Learning Our ABCDs: SAM’s Community Initiative
UUCC’s Social Action Ministry (SAM) is working with Embrace Richmond to implement an Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) project. Our goal is to strengthen selected communities from the inside out, working with community members in partnership and not paternalism.
The ABCD Process
A = Assets
In accounting terms, we refer to “assets” as properties of value. Within the context of the ABCD Program, assets refer to the most valuable commodities of all: the members of a community. Sure, SAM has valuable human capital to bring to the process, and the community may have certain structures or programs in place that assist in community development. But at its core, the success of the ABCD Program depends on the members of the community itself.
B = Based
It is essential that the “base” of the ABCD program be the community members and community resources. Embrace Richmond’s Core Belief is “great neighbors make neighborhoods great.” Once a neighborhood to work with is identified, a partnership of the neighbors and SAM will identify the needs of the community and then work together to address those needs. This is a change in the traditional Social Action Ministry: rather than doing ministry for those in need, we will be doing ministry with them. The goal is to develop community resources and programs that will ultimately be self-sufficient, managed by the neighborhood.
C = Community
A community is generally thought of as a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common. In the ABCD model, our “group of people” is the neighborhood identified by the screening process as offering the most potential for collaborative efforts that will improve the daily lives of its residents. The ABCD program offers our church and the chosen neighborhood the opportunity to work together in developing a self-sustaining set of resources or programs that will exploit a “particular characteristic in common”: a feeling of fellowship with their neighbors, as a result of sharing common interests, attitudes, and goals.
D = Development
There are many alternative definitions of “development,” but SAM likes the one by Merriam-Webster the best: the act or process of growing or causing something to grow or become larger or more advanced. We particularly like the noun “something,” since we do not know right now what the development will be. We are in the process of holding extensive discussions with our chosen neighborhood to find out what would provide the most benefit to the community with buy-in by its citizens. It might be a structure, a food pantry, an after-school program, a tutoring program, or even a coordinated child-care program. SAM may end up partnering not only with the neighborhood but possibly with other existing efforts in the community. Working together, we will identify the most critical needs of the community, then “growing or causing something to grow” as a result of the needs assessment, and finally handing off the “something” to the neighborhood.
Our Progress to Date
As a starting point for this project, SAM issued a call for church volunteers to attend an eight-week training session sponsored by Embrace Richmond. Approximately 18 church members participated in various phases of this process, and all have remained involved in some capacity.
The training course was followed by an intensive research, discussion and screening process to select a community that would be the focus of our efforts. We gathered various economic, educational and social statistics for a number of Richmond area neighborhoods. In addition, numerous meetings were held with community leaders, educators, and social justice advocates.
Eventually the group selected three communities to investigate in more detail. After discussions with educators and other social justice leaders, we selected the Cloisters Apartments in western Henrico County as our neighborhood focus. We are now in the process of meeting community residents and developing an interview process to help identify four or five areas of need for the community based on interview responses. This will be followed by a general meeting for all residents to express their preferences for a critical need that UUCC and the Cloisters community can undertake as a collaborative partnership.
The beauty of the ABCD approach is that we do not know what we will end up with, but the journey promises to be rewarding. We hope that you will join us in this venture. For more information, please contact SAM through the contact information provided on the main page.
We have selected our 5 Dream Catchers who will interview people in the Cloisters neighborhood starting in late July or August.
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