December is the month for community here at globalbridge and amongst other things we have turned our attention to what community means, how we can do more in our community and what ways communities develop and progress. A community is nothing without the people who operate within it, so it is important to think about who they are, what they do, how they are motivated, their areas of interest, their challenges and the relationships that they build. If we look to try and help and develop a community more traditionally we would perhaps look for a gap and decide how we could fill it.
For example, we see individuals who are unemployed in a community so we bring in experts to tell the community how they can get a job and link them to outside agencies to help, or we see that the kids in the area are exhibiting anti social behaviour so we decide to start up football sessions from the local football club on a Friday night to help get them off the streets, or we start up a cooking club for parents and children because there has been a rise in obesity in that particular community. All of these community projects can add tremendous value to individuals and groups and certainly help to address specific issues that a community may have in the short term. However this type of community development is known as deficit based development - we see a problem and label it and then bring in people and organisations, usually from outside, to try and fill that gap and improve the quality of life, or resources for those specific people. It is not driven by the people who are being helped and as such it often doesn’t last very long.
‘It is a citizen-led approach working to build and develop a community feel with those who have lived experience of the area and who have built relationships and developed trust with each other..’
A new way to think about community improvement is through Asset Based Community Development or ABCD. Rather than seeing holes in a community and trying to fill them with those who do not live there or experience it, ABCD actually looks at what assets already exist in a community and uses those people who are part of it to start to address those issues from the inside. In fact, there may not even be any obvious issues but the process of engaging with those in a community allows people to see what they can offer, what others can bring and how they can all work together to achieve more in their own space.
Strengths, capacities, assets
Lead by stepping back
Do with & enable to do
Clients & passive receivers
Co-producers & active creators
Different Perspectives of Deficit Based vs Asset Based - taken from www.nurturedevelopment.org
In ABCD, communities are not thought of as complex masses of needs and problems, but rather diverse and capable webs of gifts and assets (www.nurturedevelopment.org). It works on the basis of five clear premises; Individuals, Associations, Institutions, Place Based and Connections. It is a citizen led approach working to build and develop a community feel with those who have lived experience of the area and who have built relationships and developed trust with each other, and not about parachuting in organisations who are allegedly ‘experts’ and who have not linked with the people or area, and who attempt to fix issues with a top down approach.
In our own community sometimes we spend too long in our own bubble and don’t look around at others and notice what they can offer. Do you know what your neighbour does for a living, what hobbies they have, what skills they possess and how much is already happening in your community?
In the examples above, rather than labelling a community as unemployed, anti social or obese, perhaps it is time to look within and ask who might possess the skills knowledge or ability to help themselves and each other before these things become issues, or how individuals and groups can be empowered to respond and address issues within their own communities.
Within our own globalbridge community we strive to work together, to understand each others’ strengths, and to ensure all areas are addressed and progress is made. It is not always easy and there are often areas that need to be looked at, methods discussed and objectives changed, but the important thing is that everyone’s assets are being utilised and everyone feels part of something progressive and collaborative.
So as we head into this festive period perhaps take a look at you and your own community, be that your workplace, a hobby group, your own family or the neighbours in the street you live on and think about what you could offer, how others might help and whether you can build long lasting and meaningful connections that could help support and improve your community.