Kathleen Leahy, Director of UBC Learning Exchange explains how using an Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) approach, a strategy for sustainable community-driven development, the project leveraged assets that are already found in the community to mobilize individuals, associations, and institutions to come together to drive local growth.
Perspective & Strength: Changing the Discourse about Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) through Improved Student Orientations project recognizes the strengths and gifts of the DTES community by providing UBC faculty, staff, and students, and DTES community partners with improved toolkit of materials for students to learn about this unique community.
THE DISCOURSE ABOUT VANCOUVER’S DTES CAN BE ONE-SIDED, FOCUSING ON DESPAIR AND HOPELESSNESS. HOW DID THIS PROJECT TRY TO CHANGE THE NARRATIVE?
The project used an Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) approach, a strategy that focuses on strengths rather than weaknesses, and recognizes that local residents are experts on their own community.
Local residents co-created the toolkit, which UBC faculty/staff and staff at community organizations can use with students learning about the DTES. Resources include a workshop on boundaries, a guide for interviewing community partners, self-directed tours, factsheets, and a video series featuring more balanced reflections and experiences from local residents.
Involving local residents in creating the materials has led to far more powerful messages about the strengths of the DTES. We were overwhelmed by the interest of local residents in participating. Our response was to proceed in a collaborative and consultative way, taking the time needed, as quality will have more impact than a rushed deliverable.
WHAT ARE YOU PROUD OF?
The project has strengthened the Learning Exchange’s orientation of students and support to faculty and community partners. It’s being supported by the Equity Enhancement Fund for a second year to further expand and evaluate how the materials are shifting the discourse. The passion and strength of local residents is formidable, as is the curiosity of students to learn about it.