Building Strong Communities

By: Meredith
Meredith is a participant in the Emerging Leaders in Philanthropy: Changemakers class.

Asset-based community development is when groups in a community work to change and further expand their society. This development could be technological, numeral, or emotional. Asset-based community development demonstrates a community coming together to make a bigger and more significant impact. Groups include residents, voluntary associations, institutions, physical assets, economic activity, and stories. The mapping activities we did in class helped show how every group in a community works together. The map showed us that even though we may be a part of completely different societies, the same characteristics can be used in each society to create change. Mapping out our own communities and the different ones that we were a part of showed the class how much we all had in common. Most of our communities were not the same but served the same purpose for ourselves. It also showed us how many skills we have in common that we use everyday in our different communities.

Building strong communities is very important to the development of a society. Without strong communities our world would not be as unified as it is now. Strong communities create order and success that create change and advance the world faster. Strong communities consist of strong leaders and accepting members. Although some people may have more of a say or a bigger impact on final decisions, without all of the components of a community, nothing would function smoothly. Coming from the On The Table dinner discussion, our minds were much more open to the different types of communities in the world and how many of them function with and without the same characteristics. Something I took from the On The Table dinner was that even though some communities may have different levels of development, they all find happiness in their own way. No community needs electricity or running water or huge houses to have happiness. A community creates happiness based on their own needs and things they find essential to their life. This stood out to me because there are many places in the world that function perfectly well and happily, even though they don't have as many luxury items as developed cities do.

One Member of a Seven Person Family

By: Ryan Barrett
Ryan is co-founder of the Allowance for Good Associate Board. To learn more about Ryan, read his bio here

I was born March 10, 1988 with my two triplet sisters – Meghan and Kathleen. On March 2, 1989, our sister – Patti – was born. On March 9, 1990, our brother – T.J. – was born. In other words, I’m one of a five kids in a ridiculously compact family.

Ryan, center, with his four siblings.
My siblings and I were all very fortunate to grow up in a household that fostered each of our individual curiosities, strengths, weaknesses, passions, you name it! On any given Saturday, it wouldn’t be so out of the ordinary to be at my sister’s swimming meet in the morning, another sister’s track meet before lunch, my basketball game in the afternoon, my brother’s soccer practice after that, and my other sister’s piano recital after dinner. We did a lot, and we did a lot together. We were lucky.

Coming from a large family, I learned humility at a very early age. Regardless of what any of us had been doing or how we had been doing at it – whether good or bad – we were each just one member of a seven person family. Now, that’s not to say that victories weren’t applauded and losses weren’t consoled. It just means that my parents engrained in each of us that not one member of our family was any more (or less) important than any other member of our family. That same virtue rung true throughout all aspects of our lives – from the classroom to the locker room to the kitchen table – and with each person we interacted with.

As I grew up and began to get involved in volunteering and philanthropic activities, I developed an appreciation for how fortunate my siblings and I had been to have had the supporting environment that we grew up in and to have had garnered the experiences that ultimately led my triplet sisters and me to Northwestern University. I, again, was humbled and I wanted to give back.
Ryan on a Global Business Brigades trip, Panama.

Going into my junior year of undergrad, I came across an organization – Global Business Brigades (GBB) – that sought to ‘empower undergraduate students to develop sustainable micro enterprise in (at the time, only) Central America.’ I knew I had found my avenue to give back. Over the next two years, I co-founded a GBB chapter, recruited 30 fellow undergraduate students, and organized two trips to Puerto Lara, Panama. Over those two trips, our Northwestern team developed a sustainable eco-tourism business for the indigenous Wounaan Indians of Puerto Lara that will benefit the community for years to come.

GBB enabled me to realize the copious need in our world and the reality that I could actually do something about it. My involvement with GBB made tangible a world to me that had previously only been anecdotal. Once realizing my potential to improve those peoples’ lives less fortunate than me, I very much enjoyed acting on it. I will be acting on that creed the rest of my life.

Allowance for Good empowers youth by making them aware of the same realization I experienced my junior year in college. AfG, then, supplements that awareness by providing the framework for youth that suggests how they can go about actualizing their potential to influence such positive change. Armed with thoughtful programming and inspirational leadership, AfG will continue to educate the next generation of global citizens – providing the very roots of global awareness and philanthropy that will surely enable the future ripples that will leave our world a better place. I am excited to be a part of those ripples.