I’ve been wanting to write about this for a while. Finally, we’ve released a press release welcoming the Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) Institute to the Steans Center here at DePaul University. As a community psychologist, I am so excited to see some of the best changemakers I’ve ever encountered joining our ranks. I’ve had the opportunity to attend two retreats with ABCD Institute founders John McKnight and Jody Kretzmann during this transition. These retreats have only reaffirmed my belief in the work that the Steans Center does, and how much I value our focus on building partnerships with community-based organizations instead of trying to “save” them.
My first introduction to ABCD was in my community psychology class with Dr. Amie McKibban. I remember everything clicking into place as my perspective shifted from seeing only the deficiencies and needs of communities to focusing on community and their members’ assets and capacities. Eventually, I worked with Dr. McKibban on an asset mapping project, Map Evansville. This project embodies the spirit of asset-based community development in its quest to identify existing resources, areas of LGBTQ inclusivity, and possible opportunities for social development within Evansville, IN. Map Evansville continues to evolve and grow, which I believe is due at least in part to our focus on Evansville’s assets.
One of my favorite videos that highlights just how useful an asset-based perspective can be is this TEDx Exeter video featuring Cormac Russell. In this video, Cormac Russell discusses the “shadow side” of helping and outlines the harm that focusing on deficits does to communities. He then highlights the building blocks people use to make change happen in their communities and gives poignant examples where change has succeeded thanks to community builders and grassroots action.
If you would like to learn more about asset-based community development, please check out the ABCD Institute’s resources, all of which are free and open to the public. To learn more about the wonderful work the Steans Center is doing, please visit their website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.