It is important to define, even briefly, the role and expected tasks that a Rural Animator would be called to perform, in order to understand better the competences required for such a role and the contribution EMRA will make to the aquisition of such competences.
The role of Rural Animator
The role of Rural Animator can be summarised as follows:
- The Rural Animator initiates and sustains community activities related to the local economy; he/she also encourages the re-establishment of social bonds and the reinforcement or re-establishment of local identity, thus facilitating sustainable rural development.
- The Rural Animator stimulates everyday economic and social activity using a bottom-up approach. This confers authenticity as it is based upon grass-roots definitions of local needs and the means necessary for their fulfilment.
- The Rural Animator holds a role that is closely linked to the concept of social capacity traditionally associated with rural communities and utilises the power of mutual help, strong neighbourhood ties and local social capital.
- The Rural Animator is a trusted person who can protect and develop the interests of the community and address local development issues including the enhancement of quality of life.
- The Rural Animator is an agent of change. Intensive modernisation of rural areas, as a result of urbanisation or the industrialisation of agriculture makes the re-definition of rural development and its agents an important issue. The Rural Animator contributes to this re-definition.
- A contemporary Rural Animator can be distinguished from other animators (e.g. animators working with underprivileged communities in cities) by his/her knowledge and understanding of the paradigm of sustainable rural development. This gives the Rural Animator the ability to work within the political and cultural context of social, ecological, economic and cultural changes in rural areas.
Tasks that a Rural Animator is likely to perform
The tasks in which rural animators may be asked to tackle include:
- building and maintaining mutual trust in the community,
- supporting the creation of development plans,
- showing leadership
participating in the implementation of development plans,
- undertaking coordination and management tasks
- fulfilling the function of an intermediary between different stakeholders, being also the link between decision-makers and the local communities.
These tasks call for a variety of skills and competences:
- Social communication: building trust, ability to interact easily with every member of the community, conflict resolution, stimulation of innovative thinking, stimulation of positive attitudes towards community and himself/herself, self-presentation awareness and skills, rhetorical skills and skills covering the explanation of complicated issues; information processing skills, writing and publishing articles, contributing in discussion fora, web pages etc., IT skills.
- Finding out the community’s needs and problems: ability to gather knowledge about the community through simple surveys and polls, conducting focus groups and exploratory meetings, investigating individuals’ attitudes towards common action, conducting and observation, ability to perform qualitative data analysis and to compile reports.
- Managing and coordinating local actions and projects: ability to assess different kinds of opportunities and actions, knowledge of sources of financing, basic information about procedures, motivation techniques, group management, project management, coordination, leadership, communication with community leaders, practical knowledge of the functioning of local institutions and organisations (self-government, NGO’s, regional bodies, national bodies).
- Promoting different aspects of sustainable rural development: possess a good understanding and an inter-disciplinary knowledge of different fields involved in sustainable rural development, such as: agriculture and farming; environmental protection and management; cultural development; community development and welfare; innovation and support of SMEs; developing sustainable rural tourism; promoting education and lifelong learning for rural development; and encouraging the diversification of rural economies.