Understanding Community Needs based on Community Perspectives

Understanding Community Needs based on Community Perspectives:

Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) – Historically, university researchers have used a “needs assessment approach” or a “deficiency model” as their approach to engaging communities around problem solving. An unintended consequence is that communities (and university researchers) can wind up viewing themselves as having overwhelming problems that can only be solved by outside experts and external resources. An alternate approach, developed by John L. McKnight and John Kertzmann from the Center for Urban Affairs and Policy Research at Northwestern University, is to develop partnerships, programs and policies based on “the capacities, skills and assets” of the people and their local communities. The ARCHES backbone support organization utilizes this approach to community assessment because:

  1. Successful community-engaged problem solving only occurs when local people are actively involved and leading the initiatives, committing themselves and their resources to the effort.

  2. The approach is consistent with the principles of Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) whereby community members participate with researches in solving community problems identified by the community – community members themselves are best-equipped to identify and prioritize the issues that are important to them, and to then collaborate to develop sustainable solutions.

  3. Community development and change must begin from within, building on the resources which the community members already control, while working to acquire those additional resources that are not yet available.

Community Asset Mapping is the approach used in ABCD,for identifying resources and connections – talents, skills, communications, and capacities – already available in the community and rather than focusing on what is missing or identified as a problem. The primary purpose of Community Asset Mapping is to maximize access to resources and leverage the development of additional resources from the university and elsewhere. Asset Mapping brings together individual community members, industry, nonprofits, educational systems, and faith-based groups, and coordinates them around common goals and visions, leading to permanent long-term relationships and sustainable solutions; partnership is the key component of this approach.