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Libraries and Museums as Catalysts for Change


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Nothing about us without us 

So says Deb Wisniewski, consultant and evaluator on the Community Catalyst Initiative (CCI) grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The multi-year, multi-cohort grant is a partnership between the ABCD Institute and the Steans Center.  Wisniewski's comment is central to the understanding of asset-based community development (ABCD) which emphasizes local assets as the primary building blocks of sustainable community development.  The grant reflects an effort to shift the role of local institutions in supporting community-driven development to one where they become catalysts for community-based change led by community members. 

The goal of CCI was to answer a fundamental question: How can libraries and museums catalyze positive, community-driven change? The first of the two rounds of the IMLS grants worked with a cohort of 24 libraries and museums across the country, each engaging with local communities through the lens of ABCD. From a nature center in rural Wisconsin and a library in west suburban Chicago, to a university school of social work and libraries serving communities in Baltimore, the libraries and museums explored how to engage more deeply with communities, recognize their assets, and practice “leading by stepping back."  The IMLS initiative, now in its second cohort and grant cycle, will continue into September 2021.

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