Asset-Based Community Development

For our project we intend to take an asset-based community development (ABCD) approach. ABCD is described by Fred M Sswemala et. al. as an “integrated approach to building human, social, and economic capital” (Ssewamala, Sperber et al. 2010). A more traditional needs-based community development approach can lead to communities that rely on an external person or organisation to come in and solve problems; as a result the community becomes dependent on service providers which can shift funding and support away from residents and to service providers (Kretzmann and McKnight 1996). An asset-based approach would focus on finding and utilizing assets in the community rather than the community’s needs or limitations. This begins by assessing skills and abilities of members of the community, finding and assessing social infrastructure such as leadership committees, as well as physical assets like community space and possible funding. Building and developing the community with these assets typically leads to more sustainable and successful upgrading. Many Cape Town Project Center groups have used ABCD successfully in the past.

One project in which it was particularly notable was the 2010 Profiling Community Assets group, which identified assets in the community such as churches, youth groups, and spaza shops. It also included documents on how to continue profiling community assets, and identifying the specific skills each asset brings to the community, which allows the community to focus on these for upgrading. A similar case worked with asset-based community development to address a common health problem in a neighborhood in California. A resident in a local hospital’s emergency noticed that many children were suffered from dog bites. Rather than continuously treating dog bites, she found out from the children they did not know about dog safety and were unintentionally placing themselves in a hazardous place for dog bites. From there she looked at her own assets as a doctor and dog-owner. She then interviewed key members of the community to get a picture of the community’s assets. Working with local dog-owners, children, and the neighborhood associations, together they planned and executed a dog-safety fair. This will lead to preventative health in the community and reduce the need for trips to the emergency department in this neighborhood by utilizing community assets (Pan, 2005).

We believed, based off of past successes in other communities, ABCD would be significant in ensuring our project is sustainable and accepted by the community. This means that a large part of our work went into identifying and assessing assets in the community before we began to develop services utilizing those assets.