Citizens and their Communities
Posted: September 26, 2012
Community Groups graphic from the Extension program "Choosing Our Direction," Workbook 2, and www.abcdinstitute.org/publications/
I’ve been focusing in my last few blog entries on communities and land-use decisions. Today, I ask you to consider further the role of the citizen within communities.
In Westmoreland County in 2010, I helped to plan and coordinate a Community and Economic Development Summit where the Keynote Speaker was Dr. John McKnight of Northwestern University’s Asset Based Community Development Institute (to hear a recording of Dr. McKnight, click here).
In this recorded presentation, Dr. McKnight better describes the graphic displayed on this page and the relative importance of each of the concentric circles illustrated. (see also“Exercise 1” of the Extension program “Choosing Our Direction,” Workbook 2 and http://www.abcdinstitute.org/publications/ )
Dr. McKnight explains in his presentation that individual citizens form the foundation for each of the other circle groupings – “Associations” and “Institutions.” As we all wrestle with “the new normal” of constrained monetary resources, McKnight's 2010 prediction that “institutions” are reaching the limits of what they can do for societies seems all the more pertinent in 2012. The global economy continues to struggle, yet our communities’ needs and aspirations remain. More than ever, the importance of individual citizens in strong communities’ development is becoming apparent.
My Extension colleague Liesel Dreisbach talks about this important concept – citizenship – also, in her last blog: http://extension.psu.edu/ecd/news/2012/personal-citizenship-the-power-of-one.
As we approach the Fall elections and as you make decisions affecting the future of your communities, no matter which party or other affiliations you claim as your own, I suggest that you study and use the resources that Penn State Extension and other universities generate.
Our fiscal, societal, local, and global challenges may be daunting, but that is not anything new. What has worked repeatedly throughout history is the power of engaged and enlightened citizenry to improve lives, enhance quality of life, and make the most of community opportunities. As Dr. McKnight asserts, research has proven this true.
When we, as citizens, each make individual decisions about our needs and wants, we need to make the most of the collective knowledge that has been created and compiled for us. Dr. McKnight advised in his presentation -- before we decide what else we need, we need to take stock of the incredible assets that we already have.
One of those assets, the institution known as “the Extension service,” was created over a century ago to assist in the transference of research-based knowledge to the benefit of our communities. I believe that the most important element that makes that transference complete, or indeed, possible at all, is the engaged citizen.
Right now, and as always, that is what our communities need most.
Moreover, it is what Extension Educators need to make Extension programming effective for your community --
To read other Penn State Extension Economic and Community Development Blogs, go to --