Too often, organizations have looked at poor neighborhoods as a collection of problems to be solved and issues to be addressed. Depending on what our particular service perspective is, we bring in our paintbrush to make the neighborhood brighter. If we are educators, we work to improve the schools. If we are in healthcare, we bring in a health clinic. If we are developers, we build new housing.
At BakerRipley, we have learned that we must first listen, and find out all the elements a family needs to build vibrant lives – in the way that THEY define vibrant. And we must be prepared to respond as their lives evolve and change.
Appreciative Community Building is BakerRipley’s model of engaging with our neighbors and communities by uncovering their strengths and assets and leveraging them for greater impact..
Ann Hilbig, BakerRipley’s Senior Vice President of Program Planning & Evaluation, wrote for the AI Practitioner on how BakerRipley took the Appreciative Inquiry method to a community-wide level. With the understanding that the most important asset in any community is its people, Hilbig has worked to ensure that BakerRipley’s asset-based approach to community development is incorporated into all of our programs.
She describes how the needs-based model was no longer a sufficient way of working in communities.
“We shifted our focus to the powerful untapped strengths of people and communities – their assets. We searched for a system of identifying those assets and integrating them into our daily work,” she writes. “By doing so, we could assist people in choosing their own direction, finding their own solutions and building their own communities.”
The framework and process for Appreciative Community Building truly came to life when we engaged the Gulfton community, which culminated in the opening of our BakerRipley Gulfton Sharpstown Campus in 2010. Even now, we continue to engage neighbors in all of our communities, keeping our finger on the pulse of what each community wants so that we stay responsive to their goals and aspirations.
To read the full article, check out Ann’s blog on Appreciative Community Building.