Invitation to a Solutions Salon for West Oakland Leaders, 2/24/11

in Asset-Based Community Development, community engagement, Place-based communities, Resident Associations, Resources

The Acorn Residents Council, BRIDGE Housing, and The John Stewart Company

cordially invite you to an evening of fun and fellowship

at the Town Center at Acorn

Join fellow leaders of community-based organizations in West Oakland to talk about your plans for 2011, and to explore ways we can help each other advance the good work that we do.

Thursday, February 24 2011, 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM

Community Room, Town Center at Acorn, 1143 10th Street, Oakland CA 94607



4:00 PM to 4:25 PM Registration and Hors d’oeuvres
4:25 PM to 4:30 PM Welcome and Overview – Janet Patterson

We’ll break out into groups of six to eight. Each participant will be asked (1) What’s the single greatest challenge or obstacle that you’re facing, and (2) What help do you need to significantly advance the work that you do? (One rule: you can’t say “I need more money” – who doesn’t?)

All the other members of the group will then take turns to tell you how they can help you, either directly or indirectly (e.g. by referring you to someone they know who might be able to help).

5:30 PM to 6:00 PM REPORT BACK

A volunteer from each sub group will take notes, and report to the whole group what each member of the subgroup needs the most. This will give all the other participants a chance to know who you are, and think about how they can help.


Free time to talk to other leaders, to discuss how you can help each other, or just to chat. We’ll keep the room open for you until 7PM, if you need it.

Please bring your brochures, flyers etc so other participants can pass them on to their constituents.


If you can attend, please email and let me know how many people will be in your party (max of 2 per org). Better yet, please fill in this online registration form (it timestamps responses, which makes it easier for us to identify the first 40 people to respond). And do feel free to forward this invitation to fellow leaders in West Oakland. I hope you can join us! – Janet Patterson, Chairman of the Board, Acorn Residents Council (510)444-8942.

Mapping the Assets of Your Community: A Key Component for Building Local Capacity

in Asset-Based Community Development, community engagement, Place-based communities, Resident Associations, Resources

From the abstract to Mapping the Assets of Your Community: A Key Component for Building Local Capacity , by Lionel J. Beaulieu, Southern Rural Development Center:

Asset mapping is an effective tool for understanding the wealth of talent and resources that exists in each community–even those with small populations or suffering from poverty and economic distress. The long-term development of a community rests on its ability to uncover and build on the strengths and assets of its people, institutions, and informal organizations.

View Oakland Resource Map in a larger map

[This is an example of an asset map using Google Maps. I found a user-generated map, put together in 2009 by someone identified only as Meghan, then added more resources, mainly in West Oakland. Took me about 30 minutes. - Leo]

Five steps are presented for applying the asset mapping model. The beginning point involves an effort to map the community’s assets, including the talents of local residents and emerging leaders (pdf), local institutions (pdf), informal community and neighborhood organizations (pdf), and existing community leaders (pdf) who are committed to building a more vibrant community.

Next, relationships should be built between residents, institutions, and informal groups. This involves providing opportunities for emerging leaders to have an active voice in long-term economic development strategies for the community.

Step 3 involves mobilizing these identified resources for economic development.

Step 4 is convening the community to develop a shared vision for the future. This requires active discussions, debates, and disagreements that identify which priority issues need to be dealt with first.

Finally, outside resources that can support local priority activities should be located. Communities that have local partnerships firmly established can ensure that outside resources are used to support the community’s priorities.

[A 36-slide PowerPoint presentation that accompanies this workbook is available for download here]

Lessons learned – from Neighbor Power, by Jim Diers

in Asset-Based Community Development, community engagement, Place-based communities, Resident Associations, Resources

Get the Book

Excerpts from Neighbor Power, by Jim Diers. I will conclude by summarizing what I have learned about community, community organizing, community initiatives, and the role of government.

A neighborhood is not the same as a community. A neighborhood is a geographic area that people share, while at community is a group of people who identify with and support one another.

Strong communities are those that rely on their own resources, including the assets that each and every person possesses.

Individual reciprocity is not sufficient. Communities are most powerful when they take collective action. The process of building that kind of power is called community organizing.

The key to community organizing is to start where the people are. The more local the activity, the higher the percentage of people who will get involved.

