The purpose of the Real Communities Initiative is to connect people with developmental disabilities and their organizations to other citizens and their associations to act collectively on community issues while being guided by Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) principles and GCDD values to achieve four major results:
Create real positive changes that improve life in the community for all, based on a thoughtful and well informed answer to the question, What does our community need from us?
Build strong bridges to community associations, leaders, and alliances that reach outside the boundaries of disability so that a wider network benefits from the energy and gifts of people with developmental disabilities and their families, so that people with disabilities will have more people to count on.
Create a sustainable model of community-based family support that is based on collaboration and Asset Based Community Development which appropriately addresses the needs of unserved or underserved families with developmental disabilities inclusive with their community partners who do not have a disability.
Learn about how to make real changes in a way that moves from “me” to “we” and creates a great awakening to the assets that every community has.
NEW - GCDD's Real Communities Initiative is Expanding!
In June, GCDD will host three trainings (June 15, 2013 in Macon; June 17, 2013 in Albany; and June 19, 2013 in Atlanta) for those interested in working with Real Communities. All interested communities must send at least one representative of their group or project to one of the three trainings. We strongly encourage you to attend with more than one member of your local community. During these trainings, you will get an overview of Asset Based Community Development (ABCD), the purpose, vision and values behind Real Communities, and you will have an opportunity to begin developing your application to participate in the initiative. Questions related to the application and community selection process will only be accepted by GCDD staff during these training sessions. All answers to questions presented during the trainings will be recorded and publicly posted to the GCDD website (www.gcdd.org). We will accept applications from interested communities until July 1, 2013. At that point, the GCDD Council Members and staff will review applications and select communities to visit in person. Over the summer, we will spend time in these communities exploring possibilities, having conversations, and by October 1, 2013, we will select our new community partners.
To learn more about the Real Communities expansion, the training sessions and how to apply, click HERE.
Sets of Practices to Build Real Communities
We are Person Centered: We are dedicated in finding ways to provide individualized supports, directed by the person and allies, that assist the person in having valued roles in community life and build more inclusive community settings.
We are Community Centered: We are dedicated to build associations and alliances that allow citizens to make productive connections around what they care about, mobilize existing community assets, and make those assets productive by taking part in meaningful action.
We take part in Purposeful Learning:We are dedicated to generating social innovation through a reflective learning process.
Asset Based Community Development (ABCD)
(The following information is provided by Mike Green of the ABCD Institute www.mike-green.org)
Asset Based Community Development is about local people working together for the well being of their home place. ABCD is primarily relationship building for action for a collective purpose, a path to organize groups and people in a community to act together for the common good. The focus is upon building power (the ability to act effectively) through relationships.
How is this done?
ABCD is an approach to discover local community assets. This mapping is mostly what people do in the name of ABCD.
Second and more importantly ABCD is "practices and principles" for mobilizing a local community to move into action with residents at the center... not outsiders. The community is the principal actor not the client. ABCD is a path to "organize an organization" or community partnership of local people and their stakeholder groups to find, connect, and make productive a growing circle of local assets working for the common good.
How do you mobilize a community through relationships?
Discover what people care about enough to act on in your local community. What will people commit to act on? Discover 'motivation to act' through learning conversations out in the community. What is the motivation to act? What is the collective purpose that a wide circle of people will act on together? Who is committed to act?
Find and engage specific connector leaders(people who are leaders in a community sense meaning people with trust, influence, and a circle of relationships to call upon) to form a connector leaders group. This is the core group for collective action that can use their connections and relationships to engage a wide circle of the local community working together. ABCD is community organizing; principles and practices to bring people into committed relationship for collective action towards what people really care about--enough to act.
Community development that works best is not about manufacturing anything, but about bringing out the basic goodness that is there in each local community. Every community is a place filled with gifts to be given and care to be discovered. The song of community is,” We need you. We need you. Join us.” There is no one we don’t need.
How GCDD supports Real Communities projects:
It is the goal of each Real Communities project to have a local Community Builder whose role is to build the group, support implementation of the work, and create sustainability and accountability. Successful community builders work toward the goals of empowerment – helping people mobilize, obtain resources, and develop strategies that promote their interests or causes.
We support the training and development of each local Community Builder via couching and mentoring by Council staff and Real Communities consultants. We also provide community builders with regular training and learning opportunities to sharpen skills and add new tools to their organizational toolboxes.
