Faith-based community-academic partnerships: An asset-based community development strategy for social change

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Linda Silver Coley
Elizabeth Stryon Howze
Kyle McManamy


Faith-based community anchor institutions are important collaborators in community development. They are respected social innovators who deploy their assets for the common good, especially good works aimed towards helping marginalised communities and those in poverty. More recently, the pace of faith-based social innovation and community development leadership has slowed substantially (Jones 2016). Seeking renewed imagination, will and ability for asset-based social innovation among faith-based communities, the Ormond Center at Duke University’s Divinity School has developed a curriculum, based on a human ecology framework, that engages faith-based ‘community- academic partnered participatory research’ (Chen et. al. 2006) towards social change.

Our approach starts by working with congregations to discover community-level barriers to thriving in their local context. We then walk alongside faith-based communities to identify strengths-based, relationship-centred opportunities to collaboratively integrate congregational assets with community assets towards positive social change. This curriculum has been tested by the Ormond Center with several diverse, multi- denominational congregations in communities located in North Carolina and Virginia. Its potential to encourage asset-based community development for social good is supported by tangible evidence. This article takes the reader through the process of changing a semester-long graduate course, designed by the academy for the academy, to a six-week course that walks alongside faith- based lay leaders and pastors in their local context, towards asset-based community development for positive social change. Five viable asset-based solutions to community-level social issues are shared, and lessons learned are offered.

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Research articles (Refereed)


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