What is Asset Based Community Development?
Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) is a method of development whereby a community asserts (owns) freedom to act to reach its highest level of ability (development) through what it already owns or has (assets).
Put simply, the community takes ownership of its own development through realizing the full potential of its various assets.
What is Asset Based Development?
Asset Based Development (also known as Strengths Based Development) focuses on what already exists (what is strong), and how to use that to create more assets of either the same or a different type.
- Asset Based
- Based on that which is already in existence, owned and having value, whether built (hospitals, roads, etc.), cultural (festivals, libraries, etc.), financial (banks, foundations, etc.), human (schools, training centers etc.), natural (farms, rivers, etc.), political (representatives, forums, etc.) or social (community events, civic groups, etc.)
- A tool enabling people to reach the highest level of their ability, through granting freedom of action, such as, freedom of economic, social and family actions, etc. – Amartya Sen’s Capability Approach
It is possible to stimulate the discovery (or creation) of particularly human and social assets where none seemed to exist (or existed) before.
The opposite of Asset Based Development is Needs Based Development, which focuses on what is absent or needed to fulfill set criteria that the developer thinks would improve the life of a community, often based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Types of Assets
In their book “Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community’s Assets” (1993), Kretzman and McKnight identified three kinds of assets essential in community work: individuals, associations, and institutions. The Community Capitals Framework of Flora and Flora (2004) expanded these to seven asset types. These assets can be used to convert from one type to another (eg. the human asset of knowledge can be used to create the financial asset of money, which can be used to purchase the built asset of a home). The abundance of one asset can therefore be used by an individual or a community to decrease the scarcity of another asset.
Adapted from “Asset Building and Community Development” (2002) by Gary Paul Green and Anna Haines, these asset types are often simplified to only include Financial, Human, Natural, Physical (Built) and Social assets in ABCD, excluding Political and Cultural assets.
- Built Assets
- Represents the infrastructure of the community – the basic set of facilities, services and physical structures needed by a community.
- Cultural Assets
- The values, norms, beliefs and traditions that people inherit from the family, school and community. Also includes material goods produced at a specific time and place (such as paintings, books) that have historical or cultural significance.
- Financial Assets
- The variety of financial resources available to invest in local projects or economic development initiatives. Efforts to build wealth to support community development activities.
- Human Assets
- Attributes of individuals that provide them with the ability to earn a living, strengthen community, and otherwise contribute to community organizations, to their families, and to self improvement. It includes access to education and knowledge development, training and skill building activities and efforts to build and expand local leadership.
- The quality and quantity of natural and environmental resources existing in a community.
- The ability to influence and enforce rules, regulations, and standards. Access to individuals and groups with the power to influence decisions. Participating in civic discourse on difficult public issues.
- Connections existing among people and organizations that help make things happen in the community. Includes close ties that build community cohesion (bonding) as well as weaker ties with local and outside people and organizations that help promote broad-based action on key matters (bridging).
What is Community-Driven / Citizen-Led Development?
Communities form around places and interests (communities of place and communities of interest). A community is formed where two or more individuals come together around a mutual interest in either a physical location (eg. where they live) or interest (eg. gardening).
To differentiate ABCD from other strengths-based approaches that may not be centered on the community as owner and agent of development, it is often referred to as Asset Based Community-Driven Development. A central feature of ABCD is that communities must drive their own development agenda without outside interference. The ABCD community builder acts as a facilitator and enabler. Where outside assistance is required, such assistance is provided with the specific understanding that the community retains ownership of and control over the process.
A further development in ABCD thought has prompted some to refer to it Asset-Based Citizen-Led Development, in recognition that community ultimately starts with the individual citizen. It is necessary for the citizens of a community to internalize the ABCD principles to ensure its success. This may come more naturally for some than for others.
Asset Based Community Development Process
- Collect stories
- Bring together a core group
- Map the gifts, capacities and assets of individuals, associations and local institutions
- Find and engage connectors who can build relationships
- Ask the gathered community to lead the creation of a community vision and plan
- Engage the self-mobilization of the community’s assets by action applied through association
- Lever knowledge of the community’s assets and strengths to secure investments and resources needed from outside the community for community-driven development
From Nurture Development
Origins of Asset Based Community Development
In their 1993 book “Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community’s Assets,” John (Jody) P. Kretzmann and John L. McKnight explored the characteristics of successful communities and formalized what they found into a guide for what they termed “Asset-Based Community Development” or ABCD.
In their guide, they acknowledged that ABCD existed before – it is not a new invention. Their work simply formalized and popularized it. They also stressed that relationship building was one of the key characteristics of the approach.
Support for their work ultimately lead to the establishment of the ABCD Institute, from where it spread around the world.
Community is built and sustained at the speed of trust – Cormac Russel
Examples of Asset Based Community Development
Further Asset Based Community Development Resources
Institutions Around The World Driving Asset Based Community Development
- ABCD Institute, America
- Bank of IDEAS, Australia
- Coady International Institute, Canada
- Grassroots Grantmakers, America
- Greater Rochester Health Foundation, America
- Jeder Institute, Australia
- Nurture Development, Europe
- Public Allies, America
- Tamarack Institute, Canada
Asset Based Community Development Downloads
- Compendium of Methods and Tools for ABCD Facilitation and its accompanying Training Materials