Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms buzz regularly (some may say permanently) with the gripes, complaints, disenchantments and other quirks of life and politics in Mongolia. Some justified and considered, some significantly less so. This is by no means unique to Mongolia and to a casual observer seems to be on the rise globally.
Having lived in Mongolia for the past 13 years it has become an ever-present part of my life, a comforting topic of discussion, a mean to forge social bonds with peers. Expats, Repats and Mongolians alike often take a certain level of glee and no small pleasure in pointing out the failings, errors and inadequacies of a growing economy.
Community participation has become the buzzword of development projects over the past two decades. It is today at the core of almost every sustainability-related project as there is a gradual shift from top- down authoritative managerial planning towards more inclusive participatory development. The concept has become overused (Swapan, 2014: 191) and heavily politicised (Head, 2007: 447) thus often reducing its efficiency to a box ticking exercise, or, occasionally to further the interests of a minority (Botes and van Rensburg, 2000: 41). Beyond the vagueness of the term “community” itself, which suggests a sense of harmony, shared identity and cohesion which it often lacks (Head, 2007: 441), there is also a lack of common understanding of how “successful” participation is measured or defined (Holzer and Kloby, 2005: 517; Khwaja, 2004: 428). There is debate surrounding the forms that such participation could take and its impact on spatial elements of sustainable development (Marfo, 2008).