Vale Jody Kretzmann

Jody Kretzmann Photo

CEI and CERN members were saddened by the recent news of Jody Kretzmann’s death.

Jody Kretzmann’s work, with John McKnight, on asset-based community development (ABCD) has had an indelible impact on community economies thinking and practice.

The foundational ABCD concept of identifying existing assets and then building on these assets resonates with the community economies approach of starting with what we have at hand to build the type of world we want to live in.

CEI and CERN members have drawn on Kretzmann and McKnight’s ABCD work in a range of contexts for almost three decades.

In the mid-1990s, CEI founding members Jenny Cameron and Katherine Gibson were introduced to Kretzmann and McKnight’s foundational 1993 text, Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community's Assets, or “The Green Guide” as it has become familiarly known.

This shaped their participatory action research in the Latrobe Valley of Australia, which involved employing community members as researchers to first work with their peers to document assets and then work with groups of interested community members to harness these assets as the basis for diverse economic initiatives.

The resulting community guide, Shifting Focus: Alternative Pathways for Communities and Economies, was used as the basis for action research projects in the Philippines (see Community Partnering for Development, and Asset-Based Community Development in Diverse Cultural Contexts) and has been used elsewhere, including in teaching in Thailand and in the Pioneer Valley of the US.

Katherine Gibson says “The community economies network has so much to thank both J’s for their pioneering work.”

“It’s amazing how such a simple concept of building on strengths (instead of becoming bogged down in what we don’t have and what’s missing) has been so repressed for so long—and what it’s taken to swing things around. And we’re not there yet! Even in work I’m doing at the moment, the absence of this assets-based approach (and the predominance of deficit thinking) is still so painfully obvious.”

CERN member Bruce Pietrykowski, Professor of Economics at University of Michigan-Dearborn notes that this is “a huge loss for the community economic development world.”

Pietrykowski recalls how he adopted the community assets inventory questionnaire in his project in Detroit that focused on identifying and cataloguing alternative economic practices and interventions and he notes that “The community assets-based approach provided a generous and generative connection to my own community-based participatory action economic research.”

“The inventory is more than a list. It provides opportunities for reflection and a deep connection to the everyday practices of being-in-community that are too-often neglected and/or dismissed as lacking (market) value.”

“These everyday acts of provisioning, caring, teaching, connecting and sharing are the very acts that are core elements of the community economies ‘below the surface’ iceberg and so I am so very grateful to Jody for his contributions to foregrounding the community economy and documenting the rich and varied ways that people make their communities together.”

CEI member Isaac Lyne, who drew on Kretzmann and McKnight’s work in his research with communities and organisations in post-conflict Cambodia and in a recent piece (with Istvan Rado) on two initiatives in Thailand and Cambodia, reflects “As someone who is deeply indebted to Jody Kretzmann's work, together with John McKnight, this feels like a blow as it surely does to countless community development scholars and practitioners around the globe.”

Jenny Cameron