A Strength-Based Approach to Community Development
As a girl somewhat prone to melancholy, I’ve made it a personal habit to always maintain an optimistic perspective. So far, I’m happy to report, this approach has yielded nothing but positive results! Interestingly, a similar attitude has been adopted by the Amarillo Area Foundation and other non-profits in regards to community philanthropy.
Identifying problems is often the first step to initiating change, however, change can be slow when too much emphasis is placed on the “problem.” From a community perspective a “strength-based approach” looks first at the strongest points of a community before addressing its weaker areas. In this way, a community is better situated to address problems by utilizing its strengths.
Community Asset Mapping
Coincidentally, my project here at AAF is very similar to Ogallala Commons’ Commonwealth Mapping exercise–the two exercises differ only in purpose. The OC Commonwealth Map focuses on traits that are universal to each community, while the AAF Community Asset Map is designed to reveal the strengths and weaknesses of each community.
For my blog, I am going to combine the criteria of each organization in order to create a comprehensive Community Asset and Commonwealth Mega-Map!
**I’d like to apologize now for the weird formatting: It took me forever to get my graph to this point, and while it isn’t as clean as I’d like it to look, its the best I could manage!
and Asset Map
|Forms of Capital & Key Commonwealth Assets
Definitions of Capital
Asset and Commonwealth List: Strengths in Bold/*Weaknesses Italicized
|INTELLECTUAL||Not included in the Commonwealth Criteria, Intellectual Capital includes the knowledge, creativity, and innovation needed to solve problems and develop new ways of doing things.||Friona Public Library provides free literacy programs for children and adults. Parmer Medical Center Healthy Baby Coalition is working to change infant mortality rates and provide education for young mothers.|
|SOCIAL: Includes Sense of Place||Social Capital is the trust, relationships, and inclusive networks that make up the fabric of a strong, prosperous community.||Booster Club; Lions Club; Friends of the Library; Friona Christian Ministry Services; Church Groups (12 Churches–each with its own sub-groups) Service Learning: Program fosters community involvement between HS Students and the Community through hands-on projects. *An abundance of Church Groups suggests that while persons are invested in community, there is also a lack of inclusiveness or cohesiveness.|
|INDIVIDUAL: Includes Education and Health||The skills and capacities, including health, that allows individuals to be productive and happy.||Panhandle Community Services: Provides Section 8/HUD; Easy access (for those who have transportation) to Amarillo College Campus in Hereford and Clovis Community College in Clovis, NM; Work Placement Program for HS Juniors and Seniors via FISD; United Way; Summer Drama Workshop; Friona ISD School System: notably the Migrant Education and Head Start Programs which provide educational tools and services to low-income and migrant parents to help children get into school; *There is only one certified Daycare center in Friona, it’s capacity is 12 children.|
|CULTURAL: Includes Spirituality, History, Arts, Culture, and components of Recreation and Leisure and Sense of Place||The traditions, customs and beliefs shared by the community, including the way you see the world and get things done.||The Friona Star (Newspaper); Maize-Days; Cheeseburger Festival: Friona is the Cheeseburger Capital of Texas, The annual Cheeseburger cook-off is progressively growing and bringing state-wide notoriety to the town as well as pulling the community together; Parmer Country Pioneer Heritage Museum: utilizes a restored church to preserve Parmer County’s history; Restored Santa Fe Depot Building (Friona’s First on the Santa Fe Railroad) is now utilized as a community building. *The Hispanic culture (which represents more than 60% of the population) is not represented or reflected in any of these events or organizations|
|NATURAl: Includes Soil and Mineral Cycle, Wildlife, Water Cycle, as well as components of Leisure and Recreation||The productive environmental assets (e.g., air, water, land, minerals, plants, animals, fish, ecosystem services) in a region.||Ogallala Aquifer: Friona’s primary source of water; Scandia Wind Southwest: An upcoming wind-energy company. The county’s soil composition includes a spectrum of calcareous and non-calcareous, moderately permeable sandy clay loams. The average yearly rainfall is 16.04 inches. Notable critters in the area include prairie dogs, jack rabbits, cottontails, rattle snakes, bull snakes, badgers, skunks, coyotes, deer, antelope, quail, pheasants, various hawks, a few cattle and (according to my Granddad) an occasional mountain lion. *The Ogallala is a diminishing resource. There seem to be no specific programs targeting environmental restoration or maintenance.|
|BUILT: Includes Foodshed and Components of Water Cycle||The fully functioning and maintained constructed infrastructure needed to support community well-being.||Lowes Grocery meets basic food needs; City Offices provide municipal services and meeting places for city-board members; Police Department functions also as meeting-place/home to volunteer fire department; Community Center; City Park; FISD School Buildings and Activities Center; Gas and Electric needs serviced by Atmos Energy and Xcel Energy; First National Bank of Hereford is a regionally located institution that provides financial services. Parmer Medical Center provides diverse and accessible healthcare; Volunteer Fire Department provides an essential need for the safety of the community; Friona State Bank and Friona Federal Credit Union provide local financial services. *Poor water-treatment facilities, citizens are often advised to not drink from the public water supply. *There is no public transportation, with the exception of the greyhound bus. *Road-upkeep and general city maintenance operations are poor.*Though there is a grocery store available, Parmer county qualifies as a food desert according to the USDA.|
|POLITICAL||The voice, power and influence over decisions needed to achieve your goals, including the distribution of resources.||5 City Council Members, Mayor, City Manager; FISD Board; Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors; County Commission; Hospital Board|
|FINANCIAL||Financial capital, including investments and personal savings, generates monetary returns that can be used for further investment or consumption to increase other forms of capital and broadly shared prosperity. Stewardship of financial capital implies responsible investment to generate added income as well as eliminate unnecessary cost or waste. In creating wealth, we strive to invest financial capital in ways that increase and improve the quality of the other forms of capital.||Cargill Meat Solutions and Sweet Bran, Trucking Industry, Dairy Industries, Farming & Livestock Industries are all interrelated and provide the majority of income for the area; Prairie Acres Friona Heritage Estates; Cargill Meat Solutions directly employs roughly 2,000 people in the area and is a significant investor in and supporter of education and community organizations. Parmer Medical Center is a major provider of jobs requiring post-secondary education. *Cargill’s presence provides economic stability for the region while at the same time adversely impacting regional ecologies.|
What Asset Mapping has Taught Me So Far
By actively searching out the strongest points of each community in the Panhandle Region, I am beginning to see how much our area truly has to offer. Beyond the 12 common points present in all communities, each community also offers its own unique strengths.
Ideally, each community should be able to leverage its strengths in a collective effort to address weaker points. Of course, there are many steps to be taken and connections to be made before such an ambition can be fully realized, but I’m beginning to see that through the efforts of various organizations, community leaders, and interns like us—we are well on our way!