We provide ABCD training opportunities for members of each local Real Communities project. We work with local projects to create an evaluation plan that works for their unique project and local environment. Each community defines what success means to them and create steps to reach those goals. We provide opportunities for Community Builders and local groups to take part in “learning journeys.” These journeys give groups an opportunity to travel to places where innovative community work is happening, so they can learn on the ground and do participatory research on what might work for them. We feel this process helps to avoid “recreating the wheel.”
Real Communities includes an ongoing Learning Circle of local community initiatives and committed community members in Georgia who want to learn together about building more inclusive welcoming communities where people with disabilities have good lives as contributing community members. The Learning Circle seeks to intentionally cultivate innovation and creativity in practical terms by letting go of old ideas, reflecting on our new experiences, and experimenting with new action approaches. The Learning Circle is a container to hold the organizing and learning components of Real Communities. It will be an ever evolving process as we learn together and from each other. We seek to be a trusting circle of support where each of us can share our insights and our success, as well as our confusion and challenges. We are ‘creating the road as we walk it’ towards more welcoming communities where people with developmental disabilities are valued members.
GCDD presents "Getting Real in Georgia," a video highlighting GCDD's Real Communities projects and what they are all about. To view the video, click here. Additionally, GCDD commissioned five other video projects to celebrate its Real Communities Initiative and share the stories of people with and without disabilities working together to achieve common goals that strengthen community life for everyone. To the videos, click here.
GCDD Supported Projects
City of Fitzgerald: Located in south central Georgia, Fitzgerald and the surrounding Ben Hill County area is a small rural community. In 2008, Ben Hill County had a poverty rate of 23.2%. Locally, residents have been organizing around the issue of transportation for nearly two years, and in the past year have been working with the GCDD as part of Real Communities. The core organizing group in Fitzgerald consists of everyday citizens with and without developmental disabilities; family members of people with developmental disabilities; representatives from People First of Fitzgerald; the Jessamine Place (local service provider); East Central Technical College; the city of Fitzgerald; and Ben Hill County, among others. In Fitzgerald and Ben Hill County, there are very few options for transportation outside of privately owned vehicles. This greatly limits opportunities for recreation and social activities, medical access, educational and employment opportunities, as well as everyday errands a resident may have. In the past year, one individual using a wheelchair was killed by a motorist while trying to travel on a street with no sidewalks. The issue of transportation impacts all who live in the area, regardless of disability. The core group is particularly interested in community-based responses to transportation. Models currently being explored include formalized ride share and carpool programs, transportation co-ops, church van co-ops, and time banks. In July 2010, Ben Hill County and the City of Fitzgerald successfully passed a Special-Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) which includes $250,000 specifically earmarked to provide seed funding for community-based transportation models being explored as part of the Real Communities Initiative.
Korean Coalition: The group consists of first generation Korean immigrant families in metro Atlanta who have family members with disabilities. In our purposeful learning process, we have seen that often starting as a family group can be a powerful and empowering first step in building a group to act in the larger community. Once parents have the opportunity to connect with others who are facing similar barriers, access basic services and build some strength as a smaller group, they are more likely to join the larger community. Through learning journeys, relationships and personal futures plans, the members of the coalition see the limitations of disability-only groups, and the appeal of widening the lens to the entire community has become more clear and apparent.
Personal Futures Plans have been effective in providing opportunities for people with developmental disabilities in the coalition to connect with families and the larger community. This allows the larger community to see the person with disabilities as a valued member of the community who has many gifts and talents, new friendships have been formed and new opportunities have been created, as well. To date, three people have had a Personal Futures Plan, and many more people will have one soon.
Personal Futures Plans helped start a larger conversation within the Korean community, especially the churches, about how to remove social barriers to create a welcoming environment so that all people, even those with developmental disabilities, can participate in all aspects of church. The initial conversations with a couple of Korean churches have sparked an interest in other Real Communities across the State to work with religious organizations and community organizations to create welcoming spaces. The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities is currently planning to bring interested religious organizations, YMCA, after school programs and other community organizations to have conversations regularly on how to be a welcoming community.
GCDD presents a Real Communities video featuring the Korean Coalition project. To see the video, click here.
