Governments at all levels have become increasingly involved in initiating and funding projects within which community residents work collaboratively with local service providers in the development of programs for the betterment of themselves, their families, and their community. Inherent in these initiatives, however, are a number of possible sources of tension which, left unresolved, may hamper the intentions of governments to seed grass-roots solutions to community problems. A qualitative research methodology was used to examine the nature of the relationship between government and community representatives (both residents and local service providers) in establishing community-based primary prevention programs under the auspices of the Better Beginnings, Better Futures initiative of the Government of Ontario. We examine a number of issues and tensions that have arisen from this project, both during the development of the program model by the government, and through to its implementation in several communities in the province.
Resident participation is the cornerstone of any community-based prevention program. However, many challenges exist which make it difficult to involve residents in a meaningful way in the development of such programs. How can programs be organized so as to provide for significant participation of community residents in the process of program development? This article outlines the procedures that were utilized in seven community-based prevention programs established under the Better Beginnings, Better Futures initiative of the Government of Ontario to enlist the participation of community residents in program decision making and implementation.
What impact does the involvement of community residents in developing prevention programs have on the residents themselves, the programs they help to create, and the communities in which they live? The research literature suggests that resident involvement in program decision making can enhance residents' sense of control or empowerment, improve programs and services, and provide a better match between the needs of the community and the kinds of services provided. Much of this literature, however, has focused on relatively few of the benefits and costs that residents can experience as a result of their involvement. The investigation reported in this paper utilized a qualitative research methodology to discover the outcomes, both positive and negative, that residents derive from their involvement. Prevention programs operating in seven Ontario communities under the auspices of the Better Beginnings, Better Futures primary prevention initiative are featured in the discussion.