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Breaking dependency and developing assets – Principles of an Enabling Community

February 24 2016


How can you create an enabling community – where everyone has the opportunity to join in and bring their own experiences and gifts to the table?

Social deprivation, loneliness, a lack of awareness for disability, low-income households – these are all issues affecting people in communities throughout the UK. So how should we respond? Delivering community-focused services do play an essential role in our society – but sometimes taking a service based approach to need, can only go so far. It can create a mind-set of delivery and receipt – rather than participation and change.

In recent months, Livability has jointly produced a report with the Church Urban Fund called Fullness of Life Together that explores ways for churches to take an ‘asset-based’ approach to responding to needs and developing community in their locality. Corin Pilling, Assistant Director for Community Engagement shares some important principles of an enabling community drawn from the report.

  • Building relationship comes first

Building community is all about helping others to make connections, and in a variety of ways. It’s about harnessing the strengths and assets of those in the neighbourhood, rather than just delivering services. So every church or community agency needs to ask itself the question; ‘are we building community, or are we meeting needs?’ The two of course are not mutually exclusive, but it is important to realise that in some cases the way a need might be met may not draw somebody into community. How we do it is as important as what we do.

  • We can’t understand what a community needs until we recognise what a community has

For the activists among us, we can sometimes see a straight line between a need and our ability to meet it. It’s also true that if we’re looking at the need through our perspective alone, we might miss that it is surrounded by a huge amount of resource and perhaps even a different perspective on what’s important. Whether it’s people’s talents, stories, experiences or insight; whether it’s the physical resources and learnings from an area – all have something of value to bring. This type of humble approach honours the history and individuals who are part of any community.

  • In building community – we need to ‘help neighbours share gifts’

This is a phrase from Cormac Russell, who has been instrumental in developing what has become known as ‘Asset Based Community Development.’ And Walter Brueggemann, author and theologian says ‘To make neighbourliness the centre of our social order requires an act of imagination.’ So who are the people you can help connect that might be richer from knowing each other? How do you draw out the hidden gifts in your neighbourhood? How can you see the potential gift in each person?

To explore these principles and broader thinking of what it means to enable community,

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