Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hallsmith - "short" blog: Ch. 5 Celebrating Assets and Creating a Vision

In Chapter 5: Celebrating Assets and Creating a Vision, Hallsmith outlines the initial steps in the process of creating sustainable systems in a community. The three main strategies she suggests are (1) community participatory planning, (2) taking a community asset inventory, and (3) determining a shared vision.

A community participatory approach often involves including stakeholder groups in planning meetings. The idea is that people are more likely to embrace change when they take place in choosing the changes that need to happen.

The community asset inventory approach is expressed as an alternative to a problem-centered approach. Hallsmith encourages an identification and celebration of the best experiences that already exist. She recommends mapping the assets in reference to the corresponding needs that are being met. A mapping should then reveal the areas that need improvement and gaps that exist.

Creating a shared vision is the final step in this preliminary planning process. Collective goals are expressed and combined to create a consensus on where the community wants to go. Hallsmith mentions The Earth Charter – a Vision statement for the world.

Application – Case example:
Over the summer I worked on a project proposal to create an inventory of obesity prevention programs across the nation. This was an asset-based approach; to see what services were provided by each program and examine what impact the programs could have if they formed partnerships in their communities.

Hallsmith talks about mapping the system of assets to provide a visual representation of what needs aren’t being met adequately or at all. This sounds like it could be very effective, but I have a hard time picturing what it would look like, especially with more than one factor (i.e.; water AND transportation on the same map?) An illustration would have been extremely helpful here.

Hallsmith recommends that each part of the community be represented. She asks “Why do citizens get involved with local decision making? Why do they not?” but she doesn’t really answer this – There is an underlying assumption that there will be volunteers from each part of the community to participate in the planning process. The people who are less inclined to participate may be hesitant based on something related to a lacking asset – and so are ironically the very people who should be there – and the question should be “is it possible to involve the quieter, less assertive voices of the community?”.

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