Focusing on What is There, Instead of On What is Not There

I am going to talk about one of the most critical things for working in a city that is identifying and using assets. In the last Blog we compared relief, betterment and empowerment. In this Blog we will talk briefly how do you identify where to begin.

In Neighborhood Transformation we focus on the assets already found in the neighborhood, and to a much less extent with what is not there or the problems. The appeal lies in its premise that communities can drive the development process themselves by identifying and mobilizing existing, but often unrecognized assets, and thereby responding to and creating local economic opportunity.

We identify and mobilize the assets of individuals, associations, and institutions that are already in the neighborhood and then bring them to come together to build on their assets– not concentrate on their needs. Citizens are the primary assets and activators of assets in a local community. Focusing on assets is the exact opposite way that most people and organizations work in an underserved urban neighborhood.

The Welfare system today works in such a way that professionals have made clients and recipients of the poor, robbing them of the support from their neighbors who now think that they are not skilled enough to help. This leads to isolation of the individuals. The poor begin to see themselves as people with special needs that can only be met by outsiders, but this can be changed by focusing on what’s there already.

When people discover what they have, they find power. When people join together in new connections and relationships they build power. When people become productive together, they exercise their power to address problems and realize dreams. By focusing on assets we create something else new which is to reinstitute neighbor helping neighbor and not being dependant on professionals for everything.

When we focus on needs we deal with What is not there, Providing services to meet needs, People then become consumers and Programs appear to be the answer. People are disempowered and wait for others to solve their problems.

But when we focus on Assets we deal with what is there waiting to be used, we connect people so they are making contributions, they become citizens who are directing their lives and we find that people are the answer. People become active agents of change and owners of the solutions realizing that they can control their own destiny. When this happens this is the beginning step in transformation.

One big difference between working in a rural village and an urban neighborhood is the word community, (common and unity) really applies. This means when you start development you are ENTERING into an existing community that has been there a long time.

But in urban neighborhoods people have not been there generations and they hold very few things in common therefore they have very little sense of unity. In reality a neighborhood is really described by the word diversity. One key thing in starting NT is to find some small pockets of commonality, bring them together around their one interest and build trust. In reality in urban neighborhoods we are CREATING a neighborhood.

By identifying assets and interests that people have you are really finding ways to connect people as you build on the positive not the negative.


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