By Priscilla Bustamante
I started working for BYMC this past September as Program Associate through an apprenticeship program called Public Allies. Public Allies (PA) is a national organization founded on the belief that everyone can lead, and that lasting social change results when citizens of all backgrounds step up, take responsibility, and work together. Once a week, I attend training sessions with PA program managers and a cohort of fifty other Allies, each placed at a different organization throughout New York City. We discuss topics ranging from leadership and service to social justice issues such as gentrification and immigration policies.
Every week I try to bring back the knowledge gained from training sessions to make my work at BYMC more effective. One of our major PA conversations this fall was around asset-based community development. Contrary to need-based development, asset-based community development focuses on a community’s strengths when assessing how to best create positive change. One of the first steps in the process is to determine available community resources by talking to community members. The next step is to discover what the members consider to be the biggest problems facing their community. Subsequently, members collectively come up with solutions that involve inclusivity and collaboration, and draw upon existing community strengths to build a stronger, more sustainable community for all.
At BYMC, I am using asset-based community development to inform me in guiding the group of young women who will participate in BYMC’s annual Advocacy and Thought Leadership Academy (ATL). ATL focuses on developing the leadership capacities of young mothers by training them as youth organizers and peer educators. Through weekly workshops, field visits, and community forums, ATL members are trained to lead workshops and represent BYMC at schools and community based organizations throughout the city. This year by focusing on their valuable experiences and insights, I hope to guide ATL members in understanding how social change emerges. I believe that by instilling in them their ability to be leaders, helping them focus on their greatest strengths, and ensuring their collaboration, they will be successful in creating positive change in the greater community of New York City.