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Understanding Community: Who is in front of you?

A key part of conducting a community-centered landscape analysis is understanding and valuing the community that is in front of you as opposed to a general understanding of community. 

In the education field, many often refer to a needs assessment as a way to better understand one’s community, but we’d like to reframe this language to better honor community gifts and strengths. To do so, we encourage LEAs to consider the following question: 

What are the varied gifts and strengths of in my school community?

Identify engaging and innovative ways to answer this question collaboratively:

  • Community walks–  This is a great opportunity for students and community/familial leaders to lead educators through an asset-based community walk. These walks should be grounded in educators developing a deeper understanding of the community through research and conversation and not rely on essentialist understandings of communities.
    Here are some more recommendations for crafting these walks:
    • Set a clear purpose
    • Craft a learning question
    • Create norms to promote respect
    • Invite students, families, and communities to participate
    • Structure the experience
Drawing of diverse school principals and administrators of different genders, ages, and descents taking a stroll through a lively community street. Children of various backgrounds wave at them, and local vendors of different ethnicities greet them warmly. The environment is vibrant with trees, benches, and community murals.
  • Community arts based dialogue/Imaginings-A foundational principle of community arts based dialogues is that the arts can be a vehicle for understanding the community and enabling full participation. An imagining is an arts-infused gathering for community visioning where participants envisions their communities’ futures with art’s transformative power shaping all aspects of communal life. Imaginings are a more inclusive form of participation and not passive experiences for viewing. Imaginings include engaging ways to tell stories: murals, maps, poems, and manifestos. 

Instead of thinking about the areas of growth or needs that communities have, consider what are the supports that can help communities thrive. Consider how you might partner with community partners to provide those supports. 

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