What is ABCD?

Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) is an approach based on the principles of:
  • Appreciating and mobilising individual and community talents, skills and assets (rather than focusing on 'deficits' i.e. problems and needs)
  • Community-driven development rather than development driven by external agencies (Cunningham and Mathie,  Coady Institue, 2002) 

In the publication 'A Glass Half Full', Jane Foot and Trevor Hopkins make the case that;

"as well as having needs and problems, our most marginalised communities also have social, cultural and material assets. Identifying and mobilising these can help them overcome the health challenges they face. A growing body of evidence shows that when practitioners begin with a focus on what communities have (their assets) as opposed to what they don’t have (their needs) a community’s efficacy in addressing its own needs increases, as does its capacity to lever in external support. It provides healthy community practitioners with a fresh perspective on building bridges with socially excluded people and marginalised groups." (Foot and Hopkins, 2009, p6)

"The more familiar ‘deficit’ approach focuses on the problems, needs and deficiencies in a community such as deprivation, illness and health-damaging behaviours. It designs services to fill the gaps and fix the problems. As a result, a community can feel disempowered and dependent; people can become passive recipients of services rather than active agents in their own and their families’ lives." (Foot and Hopkins, 2009, p7)

What is a health asset?

“A health asset is any factor or resource which enhances the ability of individuals, communities and populations to maintain and sustain health and well-being. These assets can operate at the level of the individual, family or community as protective and promoting factors to buffer against life’s stresses.” Antony Morgan, National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), 2009

An asset is any of the following:

  • the practical skills, capacity and knowledge of local residents
  •  the passions and interests of local residents that give them energy for change
  • the networks and connections – known as ‘social capital’ – in a community, including friendships and neighbourliness
  •  the effectiveness of local community and voluntary associations
  •   the resources of public, private and third sector organisations that are available to support a community
  •   the physical and economic resources of a place that enhance well-being.

(From : Foot and Hopkins, 2009, p7)

Aspects of an asset based approach could also help influence health inequalities by:
  • targeting appropriate communities to work with
  •  using local assets to empower people and communities
  • valuing resilience
  •  strengthening community networks
  • building trust between service providers and communities.

 Altogether Better and ABCD
Altogether Better’s Community Health Champions’ reflect the values and principles of ABCD which:

  • See citizens and communities as the co-producers of health and well-being, rather than the recipients of services
  • Promote community networks, relationships and friendships that can provide caring, mutual help and empowerment
  • Identify what has the potential to improve health and well-being
  • Supports individuals’ health and well-being through self- esteem, coping strategies, resilience skills, relationships, friendships, knowledge and personal resources
  • Identