Emergence: What is it? Why should we care?


By Deb Wisniewski, 2012-02-09

I just received this article from a colleague of mine - Using Emergence to Take Social Innovation to Scale, by Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze. I'd love to know what other people think of it.

Emergence is a new term for me, so I'm still pondering what it means in te scope of the work that I do. What do you think? How do these ideas affect your thinking/working?

Here's the article...

Building Caring Communities, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada is looking for a new Director of Community Development and Social Networks.Learn more about the position here.

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Working in the Gap (The Abundant Community)


By Deb Wisniewski, 2015-04-01

The following post was written for the Abundant Communityby Deb Wisniewski, with Dan Duncan and Tom Mosgaller, as a support piece related to theupcoming online/audioconferencewith John McKnight, Peter Block and Tom Mosgaller.

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Working in the Gap

Often, when you get together with a group of people interested in Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD), you find a conversation about the gifts of individuals and what communities can do for themselves. But what about institutions? Institutions have been primarily focused on identifying community problems (deficit-based) and bringing in outside experts to solve those problems. Does ABCD give us a way to think about institutions and their relationships with communities in a different way?

It had become evident that the ability of institutions to respond to deficiencies as the primary model was doomed to failure, especially given the growing complexity and unpredictable events taking place in communities. Many local institutions began exploring how they could do their work differently if they thought of it from an ABCD perspective. What would happen if they changed the nature of their relationships with the community? Instead of trying to take over or fix a community, how could they actively support and empower people and the communities they live in? And what would it actually look like to have their staff do their work differently?

A transformation of thinking and doing was taking place. Communities have to become partners and co-producers of our future. The mental model of government or not-for-profits as vending machines where we put in our money, pull the lever and expect service is no longer viable.... Tom Mosgaller

As a result, the transformation that had been taking place was given a name - "Working in the Gap." The "Gap" is that space between the Institution andthe Community. "Gappers" are both the staff who do the actual work in communities, as well as the institutions who are working to put ABCD into practice through their organization.They have one foot in their institution and one foot in the community they serve. Gappers are a visible expression of the transformation that has been going on in institutions that are actively changing the way they thought about and worked with communities.

Gappers understand that, to build stronger and healthier families and neighborhoods, they must engage the people they serve as the primary producers of their own and their communitys well-being. They see their work as not just delivering services to meet the needs of the people they serve (filling in their emptiness). They see their role as working to create opportunity so that the people they serve can use their gifts. Gappers help people they serve move beyond the role of client to that that of a community participant, by asking not just "what do you need?", but also asking "what can you contribute?" They work to identify and unlock the assets present in neighborhoods and communities where they work. Gappers are in key role to remove the barriers that keep community members from sharing their gifts and contributing to their communitys well-being.

There are challenges to working in the gap for both the individual Gappers as well as the institutions. Some of these include:

  • Does changing the way your organization function conflict with its mission? How does leadership (including board members) feel about the changes?
  • Are Gapper staff fully supported by the organization or do they feel that they need to fly under the radar?
  • Are there staff members who are still committed to maintaining the old way of helping people (focusing on needs rather than assets, fixing problems identified by outside systems, etc.)?
  • What do Gappers need in order to navigate the institutional structure, while trying to fully support and empower individuals and communities? How can they juggle the expectations and demands of two different worlds?
  • What are the institutional barriers that get in the way of supporting and empowering people and communities? What can the institution do about those barriers?
  • How do you work with your primary funders to understand and support the changes that happen when you are committed to working in the gap? As an organization, can you continue to respond to funders who ask you to identify and fix the needs in a community, even as you realize that there are better ways to build stronger and more sustainable communities?

So are you a Gapper? Do you work directly to identify the gifts of those you serve, their neighborhoods and communities, and to remove barriers so that people can share their gifts?Does your organization or institution work to put ABCD principles into practice, changing the way your organization "does business"?

Conversations about working in the gap are taking place on ABCD in Action (http://abcdinaction.ning.com), the online community of practice for Asset-Based Community Development. Wed love to have you share your challenges, your questions and your stories.

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ABCD Festival Scholarships - Apply Now!


By Deb Wisniewski, 2015-04-01

The deadline for this offer has been extended! We are also currently checking to see if any of the scholarships areavailableoutside of North America. Please contact Deb Wisniewski (scgwis@gmail.com) or Caroline Tomlinson (caroline_tomlinson@icloud.com)and let us know if you're interested in a scholarship.

Are you interested in attending the ABCD Festivalin England this coming June, but aren't sure you could afford it? Good news for people in North America! An anonymous North American corporate sponsor is offering partial scholarships for the conference.

But you must act now! Please contact Caroline Tomlinson (caroline_tomlinson@icloud.com)ASAP since the funds must be completely accounted for by the end of March. Caroline will also answer any questions you may have.

Details of the scholarships:

The total cost for booking with a scholarship will be 160.00 (decreased from the full cost, which is380.00) . This will cover your conference fee, food, accommodation, and entertainment for the whole five days. Unfortunately it cannot be extended to travel.

