Three Steps for Professionals Serving in Citizen Space

Two miners approached a problem. The first, with his headlamp trained on the issue; leaned close; diligently chipping away.

The second, stepped back from the problem and in doing so she cast light on the wider vista. The more she stepped back the more she revealed the environmental, social, cultural, economic and political context and possibilities.

The former saw scarcity; the latter abundance.

In her stepping back she revealed abundance, she was not abandoning she was serving. Serving while walking backwards so as to illuminate the assets and civic space available to citizens.

Asset-Based Community Development commends the second approach. This is particularly relevant for professionals working in civic space. Following such an approach means that when a citizen offers you a problem or a complaint you may respond by:

First, determining with residents whether problems can be resolved by the citizen’s acting together using their own community resources.
Second, can your organisation enhance the collective citizen resources by providing supportive institutional assets as what some are describing a third space (the first space being personal, the second being professional) where people can be civic and powerful together. Access to a free meeting room with plenty of coffee and cake but also bestowed some authority might be an example.
Third, there will be some problems that cannot be resolved with citizen resources, even if supported by institutional assistance. In these cases, an institution (yours or some other or a partnership of institutions) must take full responsibility.

As I conclude, the words of the American poet Robert Frost come to mind:

”Two roads diverged in a wood,
And I, I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

There is always a choice.

Cormac Russell

 

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