Byron White on Doing Asset-Based Community Engagement

June 28, 2017

Using an asset-based framework to guide partnerships means more than mapping and making the most of community resources. It also means centering community members as the key agents in a partnership, rather than institutions or professionals. That can be quite different from business as usual in many higher education contexts where systems of promotion, tenure, resource allocation, and recognition can easily become focused on individual actors and the speed and volume of their accomplishments.

Dr. Byron P. White, KnoweldgeWorks Vice President and Executive Director of the StrivePartnership, gave a June 6, 2017 keynote address at the Midwest Campus Compact Conference at Loyola University. Along with great stories from his lifetime of work in and with communities, he challenged higher education partners to keep four guidelines in mind to deepen the practice of asset-based community engagement.

Dr. White’s Four Guidelines:

  1. “Assume that any solution you come up with has already been conceived in the community – then go find out where.”
  2. “Always ask permission of parents and neighbors.” He goes on to note, “I believe it is the height of disrespect to host any kind of youth program – whether tutoring or planting a garden – without first formally asking parents or caregivers for their permission.”
  3. “Give the community first dibs on whatever is produced. No report, no publication, until the community determines that the work has adequately met its expectations.”
  4. “Again channeling my colleague Dan Duncan, don’t start anything you can kill. If the initiative depends solely on your funds and your personnel – which you have sole authority to withdraw or end – then don’t do it. Start the work with the community’s investment.”

Asset-Based Community Engagement in Higher Education

To dig deeper into Dr. White’s perspectives on asset-based engagement, read his essay “Assets and Community Strengths: Our Struggle to Truly Believe in Them” in Minnesota Campus Compact’s 2014 Asset-Based Community Engagement in Higher Education.

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