Asset-based approaches from the bottom up: challenging the deficit model from the grassroots

Authors: Prita Lal*,
Topics: Applied Geography, Urban Geography, Agricultural Geography
Keywords: Participatory Action Research, asset-based community development, urban agriculture, scholar-activism, policy councils
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Grand Ballroom E, Sheraton, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


As a scholar-activist, my methodological approach to academic research has been rooted in Participatory Action Research (PAR). In Farm School NYC, I was trained in asset-based approaches to community organizing that built community projects drawing upon the strengths, talents, and resources of community members. Through these processes, I studied how community members were able to revitalize community spaces in neighborhoods targeted by decades of systemic disinvestment. This asset-based approach informed my doctoral research on the relationship between community gardens and gentrification by integrating a “desire-centered” approach that sees the community as participants, creators, and agents of transformation (Tuck 2009).
Although these types of asset-based approaches to food justice are numerous and growing at the grassroots level in diverse regions of the U.S. and globally, I have noticed a divergent approach when examining the policy level. For instance, programs sponsored by land grant colleges and universities, typically with USDA support, tend to focus on teaching “healthy eating” habits to low-income residents, without acknowledging the “assets” of those community members nor the structural factors that inhibit access to real food. In this presentation, I propose to provide an overview of theoretical understandings of “desire-centered” and asset-based research, within a PAR framework, and explore possibilities for connecting such frameworks from the grassroots to regional, state and national level programs in ways that challenge the “deficit” model so ubiquitous at these higher levels of policy.

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