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Thisness: Coming to Our Senses (Part 3 of 3)

Curator's Note: Cormac Russell slices down to the essence, the very bones, of what you, I, anyone, can do to cultivate community where we live, now, today. 

The reflections of the last two blogs in mind, I’d like to share an ABCD practice I find really helpful in hatching possibilities from inside out. Or in coming to our senses. Please remember you don’t require all of your senses to engage. Helen Keller had three senses, yet led a more sensational life than most people with five sense ever do.

An ABCD Practice
Find yourself a neighbour, buddy up, and ask them: what they care about enough to take action on in the community where you both live.

Once they’ve shared what it is, ask them what resources could they tap into to make whatever they care about happen.

Now here’s a little technique you might find helpful. Often in response to that question people will focus on:

External assets, which are not local or within their influence. Or, on secondary assets, which are local, but not in their influence.

As an act of neighborliness try inviting them to focus on:

Primary assets, which are local and within their influence.

I think you’ll be really struck by how enabling this is, and how more likely this invitation will be to precipitate sustainable, inclusive action. Of course it won’t solve all problems, but it provides sure footing for a solid, confident beginning.

I’d like to conclude this short blog series with some ancient wisdom from The Book of the Way and its Virtue:

Philosophy of Water
The supreme goodness is like water
It benefits all things without pretension
In dwelling it stays grounded
In being it flows to depths
In expression it is honest
In confrontation it stays gentle
In governance it does not control
In action it aligns to timing
It is content with its nature
And therefore can’t be faulted.

(The Book of the Way and its Virtue)


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Cormac Russell is Managing Director of Nurture Development, Director of ABCD Europe and a faculty member of the Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) Institute at Northwestern University, Chicago. He has trained communities, agencies, NGOs and governments in ABCD and other strengths-based approaches in Kenya, Rwanda, Southern Sudan, South Africa, the UK, Ireland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Canada and Australia.

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Wow, it’s really hard not to fall into a metaphor…

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I’ve had the privilege of seeing a lot of professional practitioners wrestle with the dilemmas that Asset-Based Community Development presents - serving while walking backwards being chief among them.