I recently attended a conference on asset-based community development (also known as “ABCD”). ABCD is not a “hot-off the press” idea for community development practitioners but it is definitely getting more attention in Calgary. The central premise of ABCD is that meaningful community change will only happen when the community takes charge: the community decides on the direction of the change and uses the gifts/assets of community members to put words into action. Non-profits institutions and service providers are not excluded from the process – they support it rather than control it. This process empowers citizens.
Perhaps the hardest component for service providers to wrap their heads around is that the language used is "opportunities and gifts" rather than "needs and weaknesses" - I am definitely trying to change how I frame my own thinking by using this approach.
Distilled down to its simplest form, ABCD follows these steps:
- Discover the assets in the community
- Discover what community residents care about to act on
- Mobilize groups to act
- Different role for people and programs
- Lead by stepping back and allowing the community to lead
There are some public libraries that have started to adopt ABCD practices. I will be exploring this approach in the work that I do in the community in the coming months.
This is a helpful oversight video of ABCD:
A really inspirational story of the ABCD approach: