Most approaches to community development focus on what communities need. What if we worked instead from what communities have?

Asset-Based Community Development is a way of thinking about how to build communities that focuses on the things they already have, rather than the things they lack. The concept was named and promoted by American community organizers and professors John McKnight and Jody Kretzmann. Focusing on only what communities need and lack promotes a pessimistic attitude towards development, and prioritizes outsiders who can make up for those lacks. If we focus instead on our strengths and assets, we build from those strengths towards a better future for all, while instilling hope in the community.

McKnight and Kretzmann identify three places to look for the assets that you can use in the community. They are the gifts of individuals, associations of community members, and institutions like schools or hospitals. Most communities have assets in all three categories, and assets of many different types, which include material, people, ideas, and values. (Link)

In A Practitioner’s Guide for Social Entrepreneurs in Egypt and the Arab Region (Link in Arabic), Ehab Abdou describes how useful local assets are for social entrepreneurs:

“Start by looking at those, and encouraging the community to share what they have
with you. In the case of Fat’het Kheir, if it were not for someone from the community
allowing her house to be used to welcome and meet people from the community, the
organization would not have been able to move forward. If you are partnering with
a group, ask them to offer at least some in-kind support, or volunteer their time. It
is a good way to ensure commitment, ownership, and establish a real partnership of
equals while avoiding the typical dependency that is usually created through generous
giving. Mapping out what the community can offer is in and of itself empowering,
putting the community on a par with you.”

 

The Dalia Association

Dalia Association is a community foundation in Palestine, which follows an asset-based community development approach.  In this video, Aisha Mansour, the director of Dalia Association, describes their work and how they draw from the resources that exist inside communities and throughout Palestine.

Video Transcript

In your e-Portfolio, answer the following questions:

In your mobilization e-Portfolio, answer these questions that are attributed to the Asset Based Community Development section in your form:

  • Think of projects you have worked with or been a part of.  Have they used an asset-based or needs-based approach? What were the benefits or drawbacks of that approach?

  • If you were going to select one asset that your community has that can be used to help support the community, what is it?  How do you know your community has it?