FREDERICTON (GNB) – More than 300 people from across New Brunswick attended a workshop on asset-based community development by John McKnight, co-director of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

"The high turnout to this workshop speaks to the strength of a provincewide desire to move forward," said Culture, Tourism and Healthy Living Minister Trevor Holder. "It is so exciting to witness the engagement of people throughout New Brunswick as they work together to make positive changes that will enrich and strengthen their communities. Our department recognizes that these changes start from the ground up: they take root within the community and grow outward into surrounding areas."

McKnight is recognized worldwide in the development of neighbourhoods and communities. His approach is considered simple and effective: it is about building communities based on existing strengths rather than focusing solely on needs.

"Each community is full of primary resources on which it can build a prosperous future," said McKnight. "Five pillars revolve around a community: individuals, institutions, associations, the local economy and physical space. Simply connect these assets to create an invaluable strength that will carry out a community development project."

Participants had the opportunity to break into teams to exchange views about the concepts presented by McKnight.

"John McKnight's approach to community development dovetails perfectly with the work being done by the community inclusion networks throughout the province," said Brian Duplessis, executive director, United Way/Centraide of Central New Brunswick. "He provided practical resources and tools that can be used by a wide range of organizations dedicated to reducing poverty in New Brunswick."

The workshop was held at the Northside Youth Centre, located at Willie O'Ree Place in Fredericton.

"The Northside Youth Centre was a logical choice for the presentation of this event," said Mitch Claybourn, director of the centre. "The development and establishment of the centre is a good example of community partnership. We combined the desire and determination of young people with the talent and expertise of retired people ready to build facilities for area youth."

The workshop was organized by the Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation in partnership with the Department of Culture, Tourism and Healthy Living.

"Communities in New Brunswick are more vibrant than ever, and the proof has yet been made at this workshop," said Léo-Paul Pinet, president of the Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation "To see that more than 300 people came from across the province on a Friday in mid-July to listen and learn from a community organizer of the calibre of John McKnight clearly shows that New Brunswickers are socially committed to improving their communities. I think Mr. McKnight has convinced the participants that we have everything we need so that, together, we can make our province more prosperous by focusing on our own strengths and assets.”

The corporation has a board of directors consisting of 22 members representing the government, the business sector, non-profit community organizations and individuals who have lived or are living in poverty.