By: Pete Hutchison, YES Program Director
It seems as a culture we are incredibly adept at using our hands for destructive purposes. We often couch these activities in the cloak of competitiveness, the will to succeed, the survival of the fittest, pulling ourselves up by our boot straps and so on. Taken on face value these are all good things, however, when we fail to see the effect they may have on others, they can quickly turn bad.
We, as a society, have also seemingly recognized that it is much easier to identify the negative than it is to find the positive. Deficit programming comprises the basis of many public health interventions. We identify the problem and figure out a way to fix it. This is reinforced by the applications we make for funding as we answer the statement of need. We are not often called upon to identify the strengths of our communities and show how we will build on these assets. Rather, we work to identify the deficits and work to fix them. This strategy of deficit intervention often blinds us from discovering community assets and resources, interferes with considering alternative approaches.
Taking a deficit strategy further, in our communities we often find the desire to tear down the old and rebuild with new, sending a message to the community that it was all wrong and that it needs to completely rebuild. This can be witnessed in the demolition of housing stock, the dismantling of programs and the new flood of political recall efforts. What we often fail to realize is that when we tear down we often are leaving a vacuum that is filled with more negativity than was there before. We fail to recognize the assets that our communities possess and we lose them rather than build on them.
Hands 4 Peace is a development strategy that attempts to circumvent the above pitfalls. As the name indicates it is a strategy that advocates using our hands to create peace, not for destructive purposes. It is about identifying our community assets and then building on our strengths. All communities possess strengths, if we were to expend as much energy building on these strengths as we do on tearing down deficits, we would be building on a foundation of community pride which would lead to sustainability in our programming. Communities like individuals respond to empowerment, which is what the asset approach of Hands 4 Peace is based on. In order to identify community’s assets it requires that we enter into relationship with that community which in turn will lead to joint ownership and ultimately community ownership of the program. It will also lead to strengthened programming as we will enjoy the unique insights into the community which will lead to program success.
It is this Hands 4 Peace philosophy that undergirds the Youth Violence Prevention Center and the interventions that comprise it. Through creative partnerships between the University and the local community we are building on the strengths that have supported the community through all of its times of challenge. By authentically joining hands with community, we all truly become artisans of peace.