Centacare Evolve Housing recently hosted international community development speaker, Cormac Russell, for a day of workshops and discussions attended by over 50 community members and people involved in service delivery.

Cormac is a specialist in Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) who works in 35 countries delivering powerful, but simple, messages about fostering growth and empowerment in local communities. Cormac told the workshop participants that instead of scarcity, communities often have their own resources, talents and “awesomeness” in abundance, and development may be just a case of uncovering what is already there, rather than delivering a service from outside. The real issue, he said, was how to see and then harness those internal resources

Cormac said that messaging is all-too-often focused on deficit, neediness and scarcity, which he calls the “map of misery” when, in fact, there can actually be an abundance of assets.

He said the key to uncovering what we need in our communities is to ask better questions, share stories and act at the neighbourhood level. The ABCD approach identifies what is strong – not what is wrong – in a community, and empowers residents to engage with each other to build on these strengths. Cormac told the gathering that this approach may not be “a quick fix” for communities, but rather it works at the “speed of trust”, resulting in long term, transformative change and with less service provision required in the long term.

Among the comments from participants in Cormac’s sessions were “treat people like they already have power”, “start anywhere”, and “such simple ideas!”.

Please get in touch with Centacare Evolve Housing’s Community Development Officer, Sheryl Rainbird on 0418 368 418, to be part of further discussions on these topics. Residents are also invited to contact Sheryl if they’d like to participate in the free Brighton Neighbourhood Leadership Program provided by Centacare Evolve Housing to upskill emerging community leaders.

Over the last 20 years, Cormac has worked around the world training communities, agencies, NGOs and governments in ABCD and other strengths-based approaches to community development.