Recently a friend asked me why  asset-based community development matters. I have a difficult time stating succinctly what the outcome of our development approach is.

I don’t think my friend intended to use the “5 why technique” on me but essentially that is what he did.

Here is how the conversation unfolded.

My Friend:   Why do you do what you do?

Me:  Because I want to see to see neighborhoods become stronger.

My Friend:  Why do you want to see neighborhoods strengthened?

Me:  Because unhealthy communities are a root cause of many social ills like failing schools, poor health outcomes, high levels of crime, lack of economic opportunities,  isolation, depression and unhealthy relationships.

My Friend:  So why does what you do have an impact on these root causes?

Me:  Because the social fabric of communities has been eroded which leads to isolation, loss of power and control over one’s future, and systems that leave the community with no voice.  Through our ABCD efforts we weave back together the social fabric of a community by bringing people together around things they care about.  A strong sense of connection in a community breaks down isolation, increases one’s sense of power and ability to control one’s own future, and this gives people a collective voice to address the unhealthy systems that are eroding their community.

My Friend: So why is it important to bring people together around what they care about?

Me:  It is important for four reasons:

  • When neighbors know each other they look out for one another and this leads to an increased sense of safety and security and ultimately a reduction in crime.
  • When neighbors know one another and come together on a regular basis there is a reduction in isolation and depression which leads to healthier families and relationships.
  • When neighbors work together to address issues that they are concerned about, there is an increased sense of power and control over one’s life and the future of the community. The increased sense of power leads to an increase in vocational opportunities as people find the strength and courage to continue their education or to move into employment.
  • When neighbors work toward a healthier community, they create opportunities for all citizens, especially young people, to develop their gifts and talents which opens up opportunities for a brighter future for the next generation.

My Friend: So why does asset-based community development matter?

Me:  When neighbors work together they experience

  • increased safety and security
  • improved mental, emotional, and relational well-being
  • greater power and control over their lives and their community
  • increased opportunities to develop their gifts and talents

It was a long and at times difficult conversation for me but I am thankful that my friend challenged me to work harder at identifying and naming the impact of the work that we do.

In the coming months, I am going to be sharing with you stories of how Embrace Richmond’s community building efforts are making neighborhoods safer, healthier, and more empowering for youth and adults.