“Community”. “Neighborhood”. “Development”. “Organizing”. We have a tendency to use lots of terms in interchangeable ways, and in doing so, we obfuscate the meaning of each one.
At commonGood, we’ve described ourselves as an asset-based community development initiative. That means we want to identify what skills and capacity already exist among us, and link those skills and capacity to opportunities.
We have skills and capacity to promote childcare that is safe but not regimented. We have skills and capacity to bring together artists who come alongside a neighborhood and create new ways for it to tell its story. We have skills and capacity to repair bicycles and foster the re-acquirement of a love for riding them, both for fun and for care of God’s creation. We have skills and capacity to grow a modest garden, and in doing so, to encourage a local foods movement and to provide creative food security and assistance when it is requested.
As a faith community, we take our neighborhood seriously. We live on the boundary alongside a part of Magnolia Center and Ramona and Casa Blanca. We love these neighborhoods. Many (but of course, not all) of the people who attend Madison Street Church live in one of these neighborhoods and we belong on the “Madison Street Corridor”. That strip of road, from Arlington Ave. to Victoria Ave., is commonGood’s place.
So commonGood works to develop community (i.e., common unity, togetherness) inside and outside Madison Street Church by engaging our assets and capacity alongside the people and institutions of Magnolia Center, Ramona and Casa Blanca.
But we also organize in these neighborhoods. We look, not just inside Madison Street Church, for assets and capacity. We look for people in the neighborhoods, along the corridor (and in other places, too) who have passion. We look for people who care deeply about the quality of life in our neighborhoods. We try to meet those people, listen to what inspires them and to what angers them. Then we try to link them with others who feel as they do, and are willing to seize the moment and act collectively to build the quality of life in their neighborhoods from the inside out.
It’s not easy, this dual effort of community development and neighborhood organizing. There isn’t a prefabricated product we are trying to “sell”. Our society is so consumer oriented, so marketing driven, that we sometimes find ourselves getting caught in the trap of trying to sell our vision like it is a brand-name product. And it is not.
Our language for asset-based community development and broad-based neighborhood organizing is the same. The question we ask is, “What stirs the imaginations of people, and how can we energize each other to accomplish transformation from the inside out?”