Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) is a community led approach originally developed John McKnight and John Kretzmann, that is built on four foundational elements (Kretzmann, 2010; Kretzmann & McKnight, 1993; Mathie & Cunningham, 2003):

  1. It focuses on community assets and strengths rather than problems and needs (strength based rather than deficit approach): Many traditional approaches to working in communities begin with a needs analysis or needs mapping, which focuses on problems in the community, and can lead to communities being labelled as deficient and disfunctional. This identity is often aborbed by people who live there and can result in a perpetual cycle of disconnection and problems.  The more disfunctional a community is labelled, the more funds are invested and controlled by external agencies. Focusing on the strengths and assets of a community createsstart with what makes a community strong, and recognise that everyone has skills, interests, and experience that can contribute.  
  2. It identifies and mobilises individual and community assets, skills and passions:  There are at least six broad types of assets which can be mapped and mobilised in communities, including: 1. ​The skills and abilities of individuals within the community, particularly people who are passionate about the community and are good at making connections; 2. Voluntary community organisations and networks and what they offer (or could offer) to the community. 3. Institutions (e.g. non-government organisations, not for profits, government agencies, businesses) that are already connected to the community (particularly small, local institutions); 4. The physical environment (both natural and built) 5. The local economy in a broad way that includes the informal economy (e.g., people swapping goods and services, voluntary work) as well as the traditional economy (e.g. production, consumption). 6. The stories, culture and heritage of the community.
  3. ​It is community driven – ‘building communities from the inside out’ (Kretzmann & McKnight, 1993): More and more, asset-based community development is being termed asset based community-driven or community-led development to emphasise the leadership role of community rather than external agencies. 
  4. It is relationship driven: The relationships and social networks that exist within communities are assets in their own right, but in addition to this, building relationships between ‘assets’ within the community is an important part of ABCD and asset mapping (Mathie & Cunningham, 2003). Mathie and Cunningham (2002) suggest that ‘ABCD is a practical application of the concept of social capital’ (p. 9) because of the emphasis it places on informal networks and by drawing on their power to mobilise other community assets. Through building relationships, communities are able to gain access to resources, networks and energy that might otherwise remain hidden.

ABCD draws on a range of approaches and principles including:

  • Appreciative inquiry ;which identifies and analyses the community's past successes; strengthening confidence in capacity and inspiring action.
  • The recognition of social capital and its importance as an asset; focussing on the power of associations and informal linkages within the community.
  • Participatory approaches to development; based on principles of empowerment and ownership of the development process.
  • Community economic development models that prioritise collaborative efforts for economic development using the local resource base.
  • Efforts to strengthen civil society; engaging people as citizens (rather than clients) in development and making local governance more effective and responsive.

​Asset-based community-driven development challenges how professionals (including community development practitioners) see their role in working with communities, and requires listening deeply to communities. 

Additional information can be found:

The Asset Based Community Development Institute (McKnight and Kretzman)

Sustaining Community (Australian blog linked to University of Newcastle)

Nurture Development (Partner of the ABCD Institute in Europe/UK)

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