The Gwinnett Gives TimeBank: The Gwinnett Gives TimeBank was started by a group of parents who all have children with disabilities. The group's initial interest was focused on exploring human service co-operatives, life sharing and other alternative arrangements that allow adults with developmental disabilities to live and participate in integrated community settings. As a stepping stone in that direction, they launched the first TimeBank in the metro area of Georgia in 2012, which promotes equality and builds caring community economies through inclusive exchange of time and talent. For more information, visit www.timebanks.org or http://gwinnettgives.timebanks.org
City of Milton Better Together: The City of Milton is located in North Fulton County in the metro Atlanta area. Milton is a new city, formed at the end of 2006. Since its inception, the City of Milton has been extremely dedicated and intentional in ensuring accessibility and providing opportunities to involve residents with disabilities. When the city was founded, the Milton Disability Awareness Committee (MDAC) was created as an official committee of the city council. MDAC has worked with city personnel to ensure they are familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act, have a basic level of awareness of issues impacting people with disabilities and have also worked to reach out and educate the larger community. The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities is currently working with MDAC and the City of Milton as part of Real Communities to ensure Milton is truly welcoming to all who live there and to provide opportunities for citizen engagement and involvement in community.
The City of Milton is currently working to develop a mini-grant program called Better Together that would be administered by the City of Milton. The purpose of these mini-grants is to provide neighborhood groups and residents with resources to create community-driven projects that enhance and strengthen local community life, build avenues towards civic engagement and create avenues for the full participation of all residents, specifically those typically left out of community life. All projects are initiated, planned and implemented by local residents. Mini-grants support neighborhood improvements, promote neighborhood associations and fund projects that bring community members together and create avenues for inclusion. Engaged and connected residents are the greatest asset in any given community. By allowing residents to actively engage in improving their communities and making them more welcoming for everyone, we see great things emerge and a new relationship develop between residents and local government. Additionally, Milton's Community Builder has been working hard to develop a citizen-led group to build relationships and use Asset Based Community Development to improve the City of Milton for everyone who lives there. Click here to see an example of Better Together in action.
To see a video of how the City of Milton's Better Together project promotes welcoming communities for all, click here.
Centenary United Methodist Church: Located in College Hill Corridor in downtown Macon, GA, Centenary Church was founded in 1884. Once a vibrant congregation, over time and with changes in the neighborhood, the congregation's number dwindled. It became clear that both the church and neighborhood would not survive unless major changes were made. In 2005, the church began to work actively to reach out to and engage the surrounding neighborhood. The neighborhood reached back and saved the church.
The congregation is now extremely diverse and dedicated to addressing the concerns of the community in long-term and sustainable ways. The diversity of the congregation, both racially and socioeconomically, is something Centenary not only embraces, but is proud of. Centenary has a Minster of Community Building on staff, has started a community garden, has a transitional housing program for men, supports and houses a summer camp for youth of promise and potential, in addition to other programs that actively support the community and address root causes as opposed to providing temporary band-aid type relief.
The Centenary Community Bicycle Program features adults with and without disabilities working on donated bicycles that they repair and give to people without transportation. The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) is exploring collaboration opportunities with Centenary as part of Real Communities. Centenary is very interested in exploring ways to welcome people with disabilities and their families into the congregation and offer opportunities for them to contribute.
One way this will happen is through the Roving Listener program in the summer of 2012. Youth with disabilities will work alongside youth without disabilities to participate in some deep listening in the Beall's Hill Neighborhood of Macon. These youth will listen for the gifts, skills and dreams of older and newer residents of this changing neighborhood. Dinners and a block party will seek to build bridges between neighbors with similar interests. It all started with a GCDD sponsored trip to Indianapolis to see De'Amon Harges in action at Broadway United Methodist Church's own Roving Listening program. To see a video of the Centenary United Methodist Church project in action, click here. Additionally, click here to learn how Centenary is dedicated to community work.
Refugee Family Services/Global Growers Network: Refugee Family Services (RFS) is a metro Atlanta nonprofit that serves approximately 2,500 refugees/immigrant women and children each year. RFS provides critical human services, youth programs, health services, education programs and domestic violence prevention programs. The Global Growers Networks creates new agricultural opportunities in Georgia for international farmers who were forced to flee their homelands as refugees due to war, genocide, and persecution. Global Growers uses a whole-systems approach to produce good food, train farmers and create economic opportunities locally. The program is a collaboration of existing and emerging projects in the refugee community, which support food systems goals that include increased incomes, access to quality and familiar food, better physical and mental health, self-reliance and enhanced integration for the refugee population of metro Atlanta. Through the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities' partnership with RFS, the Real Community is engaging members of the Clarkston community to build a new community garden that will serve as an avenue towards a deeper level of community engagement of people with and without disabilities in the area.
