Monday, May 22, 2006

2006 JUN | Now I Know My ABCD's - Next Time Won't You Do ASSET-MAPPING with Me?

Now I Know My ABCD's -
Next Time Won't You Do ASSET-MAPPING with Me?
Every single person has capacities, abilities and gifts. Living a good life depends on whether those capacities can be used, abilities expressed and gifts given. If they are, the person will be valued, feel powerful and well-connected to the people around them. And the community around the person will be more powerful because of the contribution the person is making.-John McKnightAsset Based Community Development (ABCD)
The ABCD Institute makes asset-mapping child's play! Literally!!! They have developed a program that could be done primarily by the youth of the community. It is so well-designed that it does not require professionals to do it. In fact, it is expressly about reversing dependency on professionals. It is about community development of the people, by the people, and for the people. The design of the program flows from the design of it's originating conceptual system which flows from the spirit of putting people first! It puts people's assets, strengths, and potential contributions first.

The traditional way is to put people's liabilities, weaknesses, and needs first. Asset-Based Community Development puts peoples assets, strengths, and potential gifts to the community first. It makes a difference in how we are thinking about our community and the people who live in it. "You never get a second chance to make a first impression", and the conceptual system with which we approach our community-building work makes our first impressions for us. It blocks people-to-people connections when we start off seeing people as half-empty rather than half-full. Most groups do this out of habit, because "that's the way it's done" or because "that's how the professionals do it" and because nobody has ever questioned it and offered another way.

Building on the work of Saul Alinsky, John McKnight has developed the Institute for Policy Research (IPR) at Northwestern University in Chicago. From this strong organizational platform, these resources are being distributed and established across America and around the world. ABCD is  being implemented in Canada from the maritimes to Vancouver. It is also in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Europe, and Australia. Here in the US, many localities are adopting ABCD.

The Minnesota Department of Health website lists the following summary:

Five Steps Toward Whole Community Mobilization
McKnight and Kretzmann offer the following steps, not as a complete blueprint for broad, asset-based community development, but as some of the major challenges they may point to a potential process. They include:

Step 1: Mapping the capacities and assets of individuals, citizens' associations and local institutions that exist and that can be marshaled in the community

Step 2: Building and strengthening partnerships among local assets for mutually beneficial problem solving within the community

Step 3: Mobilizing the community's assets for economic development and information sharing purposes

Step 4: Convening as broadly representative a group as possible for thepurposes of building a community vision and plan

Step 5: Leveraging activities, investments and resources from outside the community to support asset-based, locally-defined development

ABCD is one tool among many complementary approaches listed on the Minnesota Department of Health's webpage on, "Community Engagement and Eliminating Health Disparities".
"Go in search of people. 
Begin with what they know.

Build on what they have."- Chinese proverb

The Center for Collaborative Planning has three main programs: Women's Health Leadership, Community Partnerships for Healthy Children, and the California Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) Institute.  Good health is a function of good community as much as any other factor as research now shows.

Asset-Based Community Development is the kindest approach from a human perspective AND it's the smartest and most efficient approach from a practical buts & bolts organizing perspective. It gives you as complete a picture as possible of the assets & potential assets in your community. It tells you what is available and who is willing to help and to what extent. It takes the guessing out of it. It stops cold the wrangling and whining and arguing over whether the neighborhood organization is half full or half empty. You assume the neighborhood is at least half full. That's more than enough to fill all the organizations in the neighborhood that are working hard to build community in the neighborhood for our children and for our children's children.

WEB-LINKS to Navigational Aids for Sustainable

Asset-Based Community Development Institute (ABCD)


John McKnight - BIO

Community Development Program

Minnesota Department of Health

California ABCD Institute
Center for Collaborative Planning

2006 MAY | METAPHOR IN FULL BLOOM: Sustainable Agriculture, Sustainable Organizing, and Spider Plants

Sustainable Agriculture, Sustainable Organizing, and Spider Plants
All theories of organisation and management are based on implicit images or metaphors that persuade us to see, understand, and imagine situations in partial ways. Metaphors create insight. But they also distort. They have strengths. But they also have limitations. In creating ways of seeing, they create ways of not seeing. Hence there can be no single theory or metaphor that gives an all-purpose point of view. There can be no 'correct theory' for structuring everything we do. - Gareth Morgan
Everyone is familiar with the basic plant metaphor for organization. Even non-Master Gardeners and non-Master Organizers - of which there is no such thing as the latter and this writer is neither - get the idea that you start with dirt then add seed, water and light. However, the trick seems to be optimizing quantity and quality at every step of the process from selection of dirt and seed to providing water and light.

Then comes protection from weeds, pests, and varmints. This must continue regularly and consistently with diligence and vigilance. Otherwise, your hard work can, and probably will, disappear with surprising speed.

Learning opportunities abound year-in and year-out. Whether one is growing a single flower in one's apartment, a garden in their yard, or a large farm feeding many people, if you do not learn then you will fail. This is a basic element of sustainable agriculture and sustainable organizing. This is what Peter Senge calls, "The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization".

Of course, the idea of "learning" would lead us to a brain metaphor for organization, but, this is the "plant metaphor" column. However, the root concept is parallel structure and process. Brains are massively parallel neural networks. Parallel processing is the opposite of serial processing in terms of information processing. Instead of one processor handling one piece of information at a time - serially - many processors are networked and coordinated so that they all participate in processing the stream of information nearly simultaneously. The top-level processors delegate processing out to the network then receive the results. This is the architecture of the most powerful supercomputers -Parallel Distributed Processing (PDP). Applying this to organizing people, we get Parallel Distributed Democracy (PDD) - if 2 heads are better than 1, then 10 heads are better than 2; 5,000 are better than 10; 62,000 are better than 5,000; etc..

The spider plant models this very nicely. Gareth Morgan uses the spider plant metaphor to describe the most advanced highly effective organization. It's built from simple, easily reproduced building blocks.  Morgan calls it an, "example of an organizational style ideal for conditions requiring flexibility, innovation and change." He has 6 models of organization which people can use to fix their position in their organization. They range from "Model 1 - the classical bureaucracy", to "Model 6" which "often operates on 'spider plant principles,' discussed in Chapter 2", of his book, "Images of Organization".

Morgan is a leader in communicating the role of metaphor in our lives. Two other communication leaders are George Lakoff and Mark Johnson. In their book, "Metaphors we live by", they suggest that, "in all aspects of life ... we define our reality in terms of metaphors and then proceed to act on the basis of the metaphors. We draw inferences, set goals, make commitments, and execute plans, all on the basis of how we in part structure our experience, consciously and unconsciously, by means of metaphor."

Leadership is about communication. When organizations are led by people who cultivate a culture which nurtures clarity, then functional sustained action is made much easier. Morgan's Spider Plant model facilitates development of small, decentralized, grassroots, entrepreneurial organizations.

WEB-LINKS to Navigational Aids for Sustainable Organizing:



IMAGINIZATION: New Mindsets for Seeing, Organizing, Managing