The Lichen Factor: The Quest for Community Development in Canada


288 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-920336-61-2
DDC 307.1'47'0971





Reviewed by Christine Hughes

Christine Hughes is a policy analyst at the Ontario Native Affairs


This book is the last in Lotz’s trilogy on Canada that started with
the publication of Northern Realities (1970) and continued with
Understanding Canada (1977). In The Lichen Factor, he examines the
origins of some of the problems facing Canadian society today. He tries
to explain the growing gap between government and people (Us and Them)
and suggests how a community development approach might narrow these
divisions. Lotz supports his ideas with interesting examples drawn from
his own research and work in many different locations and fields of
knowledge, interspersed with quotations and anecdotes from a variety of
sources, including Charlie Parker and Nietzsche.

Lotz uses lichens—which show how mutual aid and interdependence
permit two different life forms to survive in extreme conditions—as a
symbol of the choices humans face in dealing with conflict,
confrontation, and cooperation. What he calls the “Lichen Factor” is
a way that restructuring relationships by providing a basis for mutual
aid and cooperation can bridge diversities between humans. Lotz uses
many examples to provide a historical context to his Lichen Factor
theory. Several chapters describe the origins of community development
as a concept, and its specific development in Canada. Another chapter
provides an excellent overview of interest-group behavior.

This book offers considerable scope for further research through its
extensive list of notes and references and select bibliography. It is
indexed, and a short appendix provides brief summaries of four topics:
strategic planning, the social animation process, the PAGE (which
identifies what is Possible, Adoptable, Gainful and Ethical) matrix, and
the PAGE process. Unlike many other community development studies, which
typically focus on one or two case studies, this volume provides a
number of interesting concepts that are supported by examples drawn from
different historical periods and geographical locations. While readers
may not agree with all Lotz has to say, his ideas are thought-provoking.

Lotz began his research in the field of community development in 1960;
he has published widely on the subject and taught courses in several
Canadian universities.


Lotz, Jim., “The Lichen Factor: The Quest for Community Development in Canada,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 13, 2024,