The City of Clarkston, though small (one square mile area), has the distinction of being the most diverse city in the nation with immigrants and refugees from more than 60 different countries, speaking various languages and dialects. In the 1990s, refugee resettlement programs identified Clarkston as a good fit for all refugees coming to the State. The rental market was open, residents were moving farther out from the Atlanta urban core and Clarkston was the last stop on a transit line into the city. By the 2000s, the local high school had students from many different countries, a local mosque had 800 worshipers and by some estimates, half the population was from outside the US. Community gardening provides a great opportunity for communities to come together, people to gather and share ideas and adds to their self esteem and worthiness. More importantly, enthusiasm for gardening and working towards a common goal can transcend any language or social barriers. The goal is to create a community of belonging for all. To see a video project featuring the international City of Clarkston, click here.
Forsyth Farmers' Market: The Forsyth Farmers' Market was created to address food access issues and to provide all members of Savannah's community with a welcoming, inclusive place to purchase regional produce. Market organizers strive for diversity amongst vendors, shoppers, volunteers and educators. As a Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities Real Communities initiative, the market in Forsyth Park will serve as a building block to create means of developing a more welcoming neighborhood, as well as provide opportunities for connection and contribution for people with and without disabilities.
The core group, Mixed Greens, works together to support the market with smiling faces, interactive projects and learning opportunities. The Mixed Greens meet regularly for potlucks and to plan new projects. Additionally, each week at the market, members of the Mixed Greens assist with set-up and clean-up for the market and staff an education/information booth. In late March of 2012, the Mixed Greens launched the Little Green Wagon project, a mobile garden for youth. Young people stop by the education booth, plant a seed and add a plant to the market with their name. Members of the Mixed Greens take care of the plants during the week and bring the mobile garden back to the market on Saturday so that the young persons can stop in, socialize and check on their plant. To read more about the Little Green Wagon project, click here. Mixed Greens also started a new project taking place in the market called Green Chairs, and it is turning into a great conversation starter. To read more, click here.
The Forsyth Farmers' Market is already a cornerstone of the local food community in Savannah. By coupling its efforts around food access with the Real Communities project, the Forsyth Farmers' Market hopes to become the centerpiece for building a more welcoming Savannah community.
GCDD presents a Real Communities video featuring the Forsyth Farmers' Market project. To see the video, click here.
Other Partners and Resources
Video Interview with Professor John McKnight: Capacity Building Beyond Community Services
Creating a National Learning Collaborative on Welcoming Communities
The GCDD is working with other Developmental Disability Councils to learn how to support communities who want to share the gifts of all its members. The Learning Collaborative began with its first meeting on June 21, 2012.
The Learning Collaborative is about intentional learning and building a center of knowledge that can be put into active use. It will allow participants to 1) build networks of peer learning; 2) link individuals, organizations and learning in mutually beneficial ways; and, 3) improve our own work. Participants will use dialogue grounded in shared experiences and a shared focus, group members question ideas and actions; examine perspectives and beliefs and work toward an understanding about the focus of our collaborative work. This focus is grounded in community development values that people with developmental disabilities can and should be equal members of their communities based on the gifts they bring.
We will create a learning partnership to build useful knowledge from practice. This will include a commitment to work together on formulating the questions to be answered and the way that knowledge will be gathered. The Collaborative will nurture a core group who are using a variety of community development principles and practices as a strategy to create more welcoming communities for people with developmental disabilities using person centered, community centered and purposeful learning approaches. Using these approaches will allow for the sharing of stories about the role of people with developmental disabilities as leaders in community change efforts. Crislip and Larson (1994) “if you bring the appropriate people together in constructive ways with good information, they will create authentic visions and strategies for addressing the shared concerns of the organization or community.” These discussions will allow us to expand our thinking around questions such as:
- Are there a set of principles and practices that emerge from diverse communities and approaches to community integration and engagement?
- How can we add value to what we do as Councils by working in a collaborative way?
- What can we see together to give more choices, that isn’t being seen by us as individual Councils?
- What does it really take to get the results we really want?
- What are additional techniques and tools that we can use gathered from people not focused on developmental disabilities?