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Nobody has Nothing


Asset Based Community Development or “ABCD” is a term coined by John McKnight and Jody Kretzmann of the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University in Illinois, USA in their book Building communities from the inside out: A path toward finding and mobilizing community assets.

Rather than starting with needs and deficits, an Asset-Based and Citizen-Led (ABCD) approach helps communities to identify and build upon existing strengths and assets.

You can choose to view community as a glass which is half-empty or half-full. As half-empty the community is viewed as clients who have deficiency and needs and half-full as citizens who have capacity and gifts.

With this in mind, the community which is considered as half-full can be helped to map out it’s assets to identify low hanging fruits (easily achievable projects within the community reach) and high hanging fruits (projects that may need external support to achieve.

In ABCD emphasizes on the active role of community members as citizens. Individuals act as citizens when they take responsibility for their community development instead of leaving it to the government.


Communities have never been built by focusing on their deficiencies and problems. But instead when they focus on their abilities, possibilities and capacity to bring change.

Meaningful and lasting community change always originates from within. No outsider can bring lasting change, its only the locals who know what change they need to bring and how to bring it.

"Every single person has capacities, abilities, gifts and ideas, and living a good life depends on whether those capacities can be used, abilities expressed, gifts given and ideas shared."

(Jody Kretzmann)

Identifying Assets and Opportunities:

Asset maps, Skills inventories, Venn diagrams, Transects:

· Associations (social capital)

· Individual skills (human capital)

· Institutions (physical capital, social capital, opportunities in the policy environment)

· Natural resources (natural capital and land use/ownership policy environment)

The true value of asset mapping:

Asset mapping engages representatives from voluntary associations to come together for a journey of discovery. This discovery phase consists of local people “mapping” all of the community’s assets.

Action planning -The community maps out all the community assets as follows:

  • Social Assets: List of associations, collective experience

  • Individual skills and talents: List of skills and talents and who is willing to share them

  • Institutional assets: Lists of government, NGO and private sector institutions and their services

  • Physical assets: Community map

  • Natural assets: Community map, transect

  • Community Economic Analysis/Economic opportunities: “Leaky Bucket” diagram

From the assets and opportunities identified, the community is able to identify an achievable goal for the community. This is usually called the ‘low hanging fruits’, they are achievable without too much interference from the outside.

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