5 Asset Based Community Development

Dr. Mahbub Hasan MSW, Ph.D.


  1. Asset Based Community Development
  2. Principles of ABCD
  3. Identifying Community Assets and Resources



The chapter will focus on what is a community asset, what is Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) and how to conduct community resource mapping. As a community worker, I have been engaged in community asset and resource mapping to develop new community initiatives. While reviewing existing OER and resources, I found that the Community ToolBox have developed excellent process and tools for community assets and resources mapping. Therefore, I am going to adapt some resources from Community ToolBox for developing this chapter.

Everyone in a community has the talent to offer. Photo: Mahbub Hasan, Year: 2008.

1. Asset based Community Development

“Asset Based Community Development” or ABCD, looks for and starts from people’s gifts and strengths (assets). These assets equip people to create local opportunities and respond to needs and challenges in their neighbourhoods (Tamarack Institute, 2022a).

ABCD is a framework of community development that begins the development process by identifying and building on a community’s “assets” rather than needs (Smart, 2017, Para#9).  Assets include physical space, skills, local knowledge, local groups and associations and networks as well as financial resources. ABCD emphasizes strengths, connections, citizen leadership and recognizes that individual gifts become powerful when they are connected together (Tamarack Institute, 2022a).

Video: John McKnight: Gifts, Skills and Capacity

Source: YouTube, https://youtu.be/xy0V5dtPhes


Tamarack Institute (2022b) identifies 7 principles of ABCD and these are:

  1. Everyone has Gifts: Each person in a community has something to contribute!
  2. Relationships Build Community: People must be connected for sustainable development.
  3. Citizens at the Centre: Citizens must be viewed as actors— not as passive recipients.
  4. Leaders Involve Others: Strength comes from a broad base of community action.
  5. People Care: Listening to people’s interests challenges myths of apathy.
  6. Listen: Decisions should come from conversations where people are truly heard.
  7. Ask: Generating ideas by asking questions is more sustainable than giving solutions.

You may learn more about the elements and good practices at “Asset Based Community Development: At a Glance” by Tamarack Institute.

Russell  (2017) added two additional principles in asset-based community development.

  • placed based:  seeing the neighbourhood as the primary unit of change is a powerful strategy for addressing some of our most intractable socio-political challenges, and
  • inclusion focused: everyone has a gift/talent to share.

Video: Principles & Practices Asset-Based Community Development

Source: YouTube, https://youtu.be/uWUsnnHbjS0

3. Identifying Community Assets and Resources

This part of the chapter adapted from: Berkowitz, B. & Wadud, E. (2022, July 11). Identifying Community Assets and ResourcesCommunity Toolbox. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

3.1 What is a Community Assets? 

Video: Professor John McKnight: Capacity Building Beyond Community Services

Five basic resources people use to make things better

Source: YouTube, https://youtu.be/8INtrPcskZ0

Our definition is broad. A community asset (or community resource, a very similar term) is anything that can be used to improve the quality of community life. And this means:

  • It can be a person — Residents can be empowered to realize and use their abilities to build and transform the community.
  • It can be a physical structure or place — a school, hospital, church, library, recreation center, social club. It could be a town landmark or symbol.
  • It can be a community service that makes life better for some or all community members – public transportation, early childhood education center, community recycling facilities, cultural organization.
  • It can be a business that provides jobs and supports the local economy.

I created a list of major capitals/assets of a community based on Parada et al. (2011) and John McKnight, which are as follows:

a) Human Capital: A person/residents can be empowered to realize and use their abilities to build and transform the community.

b) Physical Capital: — a school, hospital, church, recreation center, social club. It could be a town landmark or symbol.

c) Environmental Capital: Green space, lake, river, etc.

d) Economic Capital: A business that provides jobs and supports the local economy

e) Information Capital: Library, public notice board, internet connectivity, etc.

f) Social Capital: Relationship among community/residents, communication and coordination

g) Political Capital: Community groups, Neighbourhood Associations, Policy makers’ offices, etc.



3.2 Why should you identify community assets ?

  • They can be used as a foundation for community improvement.
  • External resources (e.g., federal and state money) or grants may not be available. Therefore, the resources for change must come from within each community.
  • Identifying and mobilizing community assets enables community residents to gain control over their lives.
  • Improvement efforts are more effective, and longer-lasting, when community members dedicate their time and talents to changes they desire.
  • When efforts are planned on the strengths of the community, people are likely to feel more positive about them, and to believe they can succeed. It’s a lot easier to gain community support for an effort that emphasizes the positive – “We have the resources within our community to deal with this, and we can do it!” – than one that stresses how large a problem is and how difficult it is to solve.

3.3 How do you identify individual assets?

  • Decide on the geographic area you want to cover.
  • Decide how many people you will ask.
  • Draft some questions you want to ask.
  • Design a method by which these questions can be asked.
    Try out questions on a sample group.
  • Collect your data.

3.4 How can you use the assets you have identified?

  • Publish the assets.
  • Target a particular area for development.
  • Tackle a new project.
  • Find new ways to bring groups together.


Key Takeaways and Feedback 

We want to learn your key takeaways and feedback on this chapter.

Your participation is highly appreciated. It will help us to enhance the quality of Community Development Practice and connect with you to offer support. To write your feedback, please click on Your Feedback Matters.

Thank you!


Tamarack Institute. (2022a, July 11). Guide: Asset-based community development at a glance. Retrieved from https://www.tamarackcommunity.ca/library/guide-asset-based-community-development-at-a-glance)

Tamarack Institute. (2022b, July 11). Webinar: Principles and practices of asset based community development. Retrieved from https://www.tamarackcommunity.ca/library/principles-and-practices-of-asset-based-community-development

Smart, J. (2017). What is community development? Australian Institute of Family Studies, CFCA Resource Sheet, January 2017. Retrieved June23, 2022 from https://aifs.gov.au/cfca/expert-panel-project/what-community-development

Berkowitz, B. & Wadud, E. (2022, July 11). Section 8. Identifying Community Assets and Resources. Community ToolBox. Retrieved from https://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/assessment/assessing-community-needs-and-resources/identify-community-assets/main

Parada, H., Barnoff, L, Moffatt, K., & Homan, M. S. (2011). Promoting community change: Making it happen in the real world. (2nd Canadian Ed.). Toronto: Nelson Education Ltd

Russell, C, (2017). Asset based community development-5 core principles. https://www.nurturedevelopment.org/blog/asset-based-community-development-5-core-principles/



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Community Development Practice: From Canadian and Global Perspectives Copyright © 2022 by Dr. Mahbub Hasan MSW, Ph.D. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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