The conditions are simple:

  • You've got to be from somewhere in North America and an ABCD Enthusiast;
  • You've got to be prepared to share with four other people you don't know, or self-organise into a group of five and contact Caroline as a group;
  • You've got to ask yourself could you possibly get support from somewhere else, such as institutional support-if the answer is no, you're in
  • Ask yourself: 'could some else do with one of these places more than me?' if the answer is yes, self deselect, and encourage that person to apply. (or you could both apply!)
  • Must complete all payment and arrangements by March 29th.

Festival organizers will not be policing the above criteria. They are doing this completely on trust and a code of honour among friends.

If you're not sure about whether you would be eligible for a scholarship, I encourage you to connect with Caroline since we want to be sure that none go unused!

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Working in the Gap


By Deb Wisniewski, 2015-02-17

People who are familiar with ABCD are familiar with the assets of community and the assets of institutions (government, nonprofits). "Working in the Gap" is a newer ABCD concept that has been evolving over the lastseveral years as individuals and organizations try to change how they do their work. The "Gap" is that space between the Institution andthe Community. "Gappers" are both the staff who do the actual work in communities, as well as the institutions who are working to put ABCD into practice through their organization.They have one foot in their institution and one foot in the community they serve.

We define gappers as those individuals that work in institutions who understand that to build stronger and healthier families they must engage the people they serve and their communities as the primary producers of their own and their communitys well-being. Gappers see their work as not just delivering services to meet the needs of the people they serve (filling in their emptiness). They see their role as working to create opportunity so that the people they serve can use their gifts. Gappers help people they serve move beyond the role of client to that that of a community participant, by asking not just "what do you need?", but also asking "what can you contribute? They work to identify and unlock the assets present in neighborhoods and communities where they work.

So are you a Gapper? Do you work directly to identify the gifts of those you serve and their neighborhoods and communities and remove barriers so that people can share their gifts?Does your organization or institution work to put ABCD principles into practice, changing the way your organization "does business"?

We are starting a series of conversationsabout Gappers and would like to hear from you. You can find the first conversation here. Please feel free to post your own questions in the Conversation Forum and/or to post comments below. We'd love to hear from you!

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World Book Night US 2014


By Deb Wisniewski, 2013-12-10

I participated in this in 2013 and loved it! So cool to give out free books to folks The Deadline to sign up to be a book giver is Jan. 5th. Learn more about this...

World Book Night is an annual celebration dedicated to spreading the love of reading, person to person. Each year on April 23, tens of thousands of people go out into their communities and give half a million free World Book Night paperbacks to light and non-readers.

World Book Night is about giving books and encouraging reading in those who dont regularly do so. But it is also about more than that: Its about people, communities and connections, about reaching out to others and touching lives in the simplest of waysthrough the sharing of stories.

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Dear ABCD in Action Member,

Last week Justine Jente joined our community. Justine is a Chicagoan with a background in urban history, fundraising, marketing, community building and arts.

She spent the past 10 years doing fundraising and marketing at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Introduced to ABCD by Institute Faculty member Luther Snow, Justine has been inspired to take an asset-based approach to work and life ever since. She is excited to put her creativity, collaboration and project execution skills to work in leveraging resources and building community.

When Justine joined ABCD in Action, she was the 1,000th member of our community! We are now a community of over 1,000 people from 46 countries! Since ABCD in Action was founded, we have had over 28,000 visits from people looking for ideas, sharing great stories, or engaging in discussions.

Our community is full of fascinating people doing amazing work in their communities. Right now there are active discussions exploring:

and more!

ABCD in Actionisyourcommunity - a place where we can learn together and from each other about how to apply the principles and practices of Asset-Based Community Development. Please join the discussion and tell us how you draw upon existing community strengths to build stronger, more sustainable communities for the future.

In Celebration,

Deb Wisniewski & Ron Dwyer-Voss

Co-Founders, ABCD in Action

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New Year's Resolutions vs. Intentions


By Deb Wisniewski, 2013-01-04

Happy New Year to everyone....

Each year, I hear a lot about New Year's Resolutions. And each year I feel like I'm setting myself up for failure. Will I lose weight/stop smoking/eliminate my debt/whatever? And each of those seems focused on my current failings or things that aren't working well for me up to now. What do I need to fix? What's wrong with me now?

On top of that, resolutions seem to be part of a pass/fail system... Either I succeed or I fail at them - doesn't leave much room for effort, does it?

So what if we thought about New Year'sIntentionsinstead? For me, intentions help me in two ways. First, I can think about an bigger outcome for myself rather than a more narrow resolution. So if my resolution would be to lose weight, I can ask myself why. Why do I want to lose weight? It might be that what I really want is good physical health. If I make good health my intention, then I can succeed whether I lose a few pounds, start riding my bike, eat veggies, or any combination of these.

Focusing on Intentions can help me focus on the process, while having a positive outcome in mind. I now can pay attention to what I am doing in my life that is working, what I can build on to get the outcome I have in mind. And all my efforts count toward success. Sounds very "ABCD-ish" to me...

So what do you think? What are your intentions for the New Year? I want joy in my life, good health, great work, and meaningful relationships. Now those intentions make me happy just thinking about them!

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