Degree Date


Document Type

Dissertation - Public Access

Degree Name

Ph.D. Doctor of Philosophy

Academic Discipline

Community Psychology

First Advisor

Suzette Fromm- Reed


This study seeks to expand upon Empowerment Theory (Rappaport, 1984) by utilizing Asset Based Community Development to better understand what community members and organizations deem as current strengths and needs of Chicago’s twentieth ward. The questions that this dissertation explores are What strengths exist in Chicago's 20th ward that can lead to empowerment for the community and What are community members' perspectives on what is needed in the 20th ward for community members to thrive? In order to explore these questions, this dissertation moves away from the terminology of “community needs assessment” and chooses to rather focus on Asset Based Community Development, a strategy for sustainable community driven development (Collaborative for Neighborhood Transformation, 2023). This new lens helps identify and highlight all of the assets that already exist in Chicago’s twentieth ward and identifies ways to strengthen the community as a whole. The research also illustrates how community members are agents of change versus just subjects of research. Through the utilization of a Community Needs Assessment that surveyed six hundred twenty nine participants as well as four individual organizational interviews, data found that community members deemed mental health services, youth and family services and educational programs as the top needs of Chicago’s twentieth ward. In comparison to other studies (National Urban League, 2019), these are many of the same needs that were deemed most important in Community Needs Assessments that surveyed predominantly African American communities.

Much of the existing research expounds upon the lack of mental health services and family services in communities of color. While the community has several needs, the study also identified resilience as one of the major community assets that members of the ward possess. Relying heavily on a historicizing of these issues, my project shows how community members and community stakeholders—create a rich and valid site from which to explore the development of community activism and change as well as how these narratives connect to larger cultural narratives of race, class and community. The nature of this inquiry highlights the interrelationship between community assets and community change.

Keywords: Chicago’s 20th Ward, Asset Based Community Development, Organizational Participation, Participatory Action