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The Power of Asset Framing: A Conversation with Trabian Shorters

“How do we create equitable outcomes for all members of our community? We can start by defining people by their aspirations, not their challenges.”

This method of thinking, commonly known as “asset-framing,” has become an essential part of the way Trabian Shorters views his work as the founder & CEO of BMe Community. The Miami-based organization has developed a network of innovators, leaders, and champions who invest in aspiring communities across the country and help develop positive change. For Shorters, recognizing people as assets to their community has helped drive his organization’s impact and tell a more accurate story of the groups they serve.

To learn more about asset-framing and how it can be used in our own work for Detroit children, we recently invited Trabian to speak with our Board of Trustees and staff. Following the conversation, we sat down with him to capture some of his thoughts around the subject and how it can be applied to help strengthen an organization’s focus on equity.

Defining “Asset-Framing” and How It Can Be Applied

Trabian explained asset-framing and describes how it can be applied in philanthropy and throughout our daily lives.

Narrative Is A Key Part in How We Frame Our Lives

Next, Trabian identified the important role narrative plays in our life and how it influences our understanding of identity, decision making, and the people around us.

It’s Our Responsibility to Care About Each Other

In order to create a more caring society, Trabian thinks philanthropy needs to do a better job of bringing people together under a common cause.

The Dangers of Using a Stigmatizing Narrative

Trabian also explained the dangers of philanthropic organizations using stigmatizing or negative narratives in their work. While on the surface these tales of deficit and despair seem effective in inciting action from stakeholders and gaining sympathy from the larger public, they can also stigmatize the communities they intend to serve.

The Power of Sharing Truthful Narratives

Finally, Trabian shares the importance of telling truthful narratives that will positively influence future generations and inspire people to work toward a common goal.

The Skillman Foundation

A voice for children since 1960, The Skillman Foundation is a private philanthropy that serves as a fierce champion of Detroit children. The Foundation works to ensure Detroit youth achieve their highest aspirations by strengthening K-12 public education, afterschool learning opportunities, and college and career pathways.

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