This summer, I had the pleasure to attend the Toronto Summer Institute Inclusion Conference. To be honest, it blew my mind and I am still trying to figure out how to take in all I learned and what it means for me personally and the Jason’s Connection community. I was lucky enough to hear from one of the leaders in the field John McKnight in Asset Based Community Development or ABCD.
We tend to see organizations or institutions as the major way we meet people’s needs. Institutions and organizations, while able to help people can also be inflexible or singularly focused. They often expect people to fit into their model of what they are doing and are not always able to accommodate to people individuality. They also have a hierarchical structure, which is fine but does not always work in every situation. These organizations may not work as well in a person-centered approach. Organizations or institutions sometimes try to make themselves a community but it is not a natural community because of the hierarchical status and the way that they may not be able to focus on individual needs. This can sometimes drive the need for more organization and institutions because we don’t take into account enough social capital.
When we focus on needs we tend to forget the persons individuality and also their wants and assets.
In the community-based approach, we focus not just on the individual but what assets they bring. From their interests and assets, you then find ways in the community to get people involved and form relationships.
The idea is that it is through relationships, we find meaning; this can lead us to other opportunities.
In essence the focus becomes more on connection to community through assets and attributes vs. challenges and disabilities. The idea of being more focused on each other needs through community connections and relationships instead of simply institutional intervention is a very interesting concept and one that I want to understand more fully. It reminds me that in my own life, I am still trying to find these types of connections. This is also one of the purposes of Jason’s Connection.
As an organization, we still have much room to grow with much to learn. I hope to continue to reflect on this and would love you to join me to help make Jason’s Connection a community that sees the assets of people beyond just their needs or challenges. In the end, institutions and organizations are not bad and they can certainly fill a need. However, they shouldn’t replace real human connections and community support. Many things can be beneficial for help and support, including each other!
For more information on the Inclusion Network please visit http://www.inclusion.com/index.html
Founder of Jason’s Connection – an online resource for those with disabilities, mental health, aging and other needs. Jason was awarded an M.S. in Cultural Foundations of Education and Advanced Certificate in Disability Studies from Syracuse University. Jason is also a Project Coordinator and Research Associate at the Burton Blatt Institute, an international think tank for Disability Rights and Human Justice at Syracuse University. He regularly contributes to the blog in his own series called Jason’s View and travels the country consulting and speaking about disability issues and rights. To read more from Jason Harris, read Jason's View.