Workshop provides the “ABCDs” of community development

It’s not a reading lesson! Find out what outer East Portland neighbors learned about Asset Based Community Development, right here …

“Asset Based Community Development” expert Ron Dwyer-Voss leads the training held in the Centennial neighborhood.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Folks from many outer East Portland neighborhoods – all of them looking for ways to help make better their communities – attended a unique training session held at the Parklane Community Church last month.

The workshop’s organizer, Mike Vander Veen, told us, “‘Asset Based Community Development (ABCD)’ is not a program or solution, but rather a way of approaching community.”

Centennial Community Association chair Tom Lewis, and board member Patty Hicks, discuss ABCD concepts with neighbor Aimee Krouskop.

Focusing on strengths
While the attendees were involved in small group discussions, the trainer, ABCD expert Ron Dwyer-Voss, talked about the program with us.

“ABCD is an approach to engaging one’s community,” Dwyer-Voss began, “It’s based on the premise that residents and local institutions will get better results and by first considering the community’s strengths and assets, rather than the traditional approach of starting with the community’s flaws and needs.”

He said they refer to assets as “gifts” – gifts of individuals, the gifts of association, and the gifts of institutions.

During the workshop, neighbors learn to focus on the “gifts” in their community, instead of its problems.

Better communities from the inside out
Dwyer-Voss said he got involved with the ABCD concept years ago when he worked within very poor communities in inner-city Chicago.

“We realized if we just talked about food stamps, and welfare, gangs, and drugs – we would be overwhelmed with problems. But we looked around and saw some people who were good at taking care of kids, some who were good at cooking, others who were in voluntary associations that could be used to help the community.”
It was there, Dwyer-Voss said, that he saw how this positive approach helps communities build “from the inside out”.

Creating sustainable improvement
“The result of stronger connections between existing community assets is that it provides a stronger community,” noted Dwyer-Voss. “This helps people better deal with problems in a way that is sustainable over time.

“It’s not dependent on whether or not there is a government grant, or a nonprofit organization survives, or an expert is available.  Instead it’s sustainable because the community is controlling it.”

Participants in the ABCD workshop learn that the process can help them solve outer East Portland’s problems on a long-term basis.

Ongoing meetings
If you’re interested in participating in on-going ABCD discussions, these monthly sessions are held at the East Portland Neighborhood Organization offices. Contact Vander Veen at (503) 823-4550 for more information.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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