Asset-based community development

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Asset-based community development (ABCD) is a methodology for the sustainable development of communities based on their strengths and potentials. It involves assessing the resources, skills, and experience available in a community; organizing the community around issues that move its members into action; and then determining and taking appropriate action.[1]

The ABCD approach was developed by John L. McKnight and John P. Kretzmann at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. They co-authored a book in 1993, "Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing A Community’s Assets," which outlined their asset-based approach to community development.[2] The Community Development Program at Northwestern University’s Institute for Policy Research established the Asset-Based Community Development Institute based on three decades of research and community work by John P. Kretzmann and John L. McKnight.

Guiding Principles[3][edit]

Asset-based community development (ABCD) differs from needs-based community development in that it focuses primarily on honing and leveraging existing strengths within a community rather than bolstering community deficiencies. Related to tenets of empowerment, it postulates that solutions to community problems already exist within a community’s assets. Principles that guide ABCD include:

1. Everyone has gifts: each person in a community has something to contribute

2. Relationships build a community: people must be connected in order for sustainable community development to take place

3. Citizens at the center: citizens should be viewed as actors—not recipients—in development

4. Leaders involve others: community development is strongest when it involves a broad base of community action

5. People care: challenge notions of "apathy" by listening to people's interests

7. Listen: decisions should come from conversations where people are heard

8. Ask: asking for ideas is more sustainable than giving solutions

Examples of ABCD Tools[edit]

The ABCD approach utilizes several tools to assess and mobilize communities.

The Capacity Inventory[4][edit]

1. Skills Information: lists the many skills that a person has gained at home, work, in the community, or elsewhere. Examples of these skills can include internet knowledge, hair-cutting, listening, wallpapering, carpentry, sewing, babysitting, etc.[5]

2. Community Skills: lists the community work in which a person has participated to determine future work they may be interested in.

3. Enterprising Interests and Experience: lists past experience in business and determines interest in starting a business.

4. Personal Information: lists minimum information for follow-up.

Asset Mapping[4][edit]

There are five key assets in any given community: individuals, associations, institutions, physical assets, and connections.[6] These assets are broken down into three categories: Gifts of individuals, Citizens’ Associations, and Local Institutions.[4] Asset maps are used in lieu of needs maps whuch focus solely on negative aspects of communities. Asset maps, on the other hand, focus on community assets, abilities, skills, and strengths in order to build its future.

Asset map

Time Banks[edit]

Time banks are an example of using community assets to connect individuals' assets to one another.[7] Neighbors share skills with one another and earn ‘credits’ in the process, allowing an hour of child care to equal an hour of home repair or tax preparation.


Because ABCD relies on existing community assets to create change, it has been criticized for implying that disadvantaged communities have all the resources they need to solve community problems.[8] According to the ABCD Institute, however, ABCD methodology recognizes that systemic injustice may require disadvantaged communities to seek assistance from outside the community. ABCD maintains that interventions from exterior sources will be most effective when a community’s assets are leveraged at full capacity.[4] ABCD is described as a more sustainable model of community development than needs-based community development, because needs-based approaches may perpetuate community problems by emphasizing deficiencies and the necessity for reliance on outside assistance. By contrast, ABCD aims to build capacity within communities by expanding their social capital.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ McKnight, John; Kretzmann, John. "Mapping Community Capacity" (PDF). Northwestern University. 
  2. ^ "Asset-Based Community Development Institute". Asset-Based Community Development Institute. Northwestern University. Retrieved 22 February 2015. 
  3. ^ Collaborative of Neighborhood Transformation. "What is Asset Based Community Development (ABCD)" (PDF). Collaborative of Neighborhood Transformation. Retrieved 22 February 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Kretzmann, John; McKnight, John (1993). Building Communities From the Inside Out (3rd ed.). Chicago, IL: ACTA Publications. p. 14. 
  5. ^ McKnight, John; Block, Peter (2010). The Abundant Community (1st ed.). San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler publishers, Inc. 
  6. ^ "What is Asset-based community development (ABCD)" (PDF). ABCD Institute. Collaborative for Neighborhood Transformation. Retrieved 22 February 2015. 
  7. ^ "TimeBanks". TimeBanks. TimeBanks USA. Retrieved 22 February 2015. 
  8. ^ Ennis, G.; West, Deborah (2010). "Exploring the potential of social network analysis in asset-based community development practice and research". Australian Social Work. 64 (4): 404–417. doi:10.1080/0312407X.2010.508167. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Kretzmann, John and McKnight, John. Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community's Assets. ACTA Publications, 1993.
  • McKnight, John and Block, Peter. The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. San Francisco, CA, 2010.
  • Mike Green with Henry Moore & John O'Brien, Foreword by John McKnight, Asset-Based Community Development: When People Care Enough To Act
  • What is Asset Mapping? by John Emerson, 2004.
  • PCHP Website
  • Beyond the Manuscript Podcasts

External links[edit]