The Minnesota Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities
Promoting Independence, Productivity, Self-Determination, Integration and Inclusion
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Professor John McKnight: Community Building

Neighborhood Maps

To get us started, what I'd like to share with you is the idea of a neighborhood map, a map that would help us all see what was in our neighborhood. What do we have? What's the full half of our community's glass. And let me explain how this map got developed. Maybe 20 years ago, I you know... I went to the university and one of the things I wanted to do was to look at local communities and see what had they done with that they had.

What had local residents coming together done to make things better in their neighborhood? And we spent four years going to 20 cities and 300 neighborhoods asking people this question. "Can you tell us what people who live here have done together to make things better?" And we would collect their stories, because that's how they answered the question. Usually it was a story about what they had done, and in four years, we collected about 3,000 stories.

And so what did they use when made things better? What were the pieces of the... what were the building blocks they used in these stories about how they made things better? And secondly, how did they organize those things so they could build a community, build a house. After looking at all 5000... 3000 of these stories, we found that there five things that people used in these stories.

Now don't get me wrong. They didn't use all five at once. But no matter what the story was about, there were five things, and they might have used two of the five or two of this one and one of this one. It was a mix and match. Hardly anybody used all five, but never were they using something other than the five. So there's a basic set of building blocks, five of them, and rather than making a list of them, we decided to make a map.

And that's what I'd like to have us work through today. I'd like us to make a map of your neighborhood that you can use when you go back to bring people together to make things better. Make sense? So what we do know is this map has been very helpful in getting people to discover things that are there that they didn't know were there.

It is strange but true. Most of us don't have a very specific idea of what it is that we have we have in our neighborhood that we can use. We look at it the way I looked at it, that I had to go out and buy. We buy all kinds of things that don't work, right. We try to be healthy and we want to be healthier and we buy MacDonald's. And that's not going to work, is it? But if we were growing vegetables in our back yard, that would work. So what we want to do is to think about what's there and to uncover the stone and look and see what we have.

So we're going to... we're going to look through this map. We're going to look at three building blocks, although there are five total, but we're not going to deal with two today. I'll tell you why, I'll tell you what they are, but we're going to focus on the three main building blocks when communities get organized to make things better.

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