Key to our work is understanding that we may not be able to change the way society views and treats women; rather, we work to build the resilience, self-confidence, and “grit” that girls and women need to face any challenge. Much of this work early in my “Chrysalis career” was based on what I had previously learned about “asset-based community development,” or ABCD, developed in 1988 by John McKnight and Jody Kretzmann at DePaul University.
I summarized this concept in an op-ed piece I wrote for the Des Moines Register, and it appeared in the Des Moines Register. Here it is, from 2007:
Published April 5, 2007
For information about the Chrysalis Foundation, go to www.chrysalisfdn.org. For information on the Asset-Based Community Development Institute through Northwestern University, go to www.northwestern.edu/ipr/abcd.html.
Chrysalis-led alliance pools efforts to help women, girls
By TERRY HERNANDEZ IOWA VIEW
After 18 years of working to build a stronger community for women and girls, the Chrysalis Foundation is using the knowledge it has gained to help strengthen the efforts of dozens of organizations to improve lives of central Iowa’s women, girls and families.
How does true community-building take place? Experts in the field from Chicago’s Asset-Based Community Development Institute (ABCD) say that when knowledge, assets, skills and capacities are identified and engaged, we have everything in place to make it happen.
Chrysalis utilizes its Women’s Alliance, a collaboration it first created in 1998, to seek out the skills and experience of those who know what works. This partnership pulls together the collective energy of dozens of local nonprofit organizations and foundations. Its dual intent is to improve individual lives of local women and girls and to increase effectiveness of partner organizations in this work.
What Chrysalis has learned goes far beyond “familiar” issues in the news, although it’s clear that attention must focus on “poverty traps” hazardous to low-income women and families (unemployment, lack of safe and affordable housing and child care, and inability to access health care and other benefits).
Chrysalis now has a better understanding of why coordination between providers is difficult and why well-intentioned staff members often feel isolated in their work and challenged by the day-to-day care required to meet the urgent needs of fragile families.
Nonprofit partners in the alliance report that the most important benefit of the partnership is to have Chrysalis’ interest in providing more than funding – in being a true partner committed to changing the conditions affecting low-income women and families.
Chrysalis will continue to convene the Women’s Alliance to listen and learn, share and educate, and look beyond the needs of any single organization. Chrysalis has also made several promises to our partners. We promise to lead collaboration and partnerships that amplify our continued work. To raise the collective voice of all partners through advocacy and education. To help every member of the alliance achieve the goals it outlines in its strategic plan. And to continue as a long-term partner in this work.
Why is the Women’s Alliance important to Chrysalis? There are many reasons, including our vision for a stronger future for women and girls. The Women’s Alliance project helps Chrysalis build community as we:
– Tap intellectual resources of partner agencies, learning what does and doesn’t work.
– Identify, focus and prioritize the most effective strategies.
– Signal the importance of issues to policymakers, media, and local and national foundations.
– Leverage other financial resources (donors, corporations and foundations).
– Guarantee a return on investment using data, indicators, and results.
This work isn’t unique to Chrysalis. The successes of United Way of Central Iowa, Health Care for Kids Coalition, Health Access Partnership, Making Connections initiatives and many others have helped create a framework for true community building.
What is unique about our approach is its gender focus, dual approach (improving lives and enhancing organizational effectiveness) and multi-level engagement of individuals, nonprofit agencies, foundations and policymakers.
Experts at ABCD define “community” as relationships over time. For Chrysalis, the Women’s Alliance project helps us build a stronger community through a long-term partnership focused on change.
TERRY HERNANDEZ is executive director of the Chrysalis Foundation.
…its’ not new and it’s not complicated, and it’s been working for Chrysalis for nearly 30 years.