Relying on a Community’s Strengths to Instill a Culture of Health

From the article by Natalie Orenstein on the Building Healthy Places Network Blog:

Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) is a strategy that seeks to identify and assess existing resources (defined in contrast to the more traditional risk- or deficiency-based “assessments”) and use them for sustainable community development . John McKnight and John Kretzmann coined the term in their 1993 book, “Building Communities From the Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community’s Assets.”

The approach contrasts with traditional models, which start by identifying a community’s deficiencies. ABCD instead asks community developers to map an area’s assets, which may include buildings, parks, leadership groups, faith-based organizations, or nonprofits. Projects build on those assets, with direction from local residents, to grow a community’s social capital. The strategy relies on a bottom-up approach to community change in which residents lead development efforts and spur more participation.

An ABCD project that used public, corporate, and philanthropic funds in the Gulfton neighborhood of Houston, Texas yielded a charter school, health clinic, playground and more. Practitioners used an asset-based approach called Appreciative Inquiry, where they asked residents about the most valued parts of the neighborhood and built from there. Residents also met each other through their participation in the project.

ABCD can be particularly effective in cultivating healthy communities. The goal of Project HOPE in northeast Rochester, New York, for example, was to improve the health of the community physically, socially, and economically. The project helped residents develop a plan that included churches, schools, and local government, then put it into action on their own. Asset mapping revealed local artistic talent and identified residents interested in volunteering. Today, the community is adorned with public art and there are cleanup days to beautify the streets. Other residents formed a neighborhood council. The organizers identified a plot of land and received a grant to build a playground.

Read the full article.