Founded by John McKnight and Jody Kretzmann in the 1990’s, Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) is part of a growing movement of world-wide social and economic innovation with citizens at the center. Its growth has been led by the ABCD Institute of DePaul University.

ABCD considers local assets as the primary building blocks of sustainable community development. Building on the skills of local residents, the power of local associations, and the supportive functions of local institutions, asset-based community development draws upon existing community strengths to build stronger, more sustainable communities for the future.

In short, an asset-based approach involves building “from within.”  This is done by revealing strengths and capacities that already exist, mobilizing those capacities through relationships, and and looking to citizens as leaders of efforts to make changes. It’s based on the belief that everyone has gifts, that there is no one we don’t need, and that communities change from the inside out, with the people who live there at the center–not the other way around.

Three powerful questions to begin with are:

  • What can residents do themselves, using their own gifts, talents and resources?
  • What can residents and agencies do together?
  • What can only agencies and institutes do?

Assets and Inclusion

ABCD also proposes a powerful shift in the way that communities and human service agencies approach groups who are often marginalized from community and have become labeled for their deficiencies. These include folks who are elderly, who receive welfare, young people, people who are experiencing homelessness, and people with disabilities. Through an asset-based approach, marginalized people can become welcomed back into the center of community as contributing members of community when seen for their gifts and capacities rather than their problems or deficiencies.  Relationships of dependency and disempowerment can be replaced by reciprocal relationships based on care, exchange, and authentic relationships with other members of their community. This adds value and resources not only to the lives of people formerly at the margins, but to the lives of all members of community who now have access to the skills and resources of people formerly shut off from community life by perceptions of “neediness” and the absence of gifts.


Asset-based thinking can be applied for transformational results to address a wide range of challenges and possibilities, including:

  • Poverty and Economy-Building
  • Children and Youth
  • Elder Care
  • Education
  • Public Health
  • Housing & Neighborhood Development
  • Restorative Justice
  • Diversity & Healing Racial Divides
  • Citizen Engagement


To learn more about how to apply ABCD in your neighborhood, group or organization, contact me to set up a free consultation at (941) 266-9232 or