Welcome to this assets inquiry discussion co-hosted by Carnegie UK Trust and the International Association for Community Development. Please use this thread to introduce your interest in the inquiry - as well as to tell us how you hope to conrtibute. If you have papers you'd like to attach to your post, please go ahead.

Best wishes
Nick Wilding (for Inquiry Team at Carnegie/IACD)

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Replies to This Discussion

Hi All

Thanks to Kirsty and Debi for posting all the background materials, looking forward to the launch on the 19th!

Since this is an inquiry, and lately I have been asking myself a lot of question about ABCD approaches within the Latin American context, I thought it could be useful to share with you some of these questions. I am sure some of them will be explored in our discussions but here is some food for thought.

All the best


- Is it an asset based approach possible and useful for communities experiencing oppression, trauma, and external threats? (they may need to go through a process: from ‘needs’ to ‘assets’ )
- Which are the values attached to ABCD approaches, is solidarity one of them?
- Is it realistic to always focus in the assets, can this lead to false expectations?
- How should we conceptualise ‘asset’ so that is easily understood and embraced by different cultures? what about societies which may find difficult to separate the natural capital, from the human and the political capital?, is this not a Western-led vision?
- Is ABCD a unifying concept or an approach that embrace a diversity of initiatives which are not necessarily called ABCD? which are the assets of the ABCD approach?
Fantastic questions, thanks very much for shairing them Teresa. it gets the ball rolling in my mind.... Cari
Hi Cari - Sue Shaw here from Durham. Still pondering all the abcd information I got when in Nova Scotia this year and trying to work out whether we can do something here in County Durham on unleashing untapped rural potential using abcd and some university outreach.

So impressed with Wolfville and the information you shared with me there .... and the Coady Institute and St Andrews community , and wanting to follow it up somehow in a practical way.

Also interested in debating stages of development and how they influence the workings of abcd...

Take care and all good wishes, Sue
ABCD is an effort to remind people of what we already know- every community is built by mobilizing the capacities, skills and gifts of people and mobilizing them in groups of all kinds. This is the basic tool for all community building, regardless of where they may be. The Institute has always been very cautious of cultural imperialism. Yet all of the world including Latin America we are told that this principle holds true.
People who come together to pool their capacities are the real community builders, and yet the resources flow to those who deal with the brokenness and the emptiness, and usually these groups are not from the Community, are not run by the Community and are not staffed by the Community.
Progressive leaders see that the future depends upon returning to an old community building tradition that the center of community power is in the hands of citizens and their associations.
We need our institutions to treat people at the bottom of the ladder or on the margins of society like those of us in the middle and upper income levels. But the manner in which they do that needs to be re-evaluated. My experience is European, Sub-Saharan Africa and South Africa to an extent. I have yet to meet a community that does not have assets. Attached is an paper I delivered recently which delves into this point a little deeper.
Can I suggest as core reading for our discussion that people check out the Coady publication from Client to Citizen. It offers a lot to the debate and is enhanced with evidence and wonderful stories from throughout the global south.
Most of our organisations receive grants to do stuff, we gain our grants by proving we’ve got the capacity to make a difference of one kind or another. But in many of communities we work in, especially ones facing crisis, the support is based on their incapacities. Let's just do unto others what we have done for ourselves.
Progressive leaders see that the future of our world depends upon returning to a situation where the center of community power is in the hands of citizens and their associations. I believe deep down we all believe this…because in our own personal crisis we would not want to hand over our personal power in exchange for help.
The strengths based approach, positive psychology, appreciative inquiry, Theory U, Systems thinking, family strengths movement, the Ford Foundation’s Asset Approach, 5 Capital/SLA, and the world Banks Community Driven Development, to name but a few are chiming the same tone as ABCD, this tells me something significant is happening in the world…that why I think this inquiry could be useful to us all. But it needs not just to be about whether ABCD is good or bad, but more about how we can use this and other strength based approaches to deepen practice.
Best for now,

