The work you are doing with the Abundant Community Initiative is vital to the well-being of our cities. Every city is concerned about our health, children, safety, the land, the local economy and those on the margins. Government policies and social services are at their limits. The next wave of impact will come from citizens connected to their neighbors engaged in bringing their gifts and humanity to each other. This social capital is what keeps us healthy, what raises our children, holds us safe and keeps dollars circulating locally. Every health care worker, educator, police chief and economist that is paying attention knows this is true. That is why citizen engagement is on all their agendas.
Your Abundant Community Initiative is making this happen. It is innovative in many ways. First, you are treating the neighbourhood as the unit of transformation. This is the scale where real change can occur quickly and sustainably. Second, your work has the legitimacy of sponsorship from mostly trusted local government. Most neighbourhood initiatives spring from the faith community or foundations. This link to government has the potential to bind the neighbourhood to the public sphere in a special way.
Third, you are using local people to activate the engagement, not outside experts or professionals. This keeps the effort grounded and imprints the message that neighbours have the capacity to create their own future. Finally, and most importantly, you are changing the narrative of who we are as citizens. The dominant story in the public mind is about what is wrong with us. That people are simply a collection of needs and deficiencies. How little schooled we are, how un-employed we are, how much mischief we are in. Building a development strategy on deficiencies only magnifies and amplifies what it tries to heal. You effort is gift based. It values citizens as capacities; people able to teach each other, produce experiences with each other, raise each other's children. These are life changing.
The Abundant Community Initiative is part of a large movement that is neighbourhood focused, citizen centered and gift based. Each of these is fragile, underfunded, and learning as it goes. This is the nature of the best innovations. The difficulty with them is that they are not easily scaled, hard to measure except anecdotally, lack bricks and mortar, and don't feed the investigative appetite of the news. The blessing is that it is the only strategy that works. Plus it is good for democracy.
I not only fully support what you are creating, Howard, but I consider myself a partner and collaborator in the effort. This includes being a beneficiary and student of your creativity and inspirational leadership. Thanks for the invitation to put down these thoughts.