Kretzmann & McKnight (1993) provide us with the equivalent of a bible, one to implement asset-based community (or capacity-focused) development from the ground up. This isn’t about assessing needs, deficiencies, and problems, but discovering a community’s capacities and assets. This is an important distinction because it takes the standard way of solving community problems with bureaucracy and a band-aid and puts that power into the hands of community to help themselves and utilize their already present resources.
While the book is broken down into several chapters that are designed to be flexible for and within the community in question, it would be idea if spreadsheets, software, or even an app were developed to further break this down into more manageable pieces. The first chapter, “Releasing Individual Capacities,” is powerful, providing assessments (that could certainly be augmented; given that this was published in 1993 and has not been revised to reflect current personal technologies) in several sections in which to assess the skills and gifts of individuals thoroughly. What is inspiring, though, is the assumption that everyone from children to the elderly, from the lower income to the affluent, to the disabled. No one is left out. Everyone has skills and gifts that most communities and businesses ignore and this, while revitalizing communities, can also revitalize individuals.
And to further confirm my belief that everything and everyone are connected in myriad ways, Kretzmann & McKnight (1993) provide several charts where different groups (in one case, local youth) are potentially partnered with several others in the community, individuals, the private sector, associations, and public institutions, in order to maximize individual potential and foster a true sense of community that is the cause of community breakdown and individual alienation within the community. Given that this publication is over twenty years old, I wonder that more communities have not yet implemented programs to revitalize their communities with it. And they don’t even stop there, this book builds upon previous partnerships, adding a layer that strengthens those partnerships with local businesses that provide training and raw materials that youth can utilize to contribute to the local community, community center associations that can employ them to research community organizations and inform residents of what is available, local schools that sponsor educational programs where youth can learn about their own community, and even a youth “crime patrol” in a housing complex that monitors the playground, discouraging fights, and keeping a watch on the elderly. There are similar maps and sections for each sector of the community broken down with detailed suggestions, and as I suggested above, this “map” is infinitely expandable depending upon the needs of the community. At the end of each section there are even lists of associations and groups to empower each sector (many are Illinois based, but some are national). Ultimately, this comes down to enrolling the community to invest in itself, to reveal the value of the community as evolutionary.
Kretzmann, J. P., & McKnight, J. (1993). Building communities from the inside out (pp. 1-107). Evanston, IL: Center for Urban Affairs and Policy Research, Neighborhood Innovations Network.