Cormac Russell > Archive
In my previous blog, I shared the first six of eleven shifts in mindset and approach required to move from a deficit-based to an Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) response to COVID-19. I affirmed the view that now isn’t the time to abandon ABCD principles and practices in favour of top-down deficit-based relief efforts. Now is the time to accelerate ABCD on every street. This week I will share the next five shifts (Table 1.2.).
Over the next few months, I will regularly share new parts/sections of an emerging ‘Guide for Professionals working in Citizen space, during and beyond COVID-19’. I hope you’ll tell me what’s useful and what’s not, and that you’ll also share some stories that support us all to see practical ways to be responsive and generative, in these challenging times.
The reality of COVID-19 is sinking in. This pandemic is likely to be a long and drawn-out one. It also is reasonable to assume that it will not be the last of its kind. Nevertheless, it is encouraging to see that critical public health messages are getting through regarding hand-washing, physical distance, limits on congregation and the need for self-isolation both as a preventive and recovery measure.
The reflections of the last two blogs in mind, I’d like to share an ABCD practice I find really helpful in hatching possibilities from inside out. Or in coming to our senses. Please remember you don’t require all of your senses to engage. Helen Keller had three senses, yet led a more sensational life than most people with five sense ever do.
Jane Jacobs’ (an American-Canadian journalist, author, and activist who significantly influenced urban studies) advice to communities is to stop being subservient to those with grand visions and “Do what’s right for now and the future will turn out as well as it can.”
Try describing something you see in the place where you live without using a metaphor. Right now, I see a tree outside my window, with brown, red and green flecks on its bark. It’s leaves are being moved by a gentle breeze and shadows are casting across it at different points, changing very rapidly. Now I see the reflection of sunlight on one of the leaves of the tree, which has a dew drop that is yellow in one spot because of its refraction of the sun. On the limb of the branch above the one with the yellow hued dew drop, I see a brown squirrel, moving swiftly downwards towards the base of the tree. Now it’s on the ground. The ground on which it’s moving is…..
Wow, it’s really hard not to fall into a metaphor…
The Welfare State is an important extension of our human community’s capacity to care; not a replacement for it. Communities produce care (full-stop) and the systems or service world should simply be the support to that care where required, a resource to carers and not the source of care.
I’ve had the privilege of seeing a lot of professional practitioners wrestle with the dilemmas that Asset-Based Community Development presents - serving while walking backwards being chief among them.
Society is often spoken of as if it has only two important dimensions; namely, individuals on the one hand and formal institutions on the other. What this map of civic space leaves out is everything in between: families, neighbours and friends, clubs, local business, faith communities and associations.
John McKnight has a passion for jazz. Once a year he becomes a roadie for one week and travels on a bus with an aging “old time” jazz band. He once told me if he hadn’t gone down the road he went, a life as a jazz musician would have been a dream come true. Not at all surprisingly, one of his favourite metaphors for leaderless groups is a jazz jam session.
Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) starts with what’s strong not what’s wrong, but should we be expected to always look on the bright side of life? This week’s offer to Room 101 is “overt positivity” in the face of structural inequality; when misguided ABCD practice ignores the underlying issues of power and oppression in communities.
Asset mapping was never intended to be about data gathering by institutions but about relationship building between neighbours. It feels like there is a move away from this neighbourly connection, muddying the waters for thoughtful citizens hoping to grow and develop their own asset maps.