Neighborhood Associates attempts to forge a new path in community engagement. Our vision is grounded in the asset-based community concepts of John McKnight, Emeritus Professor and co-founder of the effective and widely acclaimed Asset-Based Community Development Institute at DePaul University. We are also students of the work of Donald Anderson. Asset-based community development is focused on people seeing, identifying, and using the associations and strengths natural to one’s community. It begins with the belief that people are the greatest assets and partners in building community. We at NAC act as an ally by invitation within communities, supporting the values, skills, knowledge, and energy already present. As we work alongside neighborhood citizens, we assume a posture of learning, allowing our approach to evolve at each stage of our engagement. The end goal of all our collaborative efforts is to develop new workable and useful systems of human interaction, leading to greater self-determination, community action, justice, prosperity, and collective and individual responsibility.
Our work is conceived in a collaborative atmosphere that bears witness to our self-imposed dictum that people are the ultimate guiding force for all aspects of NAC work. Consequently, we have cultivated an intentional personal relationship with the men, women, and children who live, work, and play in the neighborhoods in which we work. From Baltimore to Louisville to San Francisco, we are working with people to nurture community-driven places where safe, beautiful green environments are the norm and community services are both given and received.
Increasingly, our work involves developing innovative ways to bring people within and beyond their own neighborhoods together around shared aspirations, concerns, and ways of talking about what they hold in common. In short, we believe in the power of Public Kinship — those actions and sentiments that result from the foundational recognition of our shared humanity, our common project of building and sustaining communities across the many lines that seem to divide us.
Building a structure of Public Kinship involves asking and addressing some fundamental questions, questions first posed by the National Task Force on African American Men and Boys convened by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in 1994 and subsequently discussed in Repairing the Breach: Key Ways to Support Family Life, Reclaim Our Streets, and Rebuild Civil Society in America’s Communities:
1. How do we find and discuss the things all Americans hold in common?
2. How do we make progress toward re-establishing supportive communities and ensuring that violence does not continue to define them and those who dwell in them because of perceived differences?
3. How do we overcome negative media stereotypes and political exclusion to reconnect all ethnic communities to the broad social fabric that we define as America?