Capacity Focused Alternative

Definition: The alternative is to develop policies and activities based on the capacities, skills and assets of low-income people and their neighborhoods. There are two reasons for this capacity-oriented emphasis. First, all the historic evidence indicates that significant community development takes place only when local community people are committed to investing themselves and their resources in the effort. Second, there is little prospect that large-scale industrial or service corporations will locate in these low-income neighborhoods (McKnight, J.L., and Kretzmann, J. P., Mapping community capacity. Chapter 9. P 159).

Apply: A capacity inventory allows for an understanding of all the assets distributed within the community. It further allows for people to become producers rather than a problem. It is essential for community development to recognize that all communities assets are not equally assessable. More importantly is to realize that people are the greatest assets in communities. Even the most marginalized individuals have rich potential. Capacity focus alternative also helps in understanding that even within the poorest city neighborhoods there are already organizations that can be used as resources.

Adapt: This is similar to time banking in that it connects community members’ capacities and talents. One can go about a capacity inventory in two ways. One possibility is to collect inventory of talents and then connecting members to sources in which their ability will be applicable. Another form, will be to collect inventory of needed skills and then connecting the needs to community members that can assist. I have seen this play out within my own neighborhood’s middle school after school programs. Children were not benefiting from the program and were instead being allowed to engage in delinquent activity. Parents were upset that their complaints were not being met and decided to go into action. These parents formed a club and went knocking on community members’ doors in order to gain inventory on which members were willing and had the skills to do the work it would take for maintenance and management of the program. After the inventor was complete the parents club managed to connect skills to jobs and successfully took over the after school program.

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  1. Apply: A capacity focused approach can be critical to community development efforts, by playing upon the strengths of a community and its resources, while simultaneously avoiding the threat of its weaknesses. Community development efforts in a low-income largely Latino neighborhood with a strong church following, may be enhanced by a capacity focused approach, by recognizing the central role of the church and its events to members of the community. Additionally, the homogeneity of the neighborhood as predominantly Latino and Spanish-speaking is an essential factor to consider, particularly with respect to the opportunities and limitations these characteristics present to community organizing and development. A closer look at more particular individual level characteristics of community members – experience, skills, interests, etc – can provide community developers and community organizers with invaluable information for identifying goals and objectives that are most appropriate for the particular community they are working with, and how best to achieve those goals and objectives.

    Adapt: A capacity focused approach can also provide a great framework for the reorganization of a research team. By looking at the the abilities of team members as opposed to the needs of the project, a project manager can better meet the demands of the project by utilizing staff members in a way that maximizes their skills and abilities. For example, if a mid-level analyst is traditionally assigned the role of lead interviewer, a junior-level analyst typically assigned to data management, and the senior analyst typically responsible for conducting all of the data analysis and writing of project reports, a capacity focused approach may find that these traditional breakdown of responsibilities does not best utilize the professional capacity of team members. A capacity focused approach, may in fact find that the junior-level analyst is actually quite skilled in interviewing and can enhance the effectiveness and productivity of data collection activities by participating in this aspect of the project. Additionally, the abilities of the mid-level analyst may be best utilized by assigning him/her to data analysis or report writing, as opposed to conducting field research.