By Dee Brooks
“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”
They say we should never meet our heroes and yet, we also know that there’s always an exception to the rule! Jody Kretzmann was an exemplary exception!
On the 1st of January, Australian time, we received word that our friend, hero and mentor, Jody Kretzmann, age 78, had passed on from this world and we felt an immediate shadow cast across the community development landscape…
Michelle and I had (fortunately) taken the whole of January off after a very busy 2022 of post-covid-lockdown workshops, trainings and conferences and were able to make what felt like a pilgrimage to Chicago, Illinois to be at Jody’s Memorial and be an “Aussie presence” on behalf of so many of you who knew, learned from and loved Jody!
A memorial service celebrating Jody’s life was held at the Ebenezer Lutheran Church in Chicago on Saturday the 14th of January and was a remarkably powerful service where ABCD co-founder John McKnight spoke about how Jody will be remembered for his welcoming nature and “his commitment to equity and bringing everyone to the table.”
I was truly blessed to first meet Jody in 2004 when I was working at the University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia and undertaking my undergraduate degree. One of my favourite memories is driving Jody around New South Wales and talking with him about one of my assignments that had been returned with the comment, “that glass half full concept is great in theory but it will never work” and Jody helping me develop an argument to respond with, which I did and was re-marked as a “pass” – that moment served to turn my efforts ever more deeply into the ABCD approach and the belief that everyone has something to offer.
ABCD Training, Sydney, Australia, 2006 – Jody with the “glass half full” that I would “make” for him before each workshop! Note the old overhead projector in the background which the University of Newcastle would have to find and dust off each year when Jody visited! We still have a set of those old overheads!
ABCD Training, Sydney, Australia, 2006 – with Peter Kenyon, Jody, Jim Diers, Mary Nelson, Judi Geggie and I took the photo! I was struggling with applying ABCD to transient caravan park communities and Jody found me silently crying on the verandah during lunch and asked what was wrong? When I told him that I believed in the approach so much but couldn’t find traction, he suggested that I slow down, listen to the residents, don’t be impatient and start with questions, openness and have a curious mind – then he gave me a massive hug and praised my willingness, my motivation to act and my passion! Always a motivator!
ABCD Asia Pacific founding members in 2007 (L-R) (standing) Jody, Steve Hall, Ted Smeaton, Ric Thompson, Peter Kenyon (seated) Judi Geggie, Dee Brooks, David Wilson (NZ). We all met at after the Bank of IDEAS Power to the People conference in Melbourne, Australia and captured this historical moment.
ABCD Asia Pacific Conference 2008 – organising committee: (L-R) Chris Dureau, Judi Geggie, Ted Smeaton, David Wilson (NZ), Peter Kenyon, Ric Thompson, Dee Brooks, Jody, Jenny Cameron. The Family Action Centre at the University of Newcastle hosted 2 ABCD Asia Pacific conferences in 2008 and 2010.
ABCD Festival 2015, Blackpool, UK: Michelle, Jody, Dee, John where Jody coined the terms “small is the new big” and “look for what’s strong, not what’s wrong” and Michelle and Dee co-facilitated the participatory processes where the 3 key questions of ABCD emerged. Jody’s closing remarks were, “[ABCD practitioners] are Defenders of the Small. The smaller we remain [in practice], the more we are able to focus on the local and the more powerful the movement is.” Michelle and Dee will particularly always treasure the conversations with Jody and Ingrid outside their accommodation in their shared backyard and sunshine.
Chicago, Il, 2018 when staying with Kim and John joined us for a visit to Jody and Ingrid’s place. This was the last time I saw Jody and he said to me, “Do not forget me!” and we never will!
ABCD Unconference, October 2022 and Jody was invited to participate virtually by reading and responding to questions from delegates. Our last interaction with Jody was still filled with his gentleness, kindness and willingness to be involved. This giant of a man will be deeply missed and his legacy will live on through the work of others.
After the global pandemic stopped us all in our tracks and we were finally starting to be “of the world” again, we were able to connect Jody and John into our global ABCD efforts through participation in ABCD Unconferences and we were extremely humbled and excited to witness them win the following award from IACD!
The International Association for Community Development (IACD) Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to individuals who have provided an outstanding contribution to international community development throughout a significant portion of their career.
At a recent Board meeting, John and Jody were both nominated by Oceania Director, Dee Brooks and there was unanimous agreement to formally recognise their contribution to the field of community development with a Lifetime Achievement Award!
At the AGM, IACD President, Anna Clarke, recognised their many years working in the field of community development, in particular Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) and recognised their contributions as academics, authors and influential leaders and pioneers in this work.
Jody accepted via a pre-recorded video clip and thanked IACD for their ongoing work and John attended live and accepted on behalf of all the faculty and practitioners in the ABCD movement, which says so much about both of their characters and their belief in the power of community!
Congratulations Jody and John for your well deserved award!
Through both Jody and John’s legacies, the community develpment field has learned to focus on the assets and strengths of communities, not the deficits and needs and Jody’s memorial and the incredible words from his family and friend were no different!
- Because of Jody, we see a glass full!
- Because of Jody, we start with strengths!
- Because of Jody, we are defenders of the small!
- Because of Jody, we relentlessly pursue social justice!
- Because of Jody, we unite for change!
We will keep moving your stones Jody and, we will never forget you!
Our thoughts and love remains with Jody’s loving wife Ingrid Christiansen and their two children, Katie and Marcus. Jody’s brothers, Mark and Steve Kretzmann and their wives, Sumiko and Deb and their children.
- Bidding Farewell to our beloved Co-Founder Jody Kretzmann: https://resources.depaul.edu/abcd-institute/news-blogs/Pages/Bidding-Farewell-to-our-Co-founder-Jody-Kretzmann.aspx
- In Memoriam from DePaul University: https://resources.depaul.edu/abcd-institute/faculty/Pages/john-kretzmann.aspx
- JOHN KRETZMANN OBITUARY on Legacy.com: https://www.legacy.com/us/obituaries/chicagotribune/name/john-kretzmann-obituary?id=38580156
- Remembering former ‘Prince’ chairman John “Jody” Kretzmann ’66: https://www.dailyprincetonian.com/article/2023/01/princeton-john-kretzmann-obituary-princetonian
- John Kretzmann, urban studies expert who put focus on a community’s assets, dies at 78: https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/obituaries/ct-john-kretzmann-obituary-20230201-im6sqdace5bkncto3nwq5qg2ka-story.html