Hi everyone,
I would love to start a discussion exploring the regional heritage of asset-based community development (ABCD). Often when I read about ABCD, it is located in very narrow terms as a movement eminating from North America. It would be great to explore and reclaim the rich global heritage of the ABCD movement by sharing our own region's heritage--be it in a story of a local person, organisation or movement that has been inspirational.

So, who comes to mind when you think of ABCD in your part of the world? What organisations and indviduals have led this movement (some may not even call what they do ABCD, just good practice!) What theories and movements have contributed to asset-based community development in your part of the world and in your community?

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Hi Debi,
It's really cool you've introduced this topic. ABCD for me and some other people on the Central Coast started with a sense of collective frustration with the deficit stories we and other were telling about the region and the paralysing effect it was having on communities who felt overwhelmed. We really wanted to discover and tell some different stories about community life so we and others could start modelling what to do rather than just how bad things were. We discovered the Chicago ABCD stuff about a year after we started down this road and have used the language because it helped connect people around a different way of doing community development. It was the language and the shared meaning in Jody Kretzmann and John McKnight's stuff that really worked for us here. I'm just finishing a PhD thesis on this stuff and how ABCD developed on the Coast here with local cultural and social influences. I'd love to hear about yours and other's experiences. I agree also that lots of people use this perspective without calling it ABCD and its important to recognise that.
Dear Debi,

I think it is important to remember that the language of ABCD represents only a small part of the broader discussion of the links between assets and development.

We can see the rise in the interest in assets as a part of a broadening of the understanding of poverty. There are two parts to this. First, poverty not simply being about a lack of income (but also a lack of assets). Second, the importance of assets to income generation. These ideas are very much at the heart of the 'sustainable livelihoods approach'.

Perhaps a fundamental difference is that the livelihoods approach, despite putting assets at centre stage, could still be portrayed as a 'deficit' model (i.e. with a focus on what assets or 'capitals' are lacking).


I feel that for me ABCD is something that is a very broad church as it represents the relationships in the development process rather than a description of which assets and income streams are "developed".

Again, for me rather than for any movement or academic discipline, my priority is in doing things rather than having a pure understanding of how they are done. So I find the deficit stories frustrating because it shows that development is being done to (or more often) at communities. ABCD on the other hand seems to involve the community rather than the development teams, the funders, the academics and anyone other than the community involved.

I suppose the best analogy is the PC debate (Political Correctness- although the Mac PC one is equally interesting) about language. If PC is a new concept (okay it's twenty years on but hey) then we need to develop a new language to accommodate new ideas and relationships. Which means for me that the language of ABCD is vital. Language is power, which is why the courts and the Catholic Church hung on to Latin and why they ban smoking in public on California*.

It does not surprise me that ABCD has its roots in America but, like rock and roll, the function it serves here reflects the needs of the people actually involved and their social context.

*You can't ban poor people from a pubic place but you can ban smoking in public and set up expensive, private smoking clubs.
I agree with you Danny re the importance of relationships and local contexts in this way of working. I have seen alot of people get bogged down in developing asset maps as an end in themselves that go nowhere in getting change to happen. For me ABCD is about the paradigm shift in thinking that recognises that the importance of moving from the purely analytical to an analysis that connects with people in communities and enables them to act on what they care about.I suspect ABCD often goes off on a tangent when it engages purely in listing activities. They can be a useful tool but I've only seen them linked really well with action and change twice whereas I know of alot of communites who are using an ABCD perspective(sometimes calling it that and sometimes not) that is focused more on connecting what a community has and using it as leverage to get what it hasn't got and that has worked for them.
Hi Debi. Great topic. I'm thinking Hazel Stuteley's work at the Beacon estate is a good example from Cornwall. The project took place in the mid 1990's and I think the interesting thing here is that Hazel and the team had little experience of ABCD, asset mapping or any other technique at the time, just a gut feeling that looking at the positives within the community and creating an enabling environment would help inspire the community to change things. Since then their approach has been developed by the Health Complexity Group in Exeter University under the banner of C2 - Connecting Communities. More about that and the Beacon project.
Great discussion. I agree with you all that ABCD is a complex and much broader than it initially appears.

Thanks Lars for highlighting the amazing work that Hazel has been doing at the Beacon Estate. It's a great example of ABCD in practice (though as you mentioned there was very little experience of ABCD as such--just a positive way of working and promoting relationships). It is very inspiring to read about that project.

Amanda, Jim, Danny and others, are there other examples you've seen of this type of work in practice?

I am just posting up some ideas on which the ABCD Ferbane story for the compendium was based. If there are any comments I would love to get them please. And best of luck with it all Debi!

Hi Debi,
I would certainly have to say Peter Kenyon from the Bank of Ideas in Western Australia has had quite an impact on Aussie practice! http://www.bankofideas.com.au
Peter has been working with rural communities from an asset-based approach for many years and is also the reason why some of us down here have added the 6th asset to John and Jody's traditional 5 of "Stories, heritage and local identity"
Another wonderful man who is using Heritage as an asset for strengthening communities is David Wilson from New Zealand! http://www.heritagefutures.co.nz/
Also, on the ABCD Asia Pacific Conference website; http://www.newcastle.edu.au/centre/fac/abcd/conference.html there are "Heritage" papers that can be downloaded...
Finally, I have to agree with Amanda that not everyone uses the same language for the same good practice - which reminds me of one of my favourite quotes at the moment - "All change is linguistic - Amanda Howard"
Fantastic! Thanks Dee! I love the Bank of Ideas--what a great idea :-) I also really appreciate the importance of viewing 'stories, heritage and local identity' as assets.
Hi Debi.
Its great topic.heritage,folk wisdom for community development and conflict resolving its all ABCD and in our part of the world it has been seen as an opportunity as well as an obstacle..like if we quote JIRGA SYSTEM in a way good way to resolve conflicts at community level as well as bad for valuing more to wrong practices like honour killing.
Thanks to Shakeel for drawing my attention to this issue. I too am interested in the potential of folk-heritage-stories, as an asset for community development - both from my experience of living in run-down urban estates and my current perspective as steward of an old (once royal and feudal) Scottish estate. At Falkland Centre for Stewardship we are beginning to work with local and regional communities of interest to create a new and sustainable future for this place in a c21 democracy.
3 thoughts that this conversation triggers -
My first memory is a visit to Falkland Estate by an Indian friend, Deven, from the foothills of the Himalayas. As we approached an old ruined nineteenth century "Temple of Decision", I went into apologetic mode - on the basis that the Temple had been built on the surplus flows of Britain's East India Company exploits. But Deven literally stopped me in my tracks with his enlightening story of how ordinary people in his country go to temples, in high places, because the physical view in turn aids mental and spiritual perspective when times are tough. Whilst not wishing to take away from the question of international exploitation, Deven's story has helped me to see this heritage asset (some time liability) in a different light - and not simply because the woman who built this at Falkland was the offspring of a liaison between a Scottish Soldier and an Indian woman!
My second thought is to highlight the work undertaken in Pittsburg to reconnect the disadvantaged folk of the Hilltown area with their river with all its physical, spiritual and heritage asset-base.
My third point is to share one understanding of stewardship as - to draw from the past before seizing our moment to hand-on something better for future generations.


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