McKnight & Kretzmann’s Mapping Community Capacity address an issue that I have puzzled over for many years: How can the government create an incentive to better one’s life circumstances without creating and perpetuating an environment of unhealthy need and dependence that engenders mere existence and probably hopelessness, to create producers rather than service clients? Unfortunately, I have observed friends living on public assistance who don’t realize they have skills and creativity to contribute to their community, and I have seen politicians that are not interested in addressing this problem where one group votes to cut benefits and the other group votes to increase benefits. Neither is interested in the disenfranchised and how to help them. The disenfranchised are merely pawns for votes or non-votes. I don’t see hope in the perpetuation of such inequities.
The alternative is an asset-based community development (ABCD) that assesses the knowledge and experience already present in the community, to help people thrive rather than merely survive, to value the skills that are already present in the community rather than concentrate on what is missing. There is also a more practical reality in this approach: Most urban communities have no hope of attracting major industries or services that would bring local jobs. The old saying regarding making lemonade when all you have are lemons is appropriate here. Use the resources you have and get creative.