Organizing entails building on existing networks. Most people are already organized and cannot reasonably be expected to develop an entirely new set of relationships and find time for yet another organization.

Starting where people are also involves identifying their interests. That means listening. The organizer should be prepared to hear and understand interests that may be different from her own.

If a common interest involves an issue, that issue should be framed in a way that is as immediate, as specific, and as achievable as possible. People get involved to the extent that they can have an impact on the things they care about.

Community plans, projects, and social events are good ways to bring people together. Whatever the approach, whatever the issue, it is best to think big and start small.

Community self-help projects tend to have qualities that are missing in projects generated by institutions. Innovations are more likely to emanate from community efforts. Communities have a knack for converting a problem into an asset.

Strengthening the Capacities and Connections of Community Residents

in Asset-Based Community Development, community engagement, Place-based communities, Resident Associations, Resources

Highlights from Voices From the Field II: Reflections on Comprehensive Community Change, by Anne C. Kubisch, Patricia Auspos, Prudence Brown, Robert Chaskin, Karen Fulbright-Anderson, and Ralph Hamilton. Washington, D.C.: Aspen Institute.

Community capacity: the interaction of human capital, organizational resources, and social capital existing within a given community that can be leveraged to solve collective problems and improve or maintain the well-being of that community. It may operate through informal social processes and/or organized efforts by individuals, organizations and social networks. (Chaskin, Brown, Venkatesh & Vidal, 2001).


The key features of communities with capacity are a sense of community among residents, a commitment by residents to organize and act to improve the community, an ability to act to solve problems, and access to resources within and beyond the community.

Because residents are the core of a community’s assets, they represent the first level in the ecology of community change. As both agents and beneficiaries of community change, they can play a central role in shaping, implementing, and sustaining the change agenda. In many low-income communities, however, residents lack opportunities and support for those roles. Efforts by recent community-change ventures to increase residents’ capacity involve developing them as leaders, creating social connections, and organizing people to participate in change.

Developing Leaders

Our definition and discussion of leadership development draws heavily from a recent publication on community capacity (Chaskin, Brown,Venkatesh & Vidal, 2001), which describes the following characteristics: [Leadership development] attempts to engage the participation and commitment of current and potential leaders, provide them with opportunities for building skills, connect them to new information and resources, enlarge their perspectives on their community and how it might change, and help them create new relationships.

Methods range from formal training programs, which convey information or develop particular skills, to on-the-job training in which participants become members of boards or planning teams, serve in apprenticeships or co-staffing positions, and receive coaching or other training that prepares them to assume new roles. These approaches can be used to cultivate individual leaders or cadres of individuals who can participate in any stage of the community-change process: developing the overall vision, creating the plan for change, performing activities to implement the plan, tracking progress, and spreading the news about results.


AmeriCorps Member Revitalizes Neighborhood

in Asset-Based Community Development, community engagement, Place-based communities, Resident Associations, Resources

via | Stories of Service: Profiles in Service: AmeriCorps Member Revitalizes Neighborhood.

By Fred Wong

On April 21, 2009, President Obama signed the Serve America Act into law – the most sweeping expansion of national service in a generation. To mark the one year anniversary, we are going to spotlight the stories of everyday service heroes who are transforming lives and local communities across the country. Here is Effy’s story.

Five years ago, Mika Community Development Corporation recruited its first AmeriCorps member in the Shalimar neighborhood of Costa Mesa, CA. Her name was Effy Sanchez. During that year Effy walked door to door in this neighborhood trying to discover what neighbors were interested in changing to improve their community. She listened over and over. Finally it was clear. The neighbors wanted their park back.

It was a tiny park. It had been taken over by drug users and gangs. It was riddled with paraphernalia dangerous to children. The park caused such fear in parents that they brought their children to school and back home holding their hands the whole way and they did not allow their children to leave the house.

Within a year, Effy organized a neighborhood committee. With the committee established, neighbors were able to collaborate to make the community safer. The neighbors arranged a new neighbor welcome program, organized meals for the sick, and established a trash clean up schedule for the elderly.

Eventually, Effy arranged for meetings with the Parks and Recreation Department to upgrade the park. She coached the committee members in negotiations with the department. Today they have their park back with lights that work and a new playground. It is a community center where residents interact. The committee has since moved on to other successes.

