Last weekend I had the opportunity to be a part of the Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) Workshop at the Center for Transforming Communities (CTC). Facilitated by CTC Director, Amy Moritz, the workshop included group discussions, break-out sessions, lunch, and a wonderful tour of the Binghampton neighborhood led by Pastor Billy Vaughan.
Individuals from different neighborhoods across the metropolitan area like Highland Heights, Orange Mound, Germantown, and Grand Junction, TN were in attendance. As each participant introduced herself or himself, Amy engaged each of them by asking questions about each neighborhood in the effort to discover the assets contained within. Some illustrated concern and voiced that their neighborhood lacked assets and perhaps had more struggles and “negatives” than anything else.
Over the course of the workshop, however, it was fascinating to witness the attitudes shifting… changing as Amy talked about the ideas of internally-focused strength-based concepts of ABCD. She began to illuminate ideas such as the benefits of “doing with” rather than “doing to” your neighborhood and challenging participants to consider where they felt an internal sense of “calling” regarding their neighborhoods.
After walking to and eating lunch at Caritas Village (a nearby community partner), we were joined by Billy Vaughan, a pastor and resident of the Binghampton neighborhood, for a walking tour of the surrounding neighborhood. Seemingly, it was at this point in the workshop experience that the group began to truly understand and embrace the value of a neighborhood’s community members and assets.
Billy began by recounting the story of Onie Johns’ calling to the Binghampton area and how she sought to strengthen the community through creativity and relationship-building. “Onie,” Billy said, “is an asset.” As we walked along, he told us about a community member and friend who struggles with mental illness, and another who struggles with alcoholism. Billy said that one is simply brilliant and always willing to help those in need, and the other is one of the most skilled pianists around. “Both men,” Billy continued, “are assets.”
It was becoming clear how every community member had gifts to offer.
Billy pointed out the homes of these individuals as we walked along the breezy streets of residential Binghampton. By the end of the day, it was obvious that the group had a better understanding of ABCD. Moreover, it seemed that there was deeper awareness that recognizing a neighborhood’s assets and gifts is a much more sustainable approach for a neighborhood’s development than focusing on what it does not have.