John McKnight and Jody Kretzmann are a social design visionaries who understand that everyone has a role to play in enabling healthy, inclusive communities. They founded the Asset Based CommunityDevelopment Institute, or ABCD. Building on the skills of local residents, the power of local associations, and the supportive functions of local institutions, asset-based community development draws upon existing community strengths to build stronger, more sustainable communities for the future.
The principles of ABCD are important for everyone, but especially for families living with age or disability related challenges. The core tenets of Asset Based Community Development are rooted in the desire to build a movement for social change. ABCD believes that:
1. Everyone has gifts: each person in a community has something to contribute
2. Relationships build a community: people must be connected in order for sustainable community development to take place
3. Citizens are at the center: citizens should be viewed as actors—not recipients—in development
4. Leaders involve others: community development is strongest when it involves a broad base of community action
5. People care: challenge notions of "apathy" by listening to people's interests
7. Listen: decisions should come from conversations where people are heard
8. Ask: asking for ideas is more sustainable than giving solutions
How does John McKnight say we can achieve these goals? By talking to our neighbours! For caregivers, I want to repeat #4 – that leaders involve others and that community development is strongest when it involves a broad base of community action. We are all leaders. The challenge for caregivers is how to spread the word about the joys and challenges of our lives as we mine for information about neighbours' interests and abilities they might share. If someone has helped you, thank them (publicly, if possible). If your local grocery store has delivered your order when your loved one was ill, ask the manager how you can spread the word about his staff's kindness. When friends offer to help you, ask 'what do you LIKE to do... what are your interests?" Then say, "We'll start with your interests and then match those up to our needs." Listen first. These are a few ways we can build capacity in neighbourhoods.
Be a listener, ask for ideas, believe in the power of relationships to build a movement for neighbour to neighbour sharing. Our caregiving families have assets that are important in neighbourhoods - we embody qualities that make us all more deeply human: love, empathy and altruism. I remember meeting a caregiving activist from British Columbia. On a regular basis, she held soup dinner at her home (she cared for an adult child with developmental disabilities and for her elderly father as well). She knocked on her neighbours' doors (even though she didn't know some of them) and invited them to bring an ingredient to make soup. Everyone came and everyone brought food. What was her secret for community building? She asked. She invited. She opened her door to neighbours. We can do this, and the results will benefit everyone.