Looking at the Glass Half Full

By John McKnight

Since 1WW II our institutions have focused on the need of people to be fixed or filled. So much has gone to agencies to fix and fill rather than to mobilize people for problem solving and productivity that we have had much less progress in developing neighborhoods than we could have had.

Our major institutions have focused on the emptiness of our neighborhoods and not on their assets. Universities quantify the emptiness (how many below code houses, how many pregnant teens), many of our foundations have funded those who purport to fix or to fill needs (using the need surveys to justify giving). The downtown media which has portrayed (urban) neighborhoods as glasses that are half empty (by focusing on the deficits.)

People who come together to pool their capacities are the real community builders, and yet the resources flow to those who deal with the brokenness and the emptiness, and usually these groups are not from the neighborhood, are not run by the neighborhood and are not staffed by the neighborhood.

Progressive leaders see that the future of our towns and cities depends upon returning to the American tradition that the center of community power is in the hands of citizens and their associations.

Credit: Common Focus


In this video John tells a story to show the difference between the world of facts, data, systematic information and the community’s way of knowing: the story. And the most important thing in strong communities is having true stories, stories that match our experience.

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