Asset-based Community Development (ABCD)

With a mandate for supporting communities to build their own capacity for participating in and supporting education, Café works to integrate the lessons learned from asset-based community development.  J. McKnight & J. Kretzmann, (1993) first articulated the ABCD approach after conducting a comprehensive study of successful community initiative across sectors.  It was found that groups who had effectively mobilized and built their own capacity to address  different community issues shared these key elements:

  • citizen vs. client orientation
  • focus on strengths
  • power from relationships
  • building on opportunities
  • integration of community economic development principles

The ABCD approach offers strategies for integrating these tried and true elements of successful community mobilization.  ABCD  is not a recipe, but an approach or orientation that highlights processes and strategies that can help in bringing people together, to identify their assets and strengths, and to take action around something they care about.  ABCD is NOT an approach to development that:

  • Relies on externally driven processes or people
  • Is imposed from above
  • Is received passively

rank of young men

For an introduction to ABCD see these short video clips:

  • John McKnight – Asset-Based Community Development – Part 1
  • John McKnight – Asset-Based Community Development -Part 2
  • Mike Green on ABCD in Action

J. McKnight and J. Kretzmann, established Asset-based Community Development Institute, at Northwestern University, Chicago. This institute offers a wealth of information and resources for communities and organizations working across sectors.

Did you knowIn Canada, the Coady International Institute, at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, is world renowned for its work with community-driven development. Café is appreciative of the support and expertise received from the Coady Institute in establishing our work through the commitment and advisory of Dr. Alison Mathie, one of Café’s founding governors.  

For illustrations of ABCD applied see:  Mathie, A. Asset-based and citizen-driven development. Lessons learned from communities around the world., Café/United Way Calgary hosted presentation, Calgary, April, 2010 (Pdf)


Suggested reading  and resources – ABCD

Green, M.,(2006), When People Care Enough to Act: ABCD in Action, Inclusion Press, Toronto, Canada.

Mathie, A. & Cunningham, G. (Eds.). (2008). From clients to citizens: Communities changing the course of their own development. Rugby, UK: Practical Action.

Kretzmann, J., & McKnight, J. (1993). Building communities from the inside out: A path toward finding and mobilizing a community’s assets. Chicago, IL: The Asset-Based Community Development Institute, ACTA Publications.

ABCD Institute, (1995). Video Training Program: Mobilizing Community Assets. A downloadable training program based on Building Communities from the Inside Out

McKnight, J., Born, P. T (2010).  The Abundant Community, Awakening the power of families and neighborhoods, Berret-Koehler Publishing

Block. P. (2008) Community, the structure of belonging, Berret-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Wheatley, M. Freize D. (2012)Walk out Walk on, A Learning Journey into communities daring to live the future now.