In the last six posts I have drawn on my experience of community development to discuss the six kinds of asset identified by Asset Based Community Development (ABCD).
Maybe they don’t mention spiritual assets because all assets are spiritual. However, spirituality is important to help us find assets in our communities.
One common mistake is to think of spirituality as something inchoate, out there. Spirit floats around, influencing us in certain difficult to define ways.
This is fantasy, not spirituality. I’ve suggested in a previous post that spirituality is paying attention. Perhaps we could say spirituality draws our attention to things and embodies meaning in things. Science often gets the blame for disenchanting the world. Science works because scientists pay attention.
No, it is the false spirituality that opposes the spiritual and material that disenchants the world.
It is easy to plan bleak housing estates through utilitarian analysis, where everyone gets exactly what they need to be happy. It doesn’t work and never has.
So, what does work? People live meaningful lives in communities where people work together to contribute to their local economy. The neo-liberal mindset associates wealth with the corporations, who draw wealth out of our neighbourhoods. They don’t see the sustainable wealth rooted in every neighbourhood.
Unstructured Meeting Places
The first priority of every neighbourhood is to provide the spaces in which community takes place. Unstructured meeting places allow people to identify problems and new opportunities. It is where care for those who need it can be worked out.
This is not to say we must isolate every neighbourhood from the world. Each neighbourhood has its unique combination of assets and these form the offers it makes to other neighbourhoods. Residents work in other neighbourhoods and contribute to their local economies.
We must see the economy not as corporations and financial markets. An economy that supports everyone is fractal. Each small part has smaller parts that contribute to the whole. This way we have an economy able to withstand fluctuations; the failure of one business should have a limited impact.
Spirituality and Economics
It is interesting that as we understand spirituality as immaterial and somehow out there, we do the same to economics. These days we conceive it as something that happens between stock exchanges and mediated by machines. We see “boom and bust” market fluctuations and think they are a law of nature. “Boom and bust” is inevitable if unaccountable people gamble on financial markets.
How can we help local economies resist the fluctuations generated by the formal economy? There are experiments with local currencies and other approaches to make an economic space in which local economies can grow. These are the means to can capitalise on previously unrecognised local assets.
If they are going to work, it means we need to pay attention to the local assets that can build each neighbourhood into the new national localised economy.
If you know of any experiments designed to support local economies, why not share them here?