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ABCD is an approach to community building that focuses on people and their gifts, their social relationships and associations first - before the physical infrastructure, programs and services offered. Here are some tools and resources to help you to apply and share these ideas with your family, friends, neighbours, and colleagues. 

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A History of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute: Unintentionally Creating a Movement

John McKnight reflects on the nature of ABCD and how it emerged, how it has worked, the obstacles, and what has been learnt.


The Four-Legged Stool

In this well written and thought provoking publication, John McKnight examines the analogy of the "three-legged stool" to describe how business, government and civil society each play a role in upholding democratic processes. He proposes that in order to revitalize our democratic institutions, we must recognize a "fourth leg" of this stool- associational life.

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ABCD In-Action: Poverty Reduction in New Brunswick

Learn about New Brunswick and how the province has been able to utilize asset-based approaches to poverty reduction. A recent case study highlights how the province was intentional at each step about employing an asset-based approach rather than the more predominant deficit model to the poverty reduction initiative. It explains their process, vision, and breaks down the eight ABCD touchstones that helped them work with and by communities as they put their strategy into action.

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Eight Touchstones to Asset-Based Community Development

Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) is about building community. Historically, we have looked at communities based on what they don’t have (asset stripping) instead of looking at the gifts that a community does have (glass half full). Many of us who are doing community development work are looking for a cookie cutter way to do the work effectively. Cormac Russell, Managing Director of Nurture Development and a faculty member of the Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) Institute at Northwestern University, Chicago discusses the eight touchstones (not stepping stones) to consider when community building.


A Basic Guide to ABCD Community Organizing

Please read this practical guide to ABCD Community Organizing. It includes how to recognize the gifts that everyone has, how to connect neighbours, how to build associations and how these associations can help to weave strong social fabrics in communities and neighbourhoods.


The Abundant Community Initiative Edmonton

Inspired by John McKnight and Peter Block’s book, “The Abundant Community,” Howard Lawrence undertook a pilot project called the Abundant Community Initiative in Edmonton, Canada in January 2013. Howard started with the idea that local residents have gifts, skills, abilities and knowledge and that they are willing to contribute these assets to improving their neighborhood. This article provides an overview of this process and links to more resources

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Publications from the ABCD Institute

These ABCD publications are developed by the ABCD Institute, as well as individuals and groups within their network. Many are available for free download by clicking on the document title. 
(These papers are copyrighted. You have the authors' permission to download and reproduce them for distribution; however, please include the title page to assure proper attribution.)

More ABCD Books here

Community-Based Strategies: Asset Building

The asset approach is based on the belief that communities have skills, networks, resources and energy that can be used to tackle local problems and improve the community’s quality of life. In turn, it strengthens the effectiveness of people and organizations working to find solutions to problems within the community. This helpful link provides an overview of this approach along with a number of articles, key resources, ideas, case studies and strategies.


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How to Do a Skills Inventory in Your Neighbourhood

This workbook resource walks you through, step-by-step, how to do an inventory of the gifts and skills in your Neighbourhood.  It was developed cooperatively by the Woodlawn Organization, a Chicago neighbourhood organization and the ABCD Community Institute of Northwestern University. This tool was passed along to Tamarack by John McKnight.


 Asset-Based Neigbourhood Organizing

This document provides an outline to the method followed for the Abundant Community Initiative in Edmonton, started by Howard Lawrence. Please access the full document by clicking here


Using Asset Mapping for Asset-Based Community Development

Asset-Based Community Development is an approach that considers local assets to be the primary building blocks for developing strong, sustainable communities.  Drawing on the skills of local residents, the power of local associations, and the supportive functions of local institutions, asset-based community development identifies and mobilizes existing community strengths to build stronger communities for the future. The following three resources: an introduction to asset mapping; a sample capacity inventory; and, a how-to for using the capacity inventory provide an overview for mapping community assets using a capacity inventory.


Shifting Focus: Alternative Pathways for Communities and Economies

This four-part resource kit, entitled Shifting Focus: Alternative Pathways for Communities and Economies, details the community partnering process used by the Latrobe City Council and Monash University, in Australia which involved working hand-in-hand with people who have been marginalized and assisting them to build community-based projects.  The kit includes documented examples of how positives can be found in negative situations, and can assist communities to establish micro-economic communities within their local area using people as their major resource 


Differentiating the Functions of Institutions and Associations: A Geometry Lesson

 This publication clarifies the difference between an association and institution, and the different key roles each has in Asset-Based Community Development. While the "institution" is represented by a triangle because their purpose is to provide a means by which a few can control many, and is useful whenever we need uniformity and standardization as in mass production; "associations" are flat and circular because their function is to synthesize the unique interests of each participant and their continuity depends upon the choice to voluntarily participate. Access the full paper here.


When You Know Someone's Gift

This list "20 Things You Can do When You Know Someone's Gift" displays of the wide variety of ways—some quick and some more involved— you can use knowledge of a person’s core gift to help them build internal resilience and healthy participation in their community. There is an initial “ah-ha” that can be very powerful when a person first discovers their core gift, but that is just the beginning. The more attention you help the person to focus on their gift, the more they become aware of it’s usefulness and can benefit from it. None of these activities is “better” or “more powerful” than any other item on the list. What looks useful to you?










“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.”

ABCD Institute

“Care is an alchemist in our communities, unleashing a force deep within us. It enables us to build up our social immune system.”

—Vickie Cammack, Canadian Social Innovator and co-founder of PLAN