Chapter 1: What is the best way to aid a community in a sustainable and positive way?

Our team hoped to assist the MGV community with their development challenges.  The ultimate goal of this initiative was to help MGV explore their available assets in hopes of utilising them to their full potential to stimulate continuing community development.  In a typical needs-based approach to combating a community’s struggles, the problems are fixed temporarily on the surface but the core roots of the problems are not addressed. We chose to employ an Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) approach to build upon their strengths.  After researching various community development strategies, ABCD was chosen because it focuses on a community’s strengths as opposed to their weaknesses in order to build upon what the community already has to make it stronger.  Only looking at the needs and problems of a community tends to discourage and disempower, while leading to dependence on outside agencies.  On the other hand, ABCD builds a store of goodwill and support within the group, empowering communities like MGV.

John Kretzmann and John McKnight are credited with being the architects of ABCD (Green).  They defined assets as gifts, skills, and capacities of individuals, associations, and institutions of a community; the assets are a springboard for community action and strength-based empowerment.  ABCD involves identifying and mobilising these assets to achieve collective goals, which is a process focused on community mobilisation rather than institutional reform.  It is based on the concept that all individuals have the capacity to contribute to their community – even youth, senior citizens, and people with disabilities.  In fact, youth in particular are increasingly being appreciated for their potential as critical thinkers and problem solvers; the same is true in MGV.

The problem is that people do not realise the assets they have or how to utilise these assets to their full potential.  By helping MGV to recognize their locally controlled resources, the residents can better utilise the assets to serve the community.  These assets include social capital, which is defined as “features of social organisation, such as trust, norms, and networks that can improve the efficiency of society by facilitating coordinated action” (Emmett). After the initial identification of its assets, the community can drive the development process itself by mobilising existing assets and strengthening their skills, leading to sustainable community growth. Successful ABCD yields opportunities to build “competence, confidence, connection, character, caring, and contribution to the community,” leading to sustainable improvements (Wilson).