This paper documents fieldwork carried out in the republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan an Uzbekistan in 2003. It begins with an overview of the history of ‘community development’ and an analysis of the concept. It then presents lessons drawn out of an examination of how individuals and communities in Central Asia engage with local level development projects. These lessons are grouped under five main themes:

  • The Individual and the Community Based Organisation
  • The Resilience of Soviet Institutions
  • Pre-Soviet Practices and Forms of Social Organisation
  • Perceptions of Gender and ‘Women’s Role’
  • Community Engagement with Local Government

The aim of the paper is to encourage development agencies which are implementing (or plan to implement) community level projects in the region to undertake a reflection of their practice. The paper presents empirical data taken from a series of case studies of community development initiatives and provides some practical recommendations.



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