By Darryl Birkenfeld, Ph.D.
When asked about how things are going in a locality, residents may say “Not bad…but it would be better if we had a this and a that.” (a large grocery store, daycare, a restaurant, etc.) Two additional views would be “We need more jobs” or in the case of a teenager: “there’s nothing to do in this town!”
The problem with these responses is they don’t provide a great starting place for action. When focusing on deficiencies, it is simply too easy to conclude, “Why bother, nothing will ever change.”
A more empowering way to take the measure of our communities is to start with identifying assets—what we already have and can work with. When we begin by looking at assets, we become energized with possibilities for cooperation and change.
Is there a set of assets common to all communities? Ogallala Commons has articulated 12 Key Assets of Commonwealth that are present in every community (https://ogallalacommons.org/about-us/commonwealth/), regardless of economic and social conditions. Commonwealth assets identified are: sense of place, spirituality, history, the water cycle, renewable energy, education, health, leisure & recreation, arts & culture, wildlife and the natural world, the foodshed, and the soil & mineral cycle…twelve essential foundations that comprise our true wealth.
We refer to these assets as commonwealth because, fundamentally, they belong to everyone–even as we use or manage them for personal gain or as private property. Commonwealth consists of local and regional assets that must be preserved, enhanced, and invested in over the long run to generate sustainable resources.
During 2019, Ogallala Commons will publish a blog on each of the 12 Key Assets, to encourage readers to identify examples of these gifts in their own towns, neighborhoods, counties, or regions. The blogs are written by people living in communities in Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Texas, South Dakota, and Colorado. You can find a new blog post each month (starting in February) on www.ogallalacommons.org and also published on OC Facebook.
Situations fluctuate from day to day, but our most enduring gifts are based on a more the foundation of commonwealth. In truth, we live from a set of assets that we may not have fully appreciated or noticed. Now is a good time to take stock of them.