Which role do you play?

Peter Martin, Steenberg

Public participation literature reveals two types of individuals in the community: the activist and spectator.

The activist is actively involved and participating in community activities with the sole purpose of making a difference in community. These activities could include initiating a youth programme, joining and supporting a civic organisation or neighbourhood watch, feeding the poor, launching a street cleaning or gardening project or having street games.

Some activists participate through active contribution. These contributions might be monetary (cash), goods (eg snacks) or services (providing skills or transport).

Sometimes their contributions take the form of voluntary work. Whatever the case may be, the activist is fully aware of the need for change, and actively works towards changing poor and marginalised communities.

The spectator, on the other hand, is merely looking at what is happening in the community.

Even though the spectator is fully aware of the need for community change, the spectator will not become actively involved in helping the community.

The spectator does not make any contributions or volunteer any services to bring about change in the community. In fact, the spectator will see garbage heaping up in the community but will make no effort to have it removed (e.g. reporting it to the authorities).

And sad to say, participation theory indicates that the vast majority of community members are merely spectators or onlookers.

While activists make things happen in the community, and spectators look on as things happen (or not happen) in the community, there are those who are oblivious of what is happening in the community.

They wake up, have breakfast, go to work, come home, watch television, go to sleep and wake up.

Now the fundamental question is: where do you fit in as a community member?