Innovative Intervention Measures in Fostering Community Development in Jamaica

There has been a multi-sectorial approach to solving the cultural and societal issues that hinder the growth of the social capital of the population. Various models addressing social and criminal issues have changed the economic and political landscape of various countries. In this paper we will glean and discuss best practices of different countries such as Australia and Singapore which are former commonwealth countries known to have done well in many areas where Jamaica suffer currently. Thee countries have had a dynamic approach in engineering a cultural paradigm shift and this research will highlight innovative intervention methods of removing old cultural patterns, and political partisanship, thereby empowering local government and provide solutions to foster community development.

All cultures are inherently predisposed to change and at the same time also resistant to change. Historically, Jamaica and other slave societies have a ‘plantation culture’ steeped in the African ancestry, with an entrepreneurial spirit-the remnants of the slave culture for ownership of our own ‘things’. This can be directly related to a STATIN report of 2009, which indicates that 743,300 persons were outside the labour force, and this includes people who are not looking for work, those not available for work. Others do not want to work while some are incapable of working. The report shows that the vast majority of the people outside the labour force (77 per cent) lack academic qualification and did not pass any examination.

New cultural patterns will replace the old psyche through mandatory military service for all eligible citizens, competitive tax regime to encourage entrepreneurship, mandatory voting to guarantee the participation of the entire voting population in the ownership of governance and to break garrisons and the use of cooperative societies to foster trust and build sufficient social capital.

The term ‘innovative’ refers to the idea of approaching something in creative and non-traditional manner with the purpose of effecting change. According to the – “innovation is a new way of doing something or new stuff that is made useful”. It may refer to incremental and emergent or radical and revolutionary charges in thinking, products, processes or organizations. Subsequently, the term interaction, according to the same source, is a kind of action that occurs as two or more objects have an effect upon one another. Hence, the idea of a two-way effect is essential in the concept of interaction as opposed to a one-way causal effect.

In 2006 on May 1st the Honorable Bruce Golding, then leader of opposition, combined a series of information based on long-term historical research. These issues were mainly regarding the problem of crime and violence within the country of Jamaica and its subsequent impact on community underdevelopment and by extension overall development. This is in conjunction with the current trends, which sheds light on the need for swift implementation and strategic policy making in order to remedy the situation facing our country. As a result contributing projects that would generally suffice in the overall decline in crime and violence were targeted and ushered in a document entitled “the Road map to a safe and secure Jamaica” (

The subsequent relevance of this road map to our topic is one of intrinsic and the most intricate relationship, not only due to the fact that community development measures will have a simultaneous impact on downward spiraling crime and violence, but as an additional causal factor, it will serve to cushion and attach ‘head-on’ the problem of poverty which is undoubtedly one of the many contributing elements to our crime and violence issue.

The existence of poor cultural and societal norms hinders the growth of the social capital of the population and as a direct result, hinders the economic growth and investment capital of the state. The conversion of marginalized communities can only be attained through urban renewal where these communities become self sufficient being engaged in a cultural paradigm shift that fosters investment and savings and facilitates defined expectations among the constituents. There are some key concepts that are critical in this assessment of ‘Innovation intervention measures in fostering community development, making culture matter’.

Cultural Paradigm Shift

When we refer to cultural paradigm shift we are looking at where we are now versus where we were before and ultimately where we want to be. Jamaica has been steeped in a culture of consumerism and there has been a loss of work ethics, where there is a focus on immediate gains either through illicit or illegal means. Revert to our ancestral roots for ownership of our own things and to revive the entrepreneurial spirit and create business centres in and around St James.


Governance relates to decisions that define expectations, grant power and or verify performance.


This is the obligation to bear the consequences for failure to perform as expected.


The reliance on the integrity, strength and ability

All these defined terms are relevant to symbiotic relationship that is required in making culture matter.

Challenges to Development in Jamaica

Some of the challenges that we face are political partisanship, the non adherence to principles of good governance, the cultural and work ethics of the population. The implementation of mandatory voting, mandatory service in the Jamaican Army, a policy of inclusion for all citizens; decentralisation and legislative and economic strengthening of Local Government authority, and the rewarding innovation and entrepreneurship are some tangible ways that marginalised communities in Jamaica can be transformed. Both the challenges and the perceived changes can be a catalyst that impact the community and nation development that we propose to engender.

The Daily Gleaner article headlined information from a Statistics Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) Report of 2009, indicating that there are 743,300 persons were outside the labour force, and this includes people who are not looking for work, those not available for work. Others do not want to work while some are incapable of working. The vast majority of the people outside the labour force (77%) lack academic qualification and did not pass any examination. This data is startling and one would ask; ‘how do we change this outlook? First we need to change the cultural attitudes.

The Protestant work ethic of John Calvin during the Reformation era, a theory attributable to socio legal theorist Max Weber is an excellent platform on which to start. In essence the Calvinist approach emphasizes hard work. Max Weber argued that European capitalism was predicated upon a unique and unexpected combination of a particular institutional matrix and certain cultural values or spirit (Protestant work ethic). The cultural norm of placing a positive moral value on doing a good job because work has intrinsic value and physical labour became culturally acceptable for all persons, even the wealthy based upon the notion that the Calvinist emphasis on the necessity for hard work as a component of ones calling and worldly success. Hard work and frugality were thought to be two (2) important consequences of being one of the elect in seeking obedience to God, thus the Protestants were attracted to these qualities. How we therefore engage the persons outside the labour force, in essence capture the statistically ‘743,000’?

There are several approaches that have been posited before by social organisation and government, however, these are some of the tangible methods that can change the culture; such as:

Entrenchment of core values

Create opportunities to reorient core values through a disciplined where skills are passed on through mandatory military service especially for those outside the labour force. Mandatory government service programme also known as Conscription or National service would be useful in creating a cultural paradigm. This system could be implemented in Jamaica to foster harmony among the races, institute discipline in society, create jobs, investment and wealth, reduce crime and enhance prosperity in the wider Jamaican society.

Singapore has what is known as the ‘Enlistment Act of Singapore’, which is conscription for all “persons subject to [the] act”, which is defined as those who are not less than 16 years and 6 months of age and not more than 40 years of age, with some exemptions and with no specific bias to gender. An Act similar to Singapore’s Enlistment Act could be legislated in Jamaica in an attempt to change the cultural disposition and engage those who need to be gainfully employed and thus contributing to the economy and the development of the country. Additionally, mandatory military service will build a culture of discipline and public service. Some proponents of mandatory military service argue that young people leaving school in their teen years, either by graduating or dropping out, create societal disadvantages. Military service instils in recruits an understanding of responsibility and sacrifice from working for a greater cause in unison with fellow citizens. This will foster a change in attitude and negative behaviour and in short order influence our awareness to foster better, more civil and productive communities and the state and will result is a greater sense of national unity and an integration between races and economic classes, with shared consensus of nation building.

Instituting mandatory military service in Jamaica will also institute a more Competitive Workforce, where sufficient skill sets could be deployed across all communities in Jamaica, and excess or underutilized skills could be exported within Caricom and the rest of the world.

In Singapore, those who are liable to serve in mandatory military service, but refuse, are charged under the Enlistment Act. If convicted, they face three years’ imprisonment and a fine of S$10,000. This would assist the state in ensuring compliance.

Encourage entrepreneurial spirit

Most, if not all Jamaicans want to be the master of their own being and doing things their way. Many people would prefer to join the labour pool as entrepreneurs rather than employees. This is a return to our ancestral roots where we display ownership of our own things, igniting the entrepreneurial spirit which creates avenues for business centres in around St. James.

Jamaicans are unable to access capital that is typically invested in their homes, due to our property culture and policies. We propose that provisions are for accessibility to capital by implementing changes to the property laws and policies. Capital could be mobilised through the use of cooperative society model. Cooperative societies are voluntary organisations that seek to meet the common economic, social and cultural needs of all its members. It is jointly owned, a democratically controlled enterprise where ownership belongs to all. This would allow for the pooling of resources and for funding to be available to all who wishes to access, and would also foster an egalitarian system. Individuals in communities would now have access to capital, which would translate to conversion of marginalised communities through urban renewal and the general improvement of the societal stock of these communities through training and wealth creation. Wealth creation leads to savings and investment and consequently leads to development of services and infrastructural improvements.


This is critical to the success of influencing culture, where the adoption of the best governance principles will be facilitated; through legislative oversight and transparency in governance. Additionally, there will be the introduction of mandatory voting to get all citizens involved in the democratic process, thus facilitating participation in the process of ownership and share collective responsibility.

Samuel Huntington reaffirms the importance of culture as the primary variable for development and other studies show the relationship between culture and economic stability of a country. Mandatory or Compulsory voting is another recommendation for improving the cultural paradigm in Jamaica. This is a system in which electors are obliged to vote in elections or attend a polling place on voting day. With a secret ballot, voters remain free to spoil their ballot papers or remove them from the polling booth. If an eligible voter does not attend a polling place, he or she may be subject to punitive measures such as fines, community service, or perhaps imprisonment if fines are unpaid or community service not performed. Such a system guarantees that the government represents a majority of the population, and help to ensure that governments do not neglect sections of society that are less politically active (such as the middle class), where each and every citizen give his consensus to what role government should perform and equally has a democratic say in the governance of their immediate communities and the parish in which they reside.

If voters do not want to support any given choice, they may cast spoilt votes or blank votes. According to compulsory voting supporters, this is preferred to not voting at all because it ensures there is no possibility that the person has been intimidated or prevented from voting should they wish. In certain jurisdictions, voters also have the option to vote none of the above if they do not support any of the candidates to indicate clear dissatisfaction with the candidate list rather than simple apathy at the whole process. Compulsory voting will potentially encourage voters to research the candidates’ political positions more thoroughly. This may force candidates to be more open and transparent about their positions on many complex and controversial issues.

Political scientist Arend Lijphart writes that; “compulsory voting has been found to increase voting by 7-16% in national elections, and by even more in secondary (such as local and provincial elections and elections to the European Parliament). The large increases in turnout are found even where the penalties for not voting are extremely low.” Apart from the increased turnout as a value in itself, Lijphart lists other advantages to compulsory voting: firstly, “the increase in voting participation may stimulate stronger participation and interest in other political activities; secondly, as no large campaign funds are needed to goad votes to the polls, the role of money in politics will decrease; thirdly, compulsory voting acts as a sort of civil education and political stimulation, which creates a better informed population; fourthly, high levels of participation decreases the risk of political instability created by crises or dangerous but charismatic leaders.”

Another critical aspect of governance is to de-garrisonize communities that have strong partisan and political roots. Garrisons are a social phenomenon that arose out of “tribal”, political wars starting in the 1960s to control territory. The report of the National Committee on political tribalism states, “at one level a garrison community can be described as one in which anyone who seeks to oppose, raise opposition to or organize against the dominant party would definitely be in danger of suffering serious damage to their possessions or persons thus making continued residence in the area extremely difficult if not impossible”. This party monopoly is imposed with the assistance of party strongmen who are invariably leaders of violent criminal networks. Electoral results (75% of those voting for the candidate of a participation party) are taken as the usual method of identifying garrison communities are zones of exclusions, characterized by high levels of crime.