Asset-based community development (ABCD) is an approach to sustainable development that empowers the local community to review the local assets and resources.

 

What is asset-based community development?

By combining sustainable development practices with community involvement, asset-based community development (ABCD) aims to connect the community with their local assets and resources. The approach can be summed up as:

Asset-based community development empowers communities to recognize their local resources and assets to create a development plan that builds off their strengths.

The approach relies on and support local communities to take advantage of their strengths within the community. Instead of looking into the weaknesses of a community, this approach identifies and leverages the strengths.

 

Where did asset-based community development come from?

ABCD has its roots in the 1990s. It was developed as an alternative approach to community development that focuses on capacity instead of what a community is missing. It was developed by John McKnight and John Kretzmann from the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University.

Here’s a description of the three aspects of ABCD from a 1996 article “Assets-Based Community Development” by McKnight and Kretzmann:

  1. [T]he first principle that defines this process is that it is “asset-based.” That is, this community development strategy starts with what is present in the community, the capac- ities of its residents and workers, the associational and institutional base of the area – not with what is absent, or with what is problematic, or with what the community needs.
  2. Because this community development processisasset-based,itisby necessity “internally focused.” That is, the development strategy concentrates first of all upon the agenda building and problem-solving capacities of local residents, local associations, and local institutions. Again, this intense and self-conscious internal focus is not intended to minimize either the role external forces have played in helping to create the desperate conditions of lower income neighborhoods, or the need to attract additional resources to these communities. Rather this strong internal focus is intended simply to stress the primacy of local definition, investment, creativity, hope and control.
  3. If a community development process is to be asset-based and internally focused, then it will be in very important ways “relationship driven.” Thus, one of the central challenges for asset-based community developers is to constantly build and rebuild the relationships between and among local residents, local associations, and local institutions.

 

Resources

Elements of an Asset-Based Community Asset-Based Community Development Process (2018)

Asset-Based Community Development At A Glance (Tamarack Institute) 

A Basic Guide to ABCD Community Organizing

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