In her second year of service, Effy began walking and listening to the Maple neighborhood, a second target neighborhood. She organized a local citizens group to take responsibility for the neighborhood. The group’s greatest undertaking to date has been organizing and developing an after-school learning center to help students succeed. The group used its meager resources to rent a center (which was an apartment) and provide snacks and supervision. The group engaged church volunteers from a nearby supporting congregation to help operate the center.

Mika CDC has now been an AmeriCorps program four-and-a-half years and it is working in its fourth neighborhood. Costa Mesa is stronger and better because AmeriCorps members are teaching residents, churches, non-profits, and the city how to implement Asset Based Community Development principles and practices in their neighborhoods.

Learn more about AmeriCorps.

Survey of Interests, Needs, and Skills (INs)

in Asset-Based Community Development, community engagement, Place-based communities, Resident Associations, Resources

Here’s a tool you might be able to use to get a better appreciation of the interests, skills, and needs of your constituents, and to help them connect with one another, and with other local resources. You can download the pdf by clicking on the image below. You can also edit and download the form, in spreadsheet format, here (some formatting was lost in the file translation).

The form was designed for residents of multi-family subsidized housing communities. We didn’t use some of items from the original Capacity Inventory (Kretzmann & McKnight 1993), but kept them in a separate tab (Skills, column J), so you can just copy & paste as needed.

Most respondents completed the form in under eight minutes, with some, who answered the open-ended questions at the end of the survey, taking up to 15 minutes.

Matt Singh (a fellow founder of the Idealist Silicon Valley group) and I developed the form, which we derived (with thanks) from several sources:

We’d appreciate your feedback. And as we roll this out to more residents, we’ll need online/offline tools to make it easier for them to match their interests, needs, and skills with those of their neighbors. Any ideas?

Neighborhood-based community building handbooks recommended by Jim Diers

in Asset-Based Community Development, community engagement, Place-based communities, Resident Associations, Resources

“Few people in this country know as much about community building as Jim Diers,” said  Fred Kent, President of Project for Public Spaces (PPS). From 1988 to 2002, Jim led Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods which is “widely known as the most innovative effort in the U.S. to empower local residents” (John P. Kretzmann, Co-director or the Asset-Based Community Development Institute).

Jim’s been dragged all over the world by people and orgs keen to learn from his real-world experience as a community builder. He’s currently on a tour through Ireland, England, Australia, New Zealand, India, Canada, and the US. (It’s not really a book tour, but a lot of the discussions revolve around the ideas and practices detailed in his must-read book Neighbor Power.) Yet he somehow found time to answer my request.

In my own experience as a community organizer, I’ve found that it’s so much easier to get things moving when people don’t have to first invent the wheel. So I like workbooks. Our Blocks recently featured one workbook,which I thought was the best I’d seen so far. I asked Jim if others came to mind. He said he’d give it more thought when he had more time, but off the top of his head:

  1. The Organizer’s Workbook, published by the Indianapolis Neighborhood Resource Center -  a roadmap to discovering, organizing and engaging your neighborhood. (This is the workbook we’d previously featured, as noted above. Incidentally, I corresponded this week with INRC Executive Director Anne-Marie Taylor, who said she’d “love to hear how folks outside of Indianapolis are utilizing this Workbook”.)
  2. The Great Neighborhood Book, by Jay Walljasper, published by PPS. (In the Great Minds Think Alike category, this book was also recommended to us by UMass Professor Emeritus Bill Berkowitz, Development Partner at the Community Tool Box.)

Not a workbook, but something Jim brought up in relation to my plans to do community-building work in the Philippines: From Clients to Citizens – Deepening the Practice of Asset-Based and Citizen-Led Development (pdf) – Conversations from the ABCD Forum, July 8 – 10, 2009. Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada. Edited by Alison Mathie and Deborah Puntenney. December 2009. The Coady International Institute published this under a CC-ANSA license, very nice of them.

Thanks for your recommendations Jim.

Other recent articles on Jim Diers by friends of Our Blocks: Jim Diers on citizen action by Kevin Harris at Neighborhoods; Getting back to Government Is Us at Socialreporter (which includes a beer-powered interview by David Wilcox). You can also find Jim’s talks on The Youtubes, three of which (so far) we’ve added to our Videos collection. Not recent but still fresh, this hour-long conversation on KUOW (note: turns out there’s a difference between mating calls and meeting calls).