Collaboration, Collective Impact, Sustainable Economies
Blackburn Community Outreach, Inc. began as Blackburn House, an intentional community and service year program. Blackburn House emerged as a community and economic development project from within Blackburns’ Chapel UMC. This collaborative model provides an opportunity for Blackburns’ Chapel to continue vital ministry for the church and in the community, as a small rural congregation that otherwise wouldn’t have sustainable financial and administrative support. It provides an opportunity for the BCO staff, its interns, and Blackburn House cohorts to experience bi-vocationality, engaging in creative and grassroots parish ministry and social justice work in the wider community, while being formed spiritually, in a beautiful and naturally contemplative rural mountain environment. The Todd community benefits from increased exposure, patrons, activism, and volunteerism as well as overall goodwill and neighborliness through consistent events, programs and services that the collaboration provides. Blackburn House is part of an ancient monastic tradition of prophetic reform which provides a source of deep moral and spiritual formation for cohorts. This formation grounds residents with a commitment to place and stewardship. The residents’ formation also provides the gift of a cohort committed to attend to and resist institutionalization and other compromising attachments to evil and injustice within the church, non-profit and wider community.
Asset-Based Community Development
Blackburn Community Outreach, Inc. is committed to a way of grassroots organizing called asset-based community development (ABCD). This is a methodology for the sustainable development of communities based on their strengths and potentials. It involves assessing the resources, skills, and experience available in a community; organizing the community around issues that move its members into action; and then determining and taking appropriate action.
The ABCD approach was developed by John L. McKnight and John P. Kretzmann at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. They co-authored a book in 1993, “Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing A Community’s Assets,” which outlined their asset-based approach to community development. Blackburn House traces its roots in ABCD to its membership in and training from the Christian Community Development Association.
Faith Rooted Organizing
Faith-rooted organizing is about gathering people together to create systemic change in our communities that is deeply informed by the moral and spiritual resources from faith traditions. Blackburn Community Outreach, Inc.’s organizing and all of its programs are grounded in the Christian tradition. However, we acknowledge and affirm that faith-rooted organizing emerged in an interfaith context and is practiced by people of diverse faith traditions across the world.