Kairos West Community Center

A Social Justice Community Livingroom

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Moving From What’s Wrong to What’s Strong

by Nicole St.Charles, Kairos West MSW Intern

We are living in a culture centered on commerce that has trained our brains to effortlessly identify what is lacking rather than what is abundant.  Whether it’s an ad for deodorant illustrating what you need to be attractive or a job market screaming that you’re not valuable without a college degree, the message is clear – no matter what you’ve got, you’re missing something!

An assessment that focuses on what is needed or lacking can be useful to organizations and institutions, but often undermines the empowerment of individuals and communities that contain so much wisdom and experience waiting to be tapped.  

Enter Asset-Based Community Development, or ABCD, as it’s called in social work speak.  This is the idea that everyone has unique and valuable gifts (or, assets), and it’s one of the central themes embraced at Kairos West Community Center.  And I do mean everyone – no exceptions.  These gifts might manifest as hard skills, creative perspectives, knowledge or wisdom.

Maybe you have experience as an electrician, a beautiful singing voice, or a far-reaching knowledge of the history of Asheville, as a native.  Or maybe you have a truck – transportation is a huge gift!

When individuals in our community come together around a common interest, associations are fostered and community networks are built.  At Kairos, community members come together for new experiences and connections, good conversation and…well, community.  We’re reminded each day that when we get to know our neighbors and approach each other with curiosity rather than fear or competition, it’s easy to recognize each others’ unique assets.

The beauty of this approach to community development is in its sustainability.  In other words, if an outside expert comes into the community to address a need in that community (needs-based approach), that expert’s assets are inherently part of the solution. When the expert leaves the community – in hopes it will continue to thrive – they take their assets with them and something essential is lost, often resulting in the collapse of the initiative that held brief promise.  With ABCD, the growth of the community is maintained and develops organically.

To learn more about Asset-Based Community Development, check out these resources:

Managing Director of Nurture Development – “From What’s Wrong to What’s Strong”

CEO of Houston-based Neighborhood Centers Inc. – “The First New Question”

OR stop by Kairos West to see it in action!