sábado, 23 de mayo de 2015

Last Chance for a Change?

By: Jacqueline NUILA

Asset-Based community development is a theory stemming from the ideas of Aaron Antonovsky. Introduced in 1987, his ideas evolved to create the concept of Salutogenesis and included the philosophies of asset-based community development and assets in health. His ideas widely differ from the most commonly used ways of assessing behaviors and health in a given setting. Rather than focusing on the deficiencies and the needs that the community in question, Antonovsky believed that we should focus on what the community does have- the positive attributes, the people, places, organizations, infrastructure, and culture that do and can create healthy environments for those that live in the community. Assets for health are any factor that can better the ability of persons or groups to maintain and conserve health and wellbeing. (1) 

 While reading about Antonovsky’s pioneer vision, I began to think of the context in which this type of idea would work best. My immediate reaction was that this model is quite utopic. The idea that we can sit at a round table and focus on everyone’s talents and ignore the needs and (at times) the grim realities of the current situation of a certain community is to me a bit unreal. I realize that perhaps a new way to assess the needs and situation of a population is needed however it seems to me that it needs to be a bit more realistic. A balance of both focusing on the good and bad would be more appropriate.  I began to think of how much the model wouldn’t work in places where there is civil/political unrest, outright war, ethnic/religious tensions, overwhelming inequalities, etc.

It did however occur to me that perhaps we can use this model in a context that is a little closer to home. "Last Chance High" is a documentary about an alternative school for at-risk youth in Chicago. Most of the students at Montefiore have been kicked out of other schools for aggressive behavior, and many have been diagnosed with emotional disorders. The 8 part documentary series goes much deeper than simply following the classrooms at Montefiore. It goes into the homes of students who are one mistake away from being sent to jail or committed to a mental hospital.

Seeing the problems that these kids were going through and with the ideas of assets for health floating around in my head, I saw that this would be an appropriate if not ideal place to use the model.  Most of these kids have been emotionally neglected, physically or sexually abused and due to these abuses now have serious anger issues that have gotten them into trouble. Their problems are all unique however there are obvious threads that the stories have in common- unstable and almost entirely 1 parent homes, abuse, reside in areas of violence/gang affiliation, and low socioeconomic status.

If in these schools, we are able to end the focus on low achievement, teen pregnancy, violence and change the focus to the opportunities and abilities that these young people do have perhaps we can end the self-fulfilling prophecy we have had until now. It makes sense that when we only focus and emphasize the deficiencies and low points that are occurring, there is not much hope given to those that are born into that situation. If there begins to be a push that says,” you can achieve, you are creative, you have different gifts and you will develop new abilities” perhaps it will end the vicious cycle we are seeing in our school systems today and not only in Chicago. By focusing on instilling resilience in the children, focusing on the communities as a whole; creating cohesive communities that rely on each other for support and become interconnected and positive, we can create a true social change that isn’t only limited to our schools but our world.

1. Hernan M, Morgan A, Mena A. Formación en salutogénesis y activos para la salud. Granada: Catalogo Publicidad S.L.; 2010.

Images:  http://images.rapgenius.com/9b0d05ac3d177f3d0592fa6d5e0280fe.500x283x1.jpg


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