Looking Back to Look Forward: the intellectual heritage of Asset-Based Community Development
What a week, we’ve just finished the ABCD Festival where we celebrated with people from 17 countries. We revelled in the greatness of small, local, and organic things. And we weren’t alone, yesterday we trended at number 6 in the UK on Twitter for over two hours, then drop to number ten for a further hour; and we also trended at number 9 in Canada.
Next week we’ll write more about the festival once all the graphic art and presentations come through. Another big dimension of the week was the launch of my book: Asset-Based Community Development-Looking Back to Look Forward.
This book is a prequel to a longer book I’m writing called: Altered State.
‘Looking Back to Look Forward‘ seeks to explore the intellectual heritage of Asset-Based Community Development.
In direct interview with John McKnight I explore how -between the late 1950s to date -ten radical thinkers have helped to shape this hyper local, citizen led perspective.
Poignantly, Judith Snow provided the art work for the cover of the books two weeks before she passed. Making what was already a wonderful experience-the writing of the book-even more meaningful. The piece of Judith’s art is entitled ‘Altered State’.
The central thesis of the book as with ABCD is that we need to make small the new big. In a citizen centred democracy citizens produce the future, and the state creates a protective and equitable dome of protection around that, within which citizen led /community invention can flourish.
This book reminds us of the limits of defining democracy in government centric, instead of citizen centred terms. Its central assertions are:
1. Communities are the primary inventors in a democracy, the work of ethical civic professionals is to support that invention; not replace it, overwhelm, or undermine it.
2. Citizens are the producers of the future.
3. We need more radicals, connectors and heretics who help us figure out ‘our way’ particular to our context. Many current leaders are stifling such impulses because of their drive to recruit followers for “their way”.
It is clear that ABCD has a rich and varied intellectual heritage. And that it does not espouse any one way, but rather is grounded in the belief that we’ve got to figure out our way, where we live, together with our neighbours, and be prepared to continue to revisit and revisit in an endless effort to broaden our circles of participation. In this regard it reaffirms the values of localism, and a belief in the significant capacities of indigenous communities. Which largely go unnoticed.
Of course ABCD recognises that there are external forces at play that must be challenged and changed. It simply questions the merits of exclusively trying to change those forces before we’ve done the work of identifying, connecting and mobilising the local forces and resources internal to communities.
The inherent promise being that if more people come to the democratic table, to secure more income, community, choice and control we will alter the State of things at all level. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I enjoyed writing it.
How to get a copy of the book ‘Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD): Looking Back to Look Forward’