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Rothman’s model of community change


The lecture on community change models contained a comparison between the so-called functional view on community change and the so-called conflict view on community change:

Functional view: Communities change, when parts of their systems break down or massive external changes ocurr. These events force changes in social norms and thus changes in the community.

Conflict view: Change in communities is driven by the struggle for power between different interest groups. If new interest groups form or interest groups, who are not currently holding much power, do manage to ascend, they (re)form social norms which, in turn, leads to community change.

The rest of this lecture centered on Rothman’s model of community change. It differentiates between four different ways, in which community changes can take place: Change can either be initiated from the outside (social policy planning, community mobilization) or from within the community (community action, community development) with the necessary resources coming either from the outside (social policy planning, community action) or, again, from within the community (community development, community mobilization).

(1) Social policy planning (outside initiation, outside resources)
(2) Community action (inside initiation, outside resources)
(3) Community development (inside initiation, inside resources)
(4) Community mobilization (outside initiation, inside resources)

Social policy planning

– Outside experts design and implement models for communities
– The implementation is also forced from outside (laws, taxes…)
– Social policy planning often is a reaction to specific problems

Community action

– Members of a community identify power imbalances / missing resources
– Members organize themselves to get access to these outside resources
– Media help is important in getting the message to decision makers
– Any form of community action needs one or more strong leaders

Community development

– Members of a community self-mobilize internal resources to initiate changes
– This change process is completely under the control of the community
– New solutions are often built on indigenous knowledge and traditions

Community mobilization

– Outside experts design solutions but do not implement them from the outside
– Community members are expected to contribute via donations and work
– People are often encouraged to join the effort via social marketing

These lecture notes were taken during 2012 installment of the MOOC “Community Change in Public Health” taught by Prof. Dr. William R. Brieger of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health at Prof. Brieger blogs under and can be found on twitter as @bbbrieger.

1 Comment


    thanks very much for you important we,re in the poorest Burundi country,i believe to change where we,re through knowledge from my community change in public health.keep in touch!

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