Survival of the Kindest: MINI SERIES – Ep 3 of 3: How and Why Social Health Impacts Disease 

MINI SERIES – Ep 3 of 3: How and Why Social Health Impacts Disease


In the final part of our mini-series which has been focusing on how and why our social health has impacts on our physical health Julian talks to Cormac Russell. Having described the how and why social relationships are so important to human health and wellness, in so many different ways, the next question is what on earth can we do about it. There is no better place to start than with Cormac’s work, Asset Based Community Development. Cormac describes how community building works, how it must be built on relationships and what is strong in communities and how professionals need to prioritise this over their services. It is only through the relationships that are built through community can we hope to solve the many, many problems the world faces.

Full transcript available

This week Julian talks with Cormac Russell, student and expert practitioner at the same time of Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) and founder of Nurture Development. Cormac grew up in rural Ireland, embedded in the warmth of his community. He studied psychology and philosophy to doctoral level, working in the field of child psychology. His ambition to do what is helpful to his fellow citizen, combined with clear insight into what he was doing, led him to believe that institutions were not the way to best help the children contained within them. As Cormac quotes ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. Children are in need of security, physical and emotional nourishment and a sense of belonging, much of which is best provided by communities. He researched different initiatives that might help develop this approach and when he came across the work of John McKnight he instantly recognised that this provided exactly what he was looking for. 

Cormac spent the next few years communicating with, learning from and implementing the work of ABCD, initially within child psychology. But he knew his time was up and that ABCD had so entranced him, he started Nurture Development to spread it more widely. Over the last 20 years, he has travelled the globe supporting communities and professional organisations, whether this be healthcare, social care, political bodies and others, to start using community development. The starting point of this, as Cormac says, is to find out what is strong, not what is wrong. It is also to discover the gifts we all have that can benefit our community. And a gift is not a gift without a receiver, so we had better work out how we can give this gift and who it might benefit from it. Communities are built from there. Cormac’s latest book, Rekindling Democracy: the professional’s guide to working in citizen space’, highlights the journey for professionals and community members alike on how to become community builders rather than community disablers. Nurture Development now have a training platform, The Community Renewal Centre, for anyone who is interested and willing to dip their toes into the world of Asset Based Community Development 

Things mentioned on the podcast

Cormac Russell – Rekindling Democracy

Cormac Russell Twitter

Centre for Community Renewal

Asset Based Community Development

Angela’s Ashes

John McKnight Building Communities From the Inside Out

Peter Macfadyen Flatpack Democracy

Blog about Pokot

Holly Prince episode of SotK

Parker Palmer

Peter Block

Jody Kretzmann 

Tom Dewar

The Littlest Hobo

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