Asset Based Community Development

Asset-based community development (ABCD) is a methodology that seeks to uncover and utilize the strengths within communities as a means for sustainable development. The basic tenet is that a capacities-focused approach is more likely to empower the community and therefore mobilize citizens to create positive and meaningful change from within. Instead of focusing on a community's needs, deficiencies and problems, the ABCD approach helps them become stronger and more self-reliant by discovering, mapping and mobilizing all their local assets. Few people realize how many assets any community has, for example:


  • Skills of its citizens, from youth to people with disabilities, from thriving professionals to starving artists
  • Dedication of its citizens associations — churches, culture groups, clubs, neighborhood associations
  • Resources of its formal institutions — businesses, schools, libraries, community colleges, hospitals, parks, social service agencies

The first step in the process of community development is to assess the resources of a community through a capacity inventory or through another process of talking to the residents to determine what types of skills and experience are available to a community organization. The next step is to consult with the community and find out what improvements the residents would like to make. The final, and most challenging step, is to determine how the residents' skills can be utilized into achieving those goals.

The Asset-Based Community Development Institute is located at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Its founders are John Kretzmann and John L. McKnight.