Some Definitions

What is: Asset Based Community Development:
Asset-based Community Development (ABCD) is presented as an alternative to needs-based approaches to development. It’s pretty new and innovative stuff in Australia but speak to anyone who has been working in International Aid and they’ll tell you that it’s been a rule-of-thumb when working in the majority world for some time.

Asset Based Community Development is a methodology which seeks to uncover the strengths within communities as a means for sustainable development.
Building on the skills of local residents, the power of local associations, and the supportive functions of local institutions, asset-based community development draws upon existing community strengths to build stronger, more sustainable communities for the future.

For the Church (and particularly Churches with congregational/flat/bottom-up models of leadership) this shouldn’t be new stuff because we have know of the value of it within our congregations for a long time- this is now just about how we apply these same strengths to enriching the lives of the community we live in.

Watch a 3 minute video summary of ABCD here

What is: Co-Design?
The ‘co’ in co-design stands for collaborative. Co-design is a problem solving methodology that develops solutions through the collaboration of people experiencing problems with professionals of different disciplines. Typically co-design projects use a staged process that starts with the design team developing an understanding of people in context before creating and testing solutions with those people in context.

A significant number of businesses use co-design for innovation in product and services, and increasingly co-design is being used to tackle social problems by social innovation labs, governments and not-for-profits in the UK, Europe, US, Canada, Africa and Australia.

Co-design is founded on a belief that effective solutions won’t come from professionals working alone, or even from professionals working across disciplines, but from people and professionals working together – each drawing on the other’s expertise. To adopt a co-design approach is to have decision-making about services and solutions be driven by the end users of those solutions. Co-design enables a shift of power – however it is not a true bottom-up methodology, nor a top-down methodology, but both bottom-up and top-down.

What is: Design for Social Innovation (System Thinking)
So this is a big one for me.  Every time I have a light-bulb moment in community development world and share it with my lovely husband he responds with something similar to; “I learned that in design school.”

So that got me thinking- why aren’t we, as community investors, learning more from “design school”.  Then I found out I wasn’t alone in thinking this.  Many think-and-do-tanks were cottoning-on to the same thought. I was particularly blessed to have the opportunity not long ago particularly to hang out with these guys for a day and talk about this:

Watching stuff like “The Story of Stuff” only made me more passionate to want to use this “design thinking” for good and not for “evil”.  Designers today (my honourable and highly-moral husband included) spend so much time designing stuff for the trash heap.   About 99% of the products currently bought by western consumers (and created beautifully by designers) will be trash in only six months’ time!

And me (with my Mother Teresa complex) keeps asking HOW can we, rich westerners, not see that we only live how we live because so many people (in the majority world) are poor? *mini-rant over for now*

At the same time many of my friends are beginning to give themselves the title of “entrepreneurs”.  So I ask: What is the meaning of adding value as an entrepreneur today? Is it solely about making the next hip toothbrush or keeping stakeholders happy with profits?

What is the value of a designer in the rapidly changing world today?  Well based on my convos with hubby I think a big one!  Design and entrepreneurship are collaborative acts and the skills and mentality of both designers and entrepreneurs should be shared with people around the world. About listening to community  about form following function, about adding value not just meeting need, and about taking off our “expert-hats” and allowing the process to become what it must be.

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