop that sells
the special tofu in Oita City, and further contribute to the economic growth of the community.
Small scale processing of local products such as jams, pastes, breads, miso, and side dishes has
provided an occupation and economic rewards for the women and senior citizens in Matsumoto.
These small factories have also become an integral part of the green tourism activities, which
further contributes to the economic prosperity of the village. The young farmers’ section of the
agricultural cooperative, the Imori-dani Club, was organized and the club promotes the vision of
the community and information from the cooperative through the maintenance of the village
homepage (Nimiya, 2008).
The outcomes of the Imori-dani Village Building Activity
were achieved thanks to the strong sense of community that was re-activated through the workshop.
Additionally, the sense of community became progressively stronger through the cooperative activities of the
villagers; thus resulting in more and varied activities. Matsumoto Village continues to see the need for
development in their community, so with the strong base in the sense of community that they share, the
villagers envision future plans and endeavors. Some of the future plans that are underway in Imori-dani
include shifting the cooperative into a corporation, establishing an online direct sales space, forming the
Imori-dani 100 Skills Club to hand down traditional activities to the next generation, the expansion of green
tourism, and to review the old vision and establish new ones (Nimiya, 2008).
Conducting a vision workshop only once would have limited effectiveness; this was realized by the
community in Imori-dani and a follow-up workshop was held in 2005. The 2005 workshop assessed the
progress on the vision and activities discussed in 2000, as well as worked on solutions for new challenges that
the community was facing (Nimiya, 2008). The follow-up workshop helped to sustain the sense of community
and redefine it through the dynamic revitalization of the community. Matsumoto Village chose not only to
continue with their original vision of “creating a village where anyone would want to live”, but also expanded
upon it to include concrete plans for how to attain their other goals, such as economic growth through
combining the activities for production and tourism.
The community in Matsumoto has also developed ways to express unity that sprung outside
of formal workshops and meetings through the continued participation of and communication
between the residents during community activities. For instance, the community has designated
the color red to be the official color of the community. When residents participate in the various
community activities that are held in Imori-dani they often choose to wear red items, such as the
red bandanas worn by the women during events, to show their pride and support of Matsumoto.
The people chose red because it is the color of love and it further demonstrates the feeling of
unity that exists between the community members (Nimiya, 2008). The color of Matsumoto was
not necessarily designated through formal channels; it is a reflection of the sense of community
that exists in Imori-dani. It serves as an example of how this community capacity attribute can
be formulated without direct intervention. Furthermore, it demonstrates the continued growth of
community capacity in the peripheral spectrum of community activities after an initial
community capacity growth strategy had been introduced (i.e. the vision workshop).
Table 2 is a summation of the components of the A-A-A cycle in Matsumoto Village. The
table describes the contributing factors of the community capacity characteristics in the attributes
column, the main actors in the agents column, and the activities in the actions column. It should
be noted that the Vision Workshop 2005 and the activities that came from it demonstrate the
progressive nature in the A-A-A cycle, in as such that they are the direct result of the capacity
gained through the creation of the sense of community at the Vision Building Workshop and
their subsequent activities.
Table - A-A-A description of Imori-dani
Attributes Agents Actions
conversion to soybean
production: “oneness in the
Vision Building Workshop: “our
“create a village where anyone
would want to live”
the color red
Commitment • participation in workshops,
events, and activities
Objectives • established at the Village
Building Workshop: Matsumoto
Village Building Activity
established at the Vision
Workshop 2005: expand green
tourism, online sales, establish
corporation, follow-up workshop,
set up Imori-dani 100 Skills Club
Resources • indentified in part at the Vision
Building Workshop: productive
land, elderly, young leaders,
Events – Firefly
• Imori-dani 100
The shared norms, values, and vision in the sense of community in Imori-dani can clearly be
seen through the establishment of the farming cooperative, the vision workshop, and the
outcomes achieved as a part of the Village Building Activity. The sense of community that
exists in Matsumoto Village engaged the people and enabled the community to come together to
set objectives to effectively utilize the resources at their disposal. The activities and outcomes
that were accomplished by the Matsumoto community fortified and defined their sense of
community further and then, in turn, allowed the community to participate in more value-added
and sophisticated activities. The example of Imori-dani articulates the importance of the sense of
community, as well as the role of the sense of community in A-A-A cycle of community
2.2.2. The Commitment to Ajimu
Commitment to the community leads to strong community capacity. When people have a
vested interest in a place, they are more willing to contribute to the community and demonstrate
concern for it. Commitment can be defined as the willingness of individuals, groups, and
organizations within the community to take responsibility for what happens in the community.
Furthermore, this means that the actors in the community see themselves as stakeholders in the
community and are willing to take action and participate as stakeholders (Chaskin et al., 2001, p.
15). This willingness to participate in community activities stems from the sense of community
that exists within the community and begins to manifest itself into action. This is because
“feelings of belonging and emotional safety lead to self-investment in the community (McMillan
& George, 1986, p.15).” Self-investment in the community is the way in which stakeholders in a
community display their commitment. Commitment to the community is the reinforcing
principle in community capacity because “working for membership [in the community] will
provide a feeling that [a stakeholder] has earned a place in the [community] and that, as a
consequence of this personal investment, membership will be more meaningful and valuable
(McMillan, 1976 as quoted in McMillan & George, 1986, p. 10).
The attribute of commitment is demonstrated through the case of the Ajimu grape producing
district. The relationship between vision and commitment is seen through the maturation of the
community capacity cycle in Ajimu to produce more sophisticated community actions, such as
the collaboration with large industry to preserve both the local revenue base and the sanctity of
the environmental landscape.
The early vision of the community in Aijimu, based on the introduction of vineyards by a
national pilot project in 1971, was to become a world famous wine producing area. The Ajimu
brand of wine was established in 1974 through the efforts of the agricultural cooperative. At first
there were several technical issues with the production of quality grapes for wine, which came on
the heels of the original concept of winemaking in the region as a way to utilize grapes that
otherwise could not be sold at the market. By 1980, the agricultural cooperative agreed upon
standards for the grapes for winemaking and product quality consistency began to increase
(Kokusha, 2004). Through the vision of the community to become a successful wine producing
region, the local farmers and the agricultural cooperative demonstrated their commitment. This
can be seen through their willingness as individual producers to convert to grape production in
accordance with the national pilot. However, the commitment can also be seen in the collective
activity within the cooperative to identify and take responsibility for their issues and begin to
formulate plans to overcome them.
It must be acknowledged that development is a continuous process. Ajimu is a good example
of this continual process. In recent years, the overall area and production of grapes has
decreased. This is due to the increasing age of the producers and a lack of successors, low prices
and consumption, and a reduction in subsidies for production. In 2005, the cultivation area in
Ajimu was 193 hectares, down from 320 in 1971(Kokusha, 2004). These issues and the decline
of grape and wine production was a cause for some concern in the area and it caused the
community to become interested in revitalization strategies.
After some time of both success and challenges to the wine making industry in Ajimu, the
vision grew to incorporate a larger scope of the community. This new community vision is to
create an area that is viable for green tourism through joining the production, local agricultural
products, and the beauty of nature (Kokusha 2004). This new vision requires a new level and
kind of commitment by stakeholders in the community; this includes external stakeholders with
activities within the community, local producers and service providers, and organizations.