They are all around us, our community’s assets. Some are obvious; some not so obvious.
But, exactly WHAT is a “community asset”?
You’d figure Wikipedia would have the answer. Wrong! (Hmmm… Maybe there’s an opportunity here for us to create that entry!)
In the absence of a Wikipedia definition for “community assets”, here’s a first cut:
- A community asset is a tangible, identifiable element in a given geographic area that adds value to the well being of a majority of its members
- Community assets are recognized by a consensus of the affected population to have a positive, constructive impact on community life.
- A community asset is local and place-based, clearly identifiable with the people and/or institution in the community.
- Community assets do not necessarily need to be ‘mapable’ and/or quantifiable, though those that are can be most effectively communicated.
There’s been lots of work done on “community assets”. The ‘bible’ on the topic is the work done by McKnight at Northwestern University. His simple categories - and particularly his mapping technique highlighting ‘assets’ rather than ‘needs’ - have stood the test of time. (That is, for at least 15 years, which is an eternity by today’s standards!)
His categories are: (a) individual capacities; (b) associational and organizational capacities; (c) public institutions and services; (d) physical resources. [My additions: (e) business and entrepreneurship enterprises; and, (f) virtual presence.]… You can find his work at: McKnight's Work
Currently, the ABCD group (for Asset Based Community Development) is keeping the concept alive and well… Their link is at ABCD.
There are lots of folks, academicians and municipalities that have dabbled with this – some with more success than others… Some of my favorite ones include:
- What is asset mapping? (great intro piece)
- Mapping Cultural Assets (from Australia!)
- Creating Asset Inventories (from the Idealist publication)
One work in particular has truly taken this to a new, more ‘real’ level. It brings together the values of community organizing, community leadership and community building to forge 'community engagement'. That is the work of Bill Traynor and the organization he leads – the Lawrence Community Works… You can read Bill’s thesis ('Leadership in a Connected World')at:
- Bill Traynor (from the Non-Profit Quarterly)
This is not some sort of esoteric, academic or philosophical discussion or topic.
Given our current, very real fiscal challenges and municipal budget situation, this is a very practical and pragmatic discussion:
How do we most effectively and efficiently identify, catalog, and ultimately connect our community assets to our community challenges?
Read and/or browse some of the above-referenced links and chime in!
Do you have comments and/or additions to the definition of ‘community assets’ proposed above? What do you think are our community’s most precious assets? Why?