Asset-Based Community Development

Clear Impact Through the Place-Based Strategy of Asset-Based Community Development

Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) is a place-based framework that can help build strong, safe, and healthy neighborhoods and communities. By bringing the community together and focusing on the gifts within, ABCD helps residents, associations, nonprofits, government, and the business community, to act collectively as co-producers of their community’s well-being.


Asset-Based Community Development was pioneered by John McKnight and Jody Kretzmann of the ABCD Institute at DePaul University (formally at Northwestern University). Its foundation rests on a few simple truths: 1) everyone has gifts, 2) everyone has something to contribute , and 3) everyone cares about something and that passion is his or her motivation to act.

Strong, safe, and healthy neighbor hoods and communities are built on the strengths and capacities of their residents and associations that call the community home. We cannot build strong caring neighborhoods without unlocking the potential of residents.

The traditional approach to community development is focused on providing services to address the community’s and its residents’ needs and deficits. The ABCD approach starts with discovering the assets and gifts already present in the community. This is followed by asking residents to share their gifts and connect­ing people with the same passions to act collectively and provide care.

The most successful community efforts include resident engagement and action (no-cost/low-cost solutions) working together with existing institutions and programs.  We cannot achieve the results required without the strong engagement of the resources and efforts of residents as well as the work of institutions. To be truly effective, residents must join the effort as co-producers/ co-creators of their own and their community’s well-being.

Results-Based Accountability (RBA) and Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) are complementary processes. RBA Starts with the ends we want for our children, families, and communities and works backwards to the means that will get us there. ABCD provides a robust way of looking at the means to get us there.
Mark FriedmanMark Friedman, Founder of Results-Based Accountability

ABCD: Role for Residents


True resident engagement requires govern­ment and institutions to lead by stepping back and creating space for residents to be involved as producers. Initially, it is imperative to determine three roles:

  1. things that only residents can do;
  2. things that residents and institutions or government can accomplish together as co-producers; and
  3. things that only institutions or government can do

Traditionally, individuals have been relegated to one role, that of a recipient of service–a client, customer, or patient. As clients, individuals are objects of service, dependent on the professionals and institutions for their overall well-being.

To unlock the power of community, we need to rethink how to view individual residents . We must acknowledge residents’ skills and identify their existing resources. We must expand their roles beyond that of a client to include serving as advisers and helping institutions provide more useful services. Their greatest value is that of co-producers of their own and their community’s well-being . Rather than just asking people what do you need, we need to ask “What can you contribute? How can you use your existing skills and resources to achieve what you need?”

Residents in the most successful and effective systems participate in all three roles. If a person breaks his leg, for example, he is rightfully identified as a client and patient. If an individual has particular knowledge about her neighborhood and its residents, she may advise an agency on how to most effectively serve the neighborhood and to define what services the neighborhood actually wants/ needs. As co-producers, residents become part of the solution. 

ABCD: Role of Local Government


To unlock the gifts in a neighborhood and encourage residents to share their gifts, local governments should support the work of grass-roots leaders and organizers to mobilize the residents of a neighborhood or community to share their individual gifts through the three acts of ABCD: discovering, asking, and connecting.

The role of neighborhood leaders and organizers is to:

  • Discover the skills (gifts) of the individuals who call a neighborhood or community home.
  • Ask them to share their individual gifts.
  • Encourage them to connect with living alone by checking on other individuals who have the same bringing an occasional passions to work collectively for the for them or taking them common good.

To be effective in this effort, governments and institutions must abide by the beliefs that support effective resident engagement and institutional action, which will ensure the successful achievement of the governments’ real long-term results in their communities:

  • Everyone has gifts.
  • Relationships build stronger communities.
  • A citizen-centered organization is the key to community engagement.
  • Every resident cares about something and this passion is his or her motivation to act.
  • Listening discovers passions and gifts.


RBA provides a framework for local governments to identify the critical quality-of life issues they want to address for residents as well as the indicators to track their progress. ABCD can provide the framework necessary to work collectively with the community – other governmental entities, nonprofit agencies, businesses neighborhoods and residents – to develop and implement the wide range of strategies necessary to turn the curve and create measurable impact.


FREE E-BOOK: ABCD Asset Mapping Toolkit

This free e-book includes tools for mapping assets to unlock the gifts in a neighborhood or community. The nine steps outlined within can help achieve greater impact and results by building on the gifts and assets already present

Download E-Book

ABCD Asset Mapping Toolkit


If your community has begun the journey to align resources around specific outcomes, you may want to explore – as a growing number of communities have – the power of increased community engagement through the combined application of ABCD and Results-Based Accountability (RBA). These complementary processes have the potential to unlock an abundance of resources to truly make a difference and change community conditions for the better.

Clear Impact, led by Senior Consultant and long-time faculty member of the ABCD Institute, Dan Duncan, can provide support to help organizations and communities effectively implement the frameworks of  ABCD and RBA to achieve greater impact and results.

Contact us today for a free 30 minute consultation!

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