Ecosystem Development: Needs vs. Assets

How do you build an ecosystem of resources and assets around a physical community?

That’s the question I’ve been struggling with for the past few months. During my recent trip to India, I found there were varied answers to the question, ranging from “it’s the government’s job” to “the community will have to do everything for itself.” I finally heard the answer I wanted to hear from the dynamic leaders of an emerging Indian giant. Over breakfast they told me that they were trying to build the right ecosystem around a rural village, and they were serious about building employment opportunities into the village itself.

Back in the USA, retired research biologist Marlene Warner gave me a book yesterday which made me sit up. It was John McKnight’s The Careless Society: Community and Its Counterfeits. In it, McKnight talks about diagnostic and anti-diagnostic ideologies. 

This diagram is diagnostic; it points out needs and deficiencies, and turns citizens into consumers of medical social and service systems:


The second diagram is anti-diagnostic; it creates a map of capacities and assets, and empowers citizens, associations, and enterprises. The author says it can be a resource magnet.


A synthesis of these two maps is needed, says McKnight. These diagrams have to be integrated to build an integrated development model, and the community must be involved in the creation or co-creation of its future.

Now, how do we do this for the $300 House, and the $300 House Village? How can we disrupt the ecosystems of poverty?