Sunday, September 2, 2007

Celebrating Assets, Creating a Vision

In this chapter, Hallsmith discusses two very important aspects of creating sustainable communities. On one hand, she emphasizes the fact that, as social beings, we need to celebrate together things that make us proud of our communities. Not only do inspiring assets bring us together, they show us what's possible and motivate us to work towards improvement. On the other hand, she notes that in order for the positive to come out of our assets, communities must have a vision. Without a vision, communities don't see the road ahead, and are unlikely to follow something they can't picture becoming true in the future.

One important tool that she details is an asset inventory. These inventories allow communities to figure out what assets exist within it and how they can be best used to make the community sustainable. Schools, natural resources, infrastructure, etc. are things that are valuable to the community and help sustain it. Knowing these assets and how they are being used gives a preliminary idea about whether the community is sustainable. For example, sustainable communities must know how many resources they use and how much of those go to waste. If a community uses more than what it can generate and has to depend on declining resources elsewhere, then the community may not be sustainable. Similarly, if problems within the community worsen human capital, then the ability of the community members to help sustain the community over the long-term may disappear.

Finally, communities must get together to create a vision, something they can stand by and work for. As Hallsmith explains, a vision is the roadmap to the future, a point where members want to see their community go. The examples given, such as that of Burlington, VT and Geneva, NY, show what this means. It's a clear picture of what community members want to see in their communities. This usually means a strong local economy with good jobs and businesses, an excellent transportation system, great education, green spaces, renewable energy use, and local food resources. This kind of vision is what motivates people to work as a community to achieve a medium- to long-term goal.

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