Sunday, February 21, 2010

What ARE our community’s assets?

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?


Unknown said...

Well, I'll go first then.

Sligo Creek Golf Course is an asset to the entire Siver Spring community, not just the golfing community, but to all of us who live here. It is an irreplaceable source of recreational space, used by young and old, and by people of all backgrounds, income levels, ethnicity and gender. It's existence enhances Silver Spring as a place to live and to visit. It would cost tens of millions of dollars to build it if it didn't already exist, if it could be built at all. If it isn't preserved, it will be lost forever. There is absolutely zero chance that the will and the resources to reconstruct a 60 acre golf course in side the Beltway in Montgomery County will ever, ever come, so if the course closes, it is gone, gone, gone.

It is a fr better use of the parkland than any other viable use; it creates a small and manageable amount of traffic, which, because of the nature of the way golf courses operate, is not a creator of high volume, in-an-out continual traffic, but rather is an evenflog throughout the day, which is self-limiting given the fact that only so many golfers can play at a time.

SO I nominate Sligo Creek Golf Course for recognition as an endangered, irreplaceable and exceedingly valuable community asset, and urge anyone reading this to renew commence or renew their contacts with the County Council, Park and Planning, the Revenue authority, and anyone else who might be helpful in protecting this treasure.

Anonymous said...

I'll go second.

The last bit's of main street architecture we have on Georgia Avenue that once the recovery generates any momentum, will surely be torn down.
The Cissel-Lee building that was so recently disfigured on Georgia Avenue highlighted here:
is a classic example. More dishartening still since Planners on Montgomery County's own blog dismiss it and other existing buildings as they laud starchitects "that are working to upgrade Silver Spring’s architectural character".

While I don't think it's possible or desirable to save every old building, we have an asset in the buildings that remain between the railroad bridge and Wayne avenue. As countless historic neighborhoods have shown, it can easily be turned into an economic asset, as long as our community has the forsight to save what's left.


The Gridlocksmith said...

Would a traffic safety activist/blogger be included under, "(f) virtual presence?" Hopefully, it is considered a virtue to encourage folks to drive kindly, and try to help establish "Road Peace" as a step on the road to "World Peace." If all Silver Springers would drive like friends and neighbors, wouldn't the community spirit be enhanced?
I'm just a simple fella, and don't know a lot about such things, but, I do agree with the first two comments. Good points, folks.

Anonymous said...

A community asset is a feature which members of the community can share, and which makes the community stronger, more resilient, more valuable, more attractive, more interesting, richer, and more fun. A lot like a personal asset.

Like Sligo Creek Golf Course.

Reemberto Rodriguez, Sr. said...

Thanks all for these comments! They are truly exceptionally "rich" in content... Let's see if we keep the conversation going!

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