Turning Conflict into Citizen Participation and Power
The voice of watershed residents – whether in agreement or disagreement – is an essential part of the learning and negotiation process needed for internal change in beliefs and active engagement, which is the only route to sustainable adoption of appropriate conservation practices. While conflict is generally thought to be a barrier to community action, it can be used as an asset to strengthen local watershed councils and other community organizations. The underlying principle of local control and local leadership is central to leveraging conflict to achieve positive community watershed outcomes. During my 11 years as an extension community development specialist, I found that even when local leadership is inexperienced, under conditions of local control, conflict assumes a different character than when state and federal agencies attempt to drive change from the top down. In this chapter, I will discuss conflict and authority’s political dimensions, types of conflict, the importance of turmoil and conflict, and strategies to enhance the value of conflict as a community development asset. My community development work in Iowa’s Maquoketa watershed is used as a case study to illustrate these concepts.
KeywordsNonpoint Source Pollution Conservation Reserve Program Natural Resource Conservation Service Hydrological Unit Code Iowa Department
I would like to acknowledge the contributions of John Rodecap, Maquoketa Watershed Project Coordinator with Agronomy Extension, and Lois Wright Morton, Extension Sociologist, Iowa State University.
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