The Key Ideas

#78 Pursue a consistent strategy of 'Asset Based Community Development' in which regeneration is put in the hands of local communities

Longer-term, community-based approaches can help communities which face high levels of poverty to regenerate themselves. The most important concept in the field of community regeneration is now Asset Based Community Development (sometimes known as ABCD). ABCD takes as its starting point that a community can be supported to address its own challenges by unlocking the assets that already exists within that community. In this way, there is a move away from more traditional approaches to community work by focussing on the gifts and strengths of a community, rather than what needs to be done 'to' it or what has 'gone wrong' with it.

Assets are framed in the broadest sense as everything that is present in a community: people, places, and services. However, at the heart of ABCD is the significance of identifying and unlocking the (often hidden) skills, energy, and passions of individuals within the community, as well as nurturing and building on the social relationships that already exist in communities. Using the strengths, talents, and passion already available, people can then start addressing the things that matter to them and developing their own responses to challenges. ABCD places the community at the centre of the process; it is community-driven change responding to community-identified need, and the role of agencies and professionals is limited to that of offering help only when it is asked for and stepping back so that the community leads.

One of the biggest challenges with the implementation of ABCD has come from the narrow interpretation of assets by agencies, with a focus on physical assets: buildings, parks, services. 'Asset mapping' the physical resources of a community is a useful endeavour but, in and of itself, it is missing the aspect which is both empowering and transformative for communities. To be truly effective, ABCD exposes a need for upskilling among agency staff which supports a shift in mindset from one of problem-solver and initiator to that of enabler and supporter. ABCD has its limitations since although the approach supports communities to take ownership of their own solutions, it lacks any political education element or community organising model, meaning communities arent necessarily supported to start challenging any of the underlying structural problems. This is why community solutions such as this must be supported by local and participative democracy structures.