John McKnight: Low-income communities are not needy -- they have assets
Detail from a graphic record of a facilitated discussion in Vancouver, B.C., in which participants talked about what belonging and community mean. The artists included examples of local community development in the drawing. Illustration by Liz Etmanski and Aaron Johannes/Spectrum ConsultingPeople who want to help low-income communities should see them as “half-full glasses” -- places with strengths and capacities that can be built upon, says the co-developer of the asset-based community development strategy.
Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Most people and institutions that want to serve poor communities are focused on what the residents lack. “What are the needs?” is often the first question asked.
John McKnight says that approach has it backward.
“I knew from being a neighborhood organizer that you could never change people or neighborhoods with the basic proposition that what we need to do is fix them,” he said. “What made for change was communities that believed they had capacities, skills, abilities and could create power when they came together in a community.”
McKnight is co-director of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute (link is external)and professor emeritus of communications studies and education and social policy at Northwestern University.
He and his longtime colleague John Kretzmann created the asset-based community development (ABCD) strategy for community building. Together they wrote a basic guide to the approach called “Building Communities From the Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community’s Assets.”
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