Blog Post

I Want to Leave a Legacy! What About You? – Guest Blog by Dimitrios Papalexis

by | 5 May, 2023 | Blog, Collaborators, Collaboratory Podcast, Resources

In the most recent episode of Collaboratory, “Values in Action”, our guests Dimitrios Papalexis and Aruna Venkatachalam shared insights into what values guide and underpin their work and how they have put these values into practice.

During the episode, Dimitrios discusses the purpose and applications of the Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) approach. Dimitrios has also written an article about ABCD which we would love to share with you.

Dimitrios Papalexis

I want to leave a legacy.

When I grow old, I want to look back and be proud of myself and what I have accomplished. I want to have a lot of stories to share, I want to make a difference.

Yes, I also want to have a good life and enjoy things, travel but more than that I want meaning…

And I think many people want the same, they want to leave a legacy, they want to be remembered for something, help make the world a better place in some shape or form..

This is why I am so passionate about Asset Based Community Development “ABCD”.

What is ABCD?

ABCD is a participatory, people-led, sustainable change approach that can be used in many different settings such as a particular community, neighbourhood, university, school, target group or movement. .

Why is ABCD Effective?

ABCD is effective and transformational because it works with people’s strengths aka gifts and their motivation to act.

While systemic change, policy change, advocacy, government services and programs are important, they are not enough and they do not include and empower people in the process hence don’t lead to lasting change.

We use in ABCD “don’t wait for the white calvary to save you”.

What happens is that being top down they depend on external money and resources, on outside expertise, on someone in a higher position to care or understand or decide what people need.

They also focus on issues and ignore communities’ stories, local knowledge, resilience, assets, creativity and passion for change.

This is disempowering as people remain passive recipients of support while things are happening to them rather than by them. Hence, they don’t feel included, their strengths are feel welcomed and they end up not engaging or engagement, participation is only superficial and tokenistic. 

ABCD may sound utopian or romantic to some but truth has it that when it is applied it is empowering, effective and brings real lasting change. 

I have been closely involved over the years in many different initiatives using the ABCD approach. 

During those years I have experienced firsthand the power of ABCD.

These experiences inspired my journey.

I have also hold numerous positions in the sector and show how traditional models of service delivery fail to serve the people they are trying to.

Letting People Down

It is sad and disheartening, as money are thrown away in top down outside in initiatives that do not really engage people, value what is strong in them nor build on that.

Those initiatives do not inspire real change, quite the opposite, they can harm people as they approach them without building relationships, trying different interventions and continuously letting people down.

A Shift in Mindset

Applying ABCD takes some time, requires a shift in mindset towards a more strengths based and participatory approach, and also design and facilitation skills but it is worth it.

As I said over the years I have been involved in many different ABCD initiatives.

Over those years, I have seen kids and residents in a small village in Goa India cleaning their river, creating a community library, festivals and local attractions.

I have seen young people in a small rural town Guararema in Brazil using their artistic and creating skills to take care of the elderly, people with disability and make a difference in their community.

I have seen community members in Cooks River in Sydney becoming changemakers and creating prototypes to take care of the river and share their love for the river.

I have seen social housing residents in Villawood Sydney, stepping up to organise community meals, rebuild a community garden and transform a forgotten suburb into a welcoming community.

Stories that inspire us and fuel our work

There are many other examples or better ABCD stories that inspire us and in the following months, I will be creating videos with the help of a young talented filmmaker to share some of these stories with the general public and hopefully inspire you to stay local, value people’s strengths, and include them in grass root change while you are leaving a legacy behind. 

Feel free to contact us via email to sign up to our newsletter so you can be kept in the loop about different initiatives.

Visit our website to check our work with young people, organisations and communities using ABCD, storytelling and arts.

To hear more from Dimitrios and other featured collaborative practitioners, who discuss how their values influence their work and share other useful frameworks and tools for fostering co-creativity, be sure to check out the episode of Collaboratory, “Values in Action”.