For Freire, ‘conscientization’ is the process of learning to perceive social, political and economic contradictions and is a pre-condition for taking action against the oppressive elements of reality (Freire, 1970:49). Critical for deconstructing hegemonic thought and constructing an ideology and practice of equality, community work presents as a unique space for consciousness-raising to connect personal and political transformation. Addressing conference themes of people and power, this presentation introduces research carried out with community workers in Ireland on the role of consciousness raising in the processes of community development.
Findings suggest that creating the conditions for individuals to develop an analysis of their own situation builds on the first stage of the community work process; bringing people together who share common problems. Having recognised that these problems are not just individual to them, a process of consciousness-raising enables people to understand more deeply the problems they are experiencing and the factors that keep it that way. Moving from the personal to the political in collective spaces involves a shift from one’s own story into shared stories and from personal blame to naming societal and systematic causes of issues. The energy and anger that occurs in these spaces can be channelled into strategic actions to effect lasting changes and outcomes for communities as a whole. The community worker plays a crucial facilitative role in this process but necessitates the development of their own consciousness and continued praxis including through engagement with others acting as ‘critical mirrors’.
Freire, Paulo (1970) Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Continuum