Hello everyone!
I'm based in a small village (about 350 people) outside Brisbane, in Australia. I have a couple of jobs, one focussed on community economic development, and one focussed on community arts. I'm interested in exploring asset-based community development (though I have to say, having worked in the community development field for almost 20 years, my tendency is to think that this is what good CD workers have been doing for a long time...I remember my Gandhian teacher saying 20 years ago, focus on where the people's energy is not what their needs are. I am, however, very open minded and prepared to challenge myself to exploring the area!). I'm particularly interested in two things...
Firstly, I'm interested in (and occassionally concerned about) what sometimes verges on evangelism around ABCD...and some of the judgements that happen around what I've heard called 'old style' or 'old school' CD vs. the new, improved CD. While I think it is very healthy to innovate in a field of work and would always advocate that we open ourselves up to dialogue, debate and discussion about new and better ways of working, I also think it is important to engage critically with traditions, and with examining what we can learn from the history of CD (I really like what you said about some of this Amanda!). I have to say my antennas are raised whenever a 'new' idea appears which seems to package up 'magic' answers to complex problems (like, for example has frequently happened in the field of microfinance). I think ABCD is a great framework, but like any framework, it is just that and no more. The actual work on the ground is still challenging, and it will still take time for real and lasting change to occur me thinks.
So this leads to my second interest. And that is, I find it interesting that many discussions I've been involved in around ABCD have focussed on the very early stages of the work - that first workshop where we get excited about the assets of our people and communities, and where we engage in dreaming and scheming about the futures of our communities. I'd love to talk about and hear from others more about 'what happens next'? To me one of the difficulties is that the framework (as far as I can see...and I'm happy to be corrected!!) is more helpful as a orienting framework (it helps focus our thinking, our values, our initial approaches), rather than a methodological framework (in other words my sense is that it helps in asking 'what' and 'why' questions but apart from the early stages, I can find few stories or references to 'how' questions...how do we harness assets, how do we engage in real dialogues, how do we hold onto people's agendas rather than our own agendas). As a worker these are the parts of the process that I find both more interesting and more challenging! I'd like to risk sharing some of these sorts of challenges...and I'd love to hear other people's perspectives and stories.
I've enjoyed reading other people's contributions, so now I'm ready to jump in a little deeper after standing on the outside looking in for a while!
Thanks everyone, and look forward to the dialogue.
best wishes, Ingrid.
Dear Linda. Greetings. I am impresed by the energy and thinking that has gone into the Ark project. May I ask, do you think hat conventional innovators and entrepreneurs have sometihing to offer to sustainable development iniaitives like yours?
Hi all

You may have seen a summary of Integrated Area Planning (IAP) project in Offaly on the recent IACD/Carnegie publication 'What are Asset Based approaches to Community Development'? We were very pleased to be included in such good company. IAP is a framework being developed by Tipperary Institute, in partnership with community groups and the agencies that serve them. IAP offers community groups, local authorities and local area partnerships a new process of community planning where partners, working in collaboration, develop a shared vision and agreed set of objectives and actions around local development priorities.

Fundamental to the IAP approach is a belief that planning is a multi-faceted process and while spatial planning is a vital aspect, it is not the only consideration. A successful plan for an area’s development cannot deal with spatial aspects in isolation from the social, economic and environmental context in an area. Also of importance is the process by which decisions are made and who makes them; the more people involved in making decisions, the more accurate and broad-ranging the information base and the higher the chances of reaching genuine agreement on key issues become. Therefore, participation by local people in the process of developing the plan becomes as important as the plan itself.

Integrated Area Planning, as described above, started in Ferbane, West Offaly in 2000. Building on initial successes, it was decided that IAP should be linked more formally with the statutory planning system in Offaly Co. Council. This was agreed and a pilot project was launched in Banagher, Cloghan and Ferbane in West Offaly in late 2006. The objective behind this second phase was to strengthen capacity in the county to develop area plans and to implement them in a collaborative way, while also strengthening relationships between all parties involved. This pilot project received funding from the Carnegie UK Trust under the Rural Action Research Programme (RARP) and involves a partnership between Tipperary Institute (TI), local development associations, Offaly County Council and Offaly Local Development Company (then operating as West Offaly Partnership (WOP)).

In the past, Tipperary Institute acted as the main facilitator of the IAP methodology. This allowed the Institute the opportunity to gain the skills and experience necessary to develop a framework that could be replicated by the other partners in the process. The pilot project therefore focused on developing the skills of other partners in Offaly to allow them to replicate the IAP process in other towns. It also afforded TI the opportunity to research the IAP process as it was implemented.

Offaly-based consultants Fox, Timmons & Associates carried out Phase 1 and Phase 2 research on the progress and effectiveness of IAP on the ground in West Offaly in 2007 and 2008.This research, which included extensive fieldwork and interviews with stakeholder respondents, was carried out in the 3 areas in mid-2009 and the findings from this final piece of research form the basis of much of this report.

The report is attached and we would appreciate hearing your views about it and the issues it raises.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Hi there,

My name is Skye Dobson. I am a graduate student at the New School in New York City.
This summer I will be researching ABCD approaches in Uganda - Jinja specifically.
Does anyone know whether the East Africa ABCD Summit has already taken place? I have read conflicting reports.
Hi Skye! It's great to hear about your work. The ABCD East Africa Summit was scheduled for November 2009 but unfortunately had to be canceled. IACD is working with the Coady Institute and Nurture Development and we are hoping to host an ABCD conference and additional training days in East Africa in the Autumn 2010 but we are still working to secure logistics for this. I would love to hear more about your work and can put you in touch with some IACD folks (including our past President) in Uganda!!


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