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Asset-Based Community Development

With all the talk of federal program budgetary cuts and fierce competition for scarce foundation dollars, 2005 is shaping up to be a challenging year. For asset building programs, finding the match money for Individual Development Accounts is becoming increasingly more difficult. Independent Living Centers, largely supported by State and Federal dollars, are facing similar budgetary crunches. In an effort to place people with disabilities in IDA programs, frequently the same story is told. Programs lucky enough to obtain federal dollars (e.g. AFI Grants) have hit a wall trying to come up with the private (e.g. foundations, corporate, or individual funds) match necessary to sustain their programs. Asset-Based Community Development is an idea that could be a beneficial strategy as we face the tough year ahead.

The theory of Asset-Based Community Development is simple. Community assets are key building blocks in sustainable urban and rural community revitalization efforts. These community assets include:

  • the skills of local residents
  • the power of local associations
  • the resources of public, private and non-profit institutions
  • the physical and economic resources of local places.

Every single person has capacities, abilities and gifts. Living a good life depends on whether those capacities can be used, abilities expressed and gifts given. If they are, the person will be valued, feel powerful and well-connected to the people around them. And the community around the person will be more powerful because of the contribution the person is making. Each time a person uses his or her capacity, the community is stronger and the person more powerful. That is why strong communities are basically places where the capacities of local residents are identified, valued and used.

Asset-Based Community Development Institute

The Asset-Based Community Development Institute (ABCD), established in 1995 by the Community Development Program at Northwestern University's Institute for Policy Research, is built upon three decades of community development research by John Kretzmann and John L. McKnight. The ABCD Institute spreads its findings on capacity-building community development in two ways: (1) through extensive and substantial interactions with community builders, and (2) by producing practical resources and tools for community builders to identify, nurture, and mobilize neighborhood assets.

The following is a brief description of "Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community's Assets," written by John P. Kretzmann and John L. McKnight

Across the United States, many communities are in trouble. In our cities, economies sputter, social ties weaken, and political power fades. But everywhere, creative local leaders are fighting back, rebuilding the neighborhoods and communities. And they are succeeding by starting with what they have. In the face of diminished prospects for outside help, they are turning first of all to their neighbors and to the local citizens associations and institutions that lie at the heart of their community.

This guide to what the authors call "asset-based community development" summarizes lessons learned by studying successful community-building initiatives in hundreds of neighborhoods across the United States. It outlines in simple, "neighborhood-friendly" terms what local communities can do to start their own journey down the path of asset-based development.

This book will be helpful to local community leaders, leaders of local associations and institutions, government officials, and leaders in the philanthropic and business communities who wish to support effective community-building strategies.

Click here to read the Introduction to "Building Communities from the Inside Out."

(Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University, 1993)

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