The Minnesota Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities
Promoting Independence, Productivity, Self-Determination, Integration and Inclusion
MNDisability.gov

Professor John McKnight:
Community Building

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Gifts, Skills and Capacity

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And so we wanted to make a map. We wanted a symbol for each of the five building blocks. That's the first building block, the first asset. And it is the Gifts, Skills and Capacities of local residents are the primary building blocks of every community-organized effort that succeeds. I'd like you each to share the table with the others. We'll have a gift exchange. And each of you scribes, you put at the head of one of these columns, "gifts" and write the gifts down that people tell about from each table. Okay.

Have you ever heard of need surveys, anybody? Will you raise your hand if you ever heard of a need survey? A need survey starts out with the idea that what... how you start making things better is to focus on the empty half. Now is it true that every person has an empty half?

Every person I ever met has some problems, deficiencies, and needs, right. The point is, that everybody has gifts, capacities, and assets, and everybody has problems and deficits and needs. However, you can never do anything with a deficit. You can't do anything with a need. Because needs and deficits and what's wrong are useless in community building. And yet everybody has needs and deficits and problems.

So every single story is about people who have problems but they are ignored and instead we focus on what they can do.

Well listen, I want to tell you that what we have here is a pretty sad story. See that guy up there, chemically dependent. And on the second floor there, that guy he's learning disabled. And the guy down there, he's physically disabled. The powerful enemy of local community building is labeling, is anybody who wants to say first about people this is their deficit, problem or need. I'll say it again, it's the central truth of community work. It is you ignore people's deficits and focus on and mobilize their capacities.

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