Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) is a powerful approach focused on discovering and mobilizing resources that are already present in a community. The ABCD point of view encourages people to recognize that their community is a glass half full of assets, not a glass half empty with needs.
Community assets are resources that become valuable when they are brought together and made productive. The ABCD approach provides a way for citizens to find and mobilize what they have in order to build a stronger community.
Guiding Principles of ABCD:
- Internally focused—change from within
- Relationship driven—the power of we
- Create a space for all voices to be heard
- Change the narrative to create shifts
But, why? ABCD is a global movement which views local assets as the foundation for transformative, sustainable community development. ABCD can be, in many ways, viewed as a response to outside disinvestment and systems that see communities - especially marginalized communities - as recipients rather than contributors. By connecting community assets to the larger macro-system in which the community exists, ABCD facilitates communities in driving their own development.
One of the primary practices of ABCD is asset mapping. Asset mapping engages community members to describe their community in terms of relationships and potential, notably asserting that no community or individual is without assets to contribute.
Two paths – Two Solutions
Significant community development only occurs when the community invests itself and its resources. Often times, capacities, assets, skills exist in a community that are underutilized. The basic strategy for ABCD can be summarized in 6-steps:
- Discover hidden assets.
- Discover what people care enough about to act upon.
- Develop strategies to mobilize groups to act.
- Discover different roles for programs and people.
- Agencies lead by stepping back.
As shown in the figure below, this shifts the dynamic of community development from a focus on needs to a focus on assets. This shift allows a community to leverage connections and contributions to engage people as a solution to community issues.
The Asset-Based Community Development Institute, founded by John McKnight and Jody Kretzman, focuses on four types of community building: community capacity, participatory research, student engagement, and the development of publications and resources by practitioners. For ABCD faculty and practitioners, the most important asset of any community is the relationships between community members, which can be leveraged to meet needs.
More information is available at abcdinstitute.org.
Articles and Books
- Block, P., & McKnight, J. (2010). The abundant community: Awakening the power of families and neighborhoods. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.
- Block, P. (2009). Community: The Structure of Belonging. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler.
- Deeble, M., & Stone, V. (Writers). (2005, November 22). Queen of Trees [Television series]. BBC.
- Simon, N., & Moscone, J. (2016). The Art of Relevance. Santa Cruz, CA: Museum 2.0.
- Holley, J. (2012). Network Weaver Handbook (A Guide to Transformational Networks). Network Weaver Publishing.
Organizations and Projects
The Algebra Project - Robert Moses