On January 1, 2023, the world lost a man of great influence. His reputation was gained not by focusing on himself or on great things, but by focusing on the gifts of others at work in simple, everyday places—neighborhoods like yours and mine.
John P. (Jody) Kretzmann is best known for being the co-founder of a movement known as Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD). Those who knew him say he was a great teacher, husband, father, mentor, and friend. His friend and co-founder of the ABCD movement, John L. McKnight, said “Jody was an incredibly thoughtful person. He wasn’t a great ‘talker.’ He was a great thinker.” His attentiveness to others started a movement that has touched countless lives. His thoughtfulness and his kind approach to people is what drew us to ABCD at the beginning stages of The Hopeful Neighborhood Project (HNP).
In 2019, Rev. Dr. Tony Cook, the founder of HNP, was eager to know more about the condition of neighborhoods in America. He asked himself and others, “What motivates people today to action and doing good in their communities? What would it look like if neighbors depended on each other’s gifts like they did in his boyhood town of Downs, Illinois? How can people pursue the common good with their neighbors, right where they live?” So, to address these questions, Tony and a small group of others began looking for answers.
Soon, Tony and the newly formed HNP team began making some discoveries. Among their most important findings were two helpful “Johns”: John P. Kretzmann and John L. McKnight. Their Asset-Based Community Development movement became a blueprint for HNP’s guiding principles. The HNP’s conviction that we are all created by God to pursue the common good and to join with others in that shared work aligns seamlessly with the principles of ABCD. In fact, it’s the core of what we do. We’ve also found many others who have studied the ABCD movement and are convinced that building on what is strong, not what is wrong, is the best way forward. It’s a philosophy that can truly change a person, their neighborhood, and the world.
So it is with sadness that we join in mourning the loss of Jody with the friends and partners we have met along our journey. We also join in honoring the greatness of a man who didn’t focus on being great. Jody used his gifts, and the gifts of others, to accomplish many things. And those things, both great and small, when done with others, have impacted the world in a huge way.