Reflections on the Power of Asset-Based Community Development

Image of ABCD in Action SCOPE staff attended a dynamic workshop last week at Art Center Sarasota called, “The Power of Asset-Based Community Development,” presented by Dan Duncan (Faculty, ABCD Institute), Mary Butler, (ABCD Neighborhood Organizer, former Americorps VISTA Volunteer at SCOPE) and April Doner (Fellow, ABCD Institute and former SCOPE staff). SCOPE is no stranger to Asset-Based Community Development of course, having embraced this methodology over the years and worked with community-building thought leaders such as John McKnight and Peter Block. Given this history, we welcomed the opportunity to partner with Dan, April and Mary on this event.

Workshop participants started the day by finding a partner in the room and getting to know them better by identifying their gifts of the hand (physical skills), head (particular knowledge) and heart (passions). This exercise led into an introduction to the Principle of Asset-Based Community Engagement, presented by Dan Duncan. Following this presentation on ABCD Principles, April Doner shared her experience with Broadway United Methodist Church in Indianapolis as a good example of “ABCD in Action.” Then Mary Butler shared a local example based on her experience as a neighborhood organizer in the Newtown area of North Sarasota. April and Mary’s stories highlighted the central role of residents in building stronger communities.

One of the most impactful comments of the morning was this quote from the pastor of Broadway United Methodist Church in Indianapolis: “At one point we stopped wondering how to get others involved in what we’re doing, and started wondering how do we get involved in what they’re doing?” This statement is the essence of Asset-Based Community Development. True resident engagement requires government and institutions to lead by stepping back and creating space for residents to be involved as producers. ABCD helps us see people and places not as problems for experts to solve but as being full of hidden assets.

During the afternoon, the workshop discussion centered on the subject of Asset-Mapping. This is a strategy to identify assets that are available in the community, emphasizing the place-based orientation of ABCD. Asset Mapping is a process for engaging with the community around the assets of an identified geographic area in order to use the talents of people to solve problems and build a better community. This particular aspect of ABCD especially resonated with us as members of the Sarasota County Community Data Collaborative that is working to develop a neighborhood-centric, online Community Platform for Sarasota County.

We left the workshop feeling inspired by the positive energy in the room, excited about new connections made, and looking forward to opportunities of the coming year.

If you were unable to attend the workshop but would like to peruse the materials, they are available here on Dan Duncan’s personal website.