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This article is an attempt to examine one of the better-known failures in UK community development – the Barrowfield Project in Glasgow (1986-1996) – and to compare and contrast it with other attempts at community development, especially some associated with the work of Mohammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank, and the legacy of Paulo Freire. We conclude that both Freire and Yunus make assumptions about the pre-existence of community which limit the potential impact of their ideas in an area such as Barrowfield, where anomie and apathy were rife. We further find that just as actions intended to be liberating may reinforce the dominant hegemony, the converse may on occasion also be true. In recent years the Barrowfield Project has risen from the ashes of its previous demise, and so the present work needs to be seen in that context.

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