Those With the Most Potential

May 9, 2013

Guest Post by Charlotte Carr, Community Social Change Workshop, April 2013

In the MPA program at MIIS, we are urged to approach development work with participatory asset-based methods. This dictates that development practitioners should identify the pre-existing strengths of a community and develop programming that builds on these strengths. This approach aims to create sustainable community-driven development programs. Asset-based approaches typically utilize participatory methods, seeking to include the community in all steps of the development program process, and are usually sustainable in part because they are based around structures already in place in a community. The opposite, and frequently practiced approach, would be for an outsider to enter a community and identify what they perceive as problems, and work to implement a foreign solution in the community. By not integrating the programming  into the community through participatory approaches and building on strengths, the results are typically ineffective or unsustainable.

An idea that struck me during the Community Social Change workshop, that goes along with the ideals of asset-based development, was offered by Aaron Ebner during the panel discussion. He said, “in the history of development, people have looked for the neediest, but we should be looking for those with the most potential.” To me, this idea exemplifies the best practices taught in the MPA curriculum, as well as the development processes used by the AASD. The assets of the community the AASD has identified are the community members themselves. The community members are not targeted because they are perceived as the worst off, they are the farmers and weavers who have the most potential to use their pre-existing strengths to empower themselves and their community.

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Our mission is to provide and implement sustainable programs and projects in collaboration with the indigenous people of the Sacred Valley of Perú in an effort to improve their lives and reduce poverty in a culturally sensitive and appropriate manner. Furthermore, we work to support local NGOs with whom we have shared values using the skills and tools we possess.