Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Visioning - the first step

Map showing assets in Christchurch neighborhood

Arriving in my email this week was the above asset map of a neighborhood in Christchurch, New Zealand. It was provided by a talented community development worker in a neighborhood embarking on a SafeGrowth program we started last month.

It portrays the positive assets in a place rather than the negative liabilities, like a crime hotspot map. What a great first step to a better future.

I'm always mystified when I watch a crime prevention or police problem solving strategy that starts out by outlining the dimensions of some problem but neglects the positive assets on those same streets.

It's not surprising. After all, that is how all scientific endeavors begin: observe the problem, hypothesize the cause, measure and test the data to prove or disprove the hypotheses. Very logical. It helps solve nagging problems so things can move forward.

Sadly, too often that approach doesn't really move things forward because that's not how a community grows and flourishes.


In neighborhood planning the first step for building or rebuilding a community is the visioning process, a kind of deep dive into the wishes and desires of residents for the future they want. How can a place move forward if it doesn't know where "forward" is? Asset maps are one way to get a concrete idea of all the positive things a place has to offer.

Another is a community visioning weekend workshop. The video below shows a Philadelphia neighborhood, led by the Philadelphia Local Initiative Support Corporation, and it reveals how communities can envision where they want to go in the years ahead.