As some of you know, John Stanton and I visited Kojonup in February at the request of Lisa Martello-Hart, who wanted us to meet various Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in the community and also discuss the Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) approach. Lisa had been talking with us for some time about developing a community project to help enhance the social and emotional wellbeing of Kojonup citizens, with an emphasis placed on empowering and connecting youth., using an ABCD approach. You can read about John and my inspiring visit to Kojonup in my earlier blog post.
Lisa and I have continued to talk regularly since I returned to Perth, and she has updated me on various recent local ‘happenings’ related to the project. It all sounds very exciting. We agreed that I would develop a Kojonup section of this website and write some blogs about key resources related to your project that community members might like to read. These resources not only focus on the ABCD approach, but also trauma, healing and resilience, the story of the Aboriginal child artists of Carrolup, and Aboriginal culture and history.
The primary goal of an ABCD process is ‘to enhance collective citizen visioning and production’. It focuses on a community’s assets, capacities, and abilities. Significant community development takes places only when local community people are committed to investing in themselves and their resources. Healthy communities are built bottom-up, not top-down.
The ABCD approach is a superior alternative to the more common approach of ‘helping’ by focusing on a community’s needs, deficiencies, and problems. This depersonalising approach disempowers and often causes other forms of harm to community citizens.
The ABCD approach was first developed by John McKnight and John (Jody) Kretzmann, along with their associates in the USA. They set up the Asset-Based Community Development Institute.
As the ABCD approach will be new to the vast majority of you, I thought I’d introduce you to some key resources, which include blogs on this website and other key content. My first two recommended blogs will give you important initial insights and allow you to reflect on the ABCD process:
Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD), Part 1: The ABCD approach has a set of principles and practices that act like a compass in community-building work. These principles and practices fall into five categories: Citizen-led; Asset-based; Relationship-oriented; Place-based, and Inclusion-focused
Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD), Part 2: In his recent Kindle book Asset-Based Community Development: An Incomplete Guide, Cormac Russell describes eight touchstones of ABCD. He points out that whilst all eight Touchstones rarely appear together and do not represent a step-by-step guide to community building, they do show up regularly in ABCD community practice around the world.
Cormac Russell is Managing Director of Nurture Development, the leading ABCD organisation in Europe. He has phenomenal experience with the ABCD approach. I have been communicating with Cormac, who lives in Ireland, for a number of years, and first met him here in Perth. I hold him in the highest regard. I’ve now let him know what is ‘stirring’ in Kojonup, and I am sure he will be very interested in further developments.
I also strongly recommend that you watch the TEDx talk by Cormac Russell at the bottom of this blog. I also strongly recommend you read Cormac’s Asset-Based Community Development: An Incomplete Guide, which you can purchase as a Kindle book (read on phones, computers and other devices) for the grand sum of A$1.37.
Here are four of my other blog posts relating to ABCD which have appeared on this website:
> Sustainable Community Development: From What’s Wrong to What’s Strong – Cormac Russell
> Community Capacities & Community Necessities
> What is distinctive about an ABCD Process – Four Essential Elements
I found Cormac’s book Rekindling Democracy, A Professional’s Guide To Working In Citizen Space to be very useful as I reflected on what I might be able to do to help Kojonup develop the ABCD approach. The book ‘offers a practical yet well-researched guide for practitioners seeking to hone the way they show up in citizen space.’
Lisa has described some of the projects that are developing as part of the wider community development process. It’s exciting to see these developments, but I just wanted to remind you, in moving forward, please do not forget this important initial step, which I quote from Cormac’s Kindle book (his first Touchstone):
‘Discovering and connecting an initiating group of residents: In every community, there are connectors: people who value relationships more than single issues and care about community building more than problem solving. Often in the art of finding connectors, it helps to remember it takes one to know one, so once you’ve found two or three, they’ll find four or six more, and so on like that. As the numbers of connectors multiply and relationships deepen a circle of connectors representing the diversity of a local community starts to form. When a group of connectors connect as an initiating group of residents, with the purpose of having a listening campaign [my bold] across the neighbourhood [community], it is fair to say that an incredibly important touchstone of collective citizen-led action has been reached.’ More
I wish you all well on your new journey.
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