For more than twenty years, in over thirty countries, and with hundreds of communities, CORMAC RUSSELL has been a leading figure in the field of Asset-Based Community Development. In his new ‘How To Build Community’ podcast interview, he shares some of his wisdom and experience. Here’s five highlights.
1. I used to work as a psychologist with kids in community care, but it struck me that a lot of the kids were receiving neither community nor care. They were looked after by people who were paid to look after them, and they didn't really have any connection with neighbours on the street. They were effectively institutionalised. I started to look around for how they could get connected with neighbours, and this led me to the work of John McKnight and the ABCD Institute. 2. The idea with ABCD is that you start with what's strong in a community, not with what's wrong. You then use what’s strong to address what’s wrong, and make what’s strong even stronger still. And there's a basic three-step sequence to it: What can the community do alone just using local resources? What can it do with help from outside resources, where the community takes the lead? And finally, what does the community need done for it? 3. Every community I’ve been to has three things in common. Firstly, every single person has gifts – something to contribute to the wellbeing of the community, whether they realise it or not. Secondly, I’ve always received hospitality. Thirdly, there are always groupings of people figuring out how they can do together what they can’t do alone. 4. If a person is not actively participating in a group or network in their community, and then the following year they get connected, they reduce their chance of premature death by up to 50%. Now that's impact. If somebody said to me they have a drug or professional institutional intervention that can compete with that, I'd love to see it! 5. The more that people are interdependent at the centre of their community - as opposed to dependent on external resources - the more powerful they are when they sit with donors. Then they can say, “We're not passive recipients here. We're citizens. We’re powerful people. We have a real sense of what will work around here, and we'd like to invite you in to help us extend that capacity so we can have more impact”. That's the conversation that really makes change happen.
Listen to the full interview with Cormac here.