Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Ch.5 celebrating assets and creating a vision

Hallsmith believes that to create a community vision you must first start with an empty agenda, and open mind. The most desirable next step would be to educate the community on systems thinking. Since this is not usually very doable the next best thing is to figure out what assets already exist in the community and recognize them. Assets are determined by HOW they help fulfill community needs. The next step is to determine how all the needs of the community (which are social (well-being), governance (empowerment), economic, as well as infrastructure and the environment (material)) are met, not just celebrating those that are most effective. During this period criticism and negativity must be addressed to further the pursuit of trust building. Diversity of people and their opinions is also highly recommended. Next, the sustainability of the community system must be evaluated through either assessing the capacity available within the needs satisfaction system, or by ranking assets by the level of impact they have. By making this picture clear (through a diagram or some other sort of visual) you will finally be able to identify the places where needs are not being adequately met, if at all. Now comes the hard part, trying to get a community to articulate a shared vision (direction and goal). This vision must in addition be simple and most importantly change the BEHAVIOR of the way the community (individuals) think and act. An interesting example presented was that of Burlington, Virginia where a survey of three questions were sent out (What do you value about Burlington? What do you want to stay the same for your grandchildren? / What do you think needs to change? / What ideas do you have for improving things in Burlington?), ideas compiled, and then a simple vision for the city written (addressing the economy, neighborhoods, governance, youth and life skills, and the environment).

I think that this is a very clear procedure. I almost wonder why it hasn't been done more often. Of course it seems almost too simple, but Hallsmith does discuss a couple of difficulties that may be encountered. This seems like a plan that would always have to be modified to fit each city with their own problems and solutions. It probably is being done...maybe not with great success most of the time, or unnotable success.

This applies to what we've read before about systems. It applies most to why we need to think ‘systems’, in order to see the greater problem, and then prioritize what is most grave. The only thing is, what is the point of determining systematically what is wrong/missing by way of community needs, if in the end we will let the community individuals (who may not know all the facts...most likely don't) make the decisions?

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