Lesson Six

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Community Culture: The Community Way

At the 2009 British Columba First Nations Broadband conference, John McKnight was the keynoter. He is from Northwestern University in Chicago and founded “community asset mapping” and one of his students was Barak Obama. McKnight serves on Obama’s community engagement committee.

His main message was that “the community way” is asset mapping. Asset mapping is simply focusing on the glass half full, focusing on the positive attributes of citizens and communities instead of on the glass half-empty negative attributes such as abuse, addiction, and other negatives.

He says university studies focus on the negatives and never produce solutions. Their model is count up your misery and we’ll give you money. Monies are misdirected to universities not to local people’s power to lead and change. We all have gifts that need to be recognized, celebrated and exercised.

McKnight’s Books: “The Careless Society”  and
“Building Communities from the Inside Out”
The Community asset mapping website:

John McKnight’s best quotes from his keynote speech follow:

The Internet is a tool for bringing people Face-to-Face.

This is what the Obama campaign achieved. 13 million people responded to the online request to support Obama and those who said “I want to help” received online training and volunteered their local leadership to create tens of thousands of local organizing teams with regular house meetings Face-To-Face. Now that the campaign proved successful, the next step should be obvious: Working together to create 21st Century sustainable families, communities, cultures, and Native Nations.

Culture is the way a people have learned to survive in a place through time; To listen to the land as well as to each other, and to grow a community from what you hear.

In 4000 communities he asked;
“What have people who live here done to make things better?”

Local people produced the “betterness” by becoming creators and producers of the future.

Community stories always tell how someone made the connections between local human assets and community needs around their values and commitments.

The Community way of knowing is stories that show authenticity and values.

“Community change stories” is when you bring gifts, skills and assets together to achieve positive change. Every story is this combination.

The Glass half empty? The community can’t use your brokenness. Emptiness doesn’t appear in stories. Listing needs – is the stuff you can’t do anything with. (the glass half empty) Counting up what’s wrong is counter productive, better to count up what’s right and build upon that. The labels we use to describe people’s half-empty side are our enemy: pregnant teen, drunk, mentally retarded, physically disabled, chemically dependent, etc.

These labels sweep us all into the box of emptiness.

Leadership is the call to everybody to contribute. Leadership is the call to gift-giving. To identifying our individual gifts, assets, the glass half full side. Giving the invitation from the middle to everyone on the edge. We are not needy, we are the producers of our dreams.

Native communities are losing kids to metros. How can tribal adults keep the attention and respect of their kids?

We are lacking a clear understanding of where our youth lie.

How can we create face-to-face opportunities to identify values and commitments and call people together such that “WE” will solve the problem? What would you like to see changed? What is your dream for your community?

Communities change when you have a dream, and then bring your gifts, skills and assets together to achieve it.   Community is coming together to identify and share our gifts/assets. The principal resource of a community is its residents, and the volunteer associations and local institutions they create together; people and/or organizations as “connectors.” 

Doing for ourselves, together.  

Collabor-ACTION = Successful Communities

READ: The Rural Broadband Challenge: Use It (review it if you read it for lesson one)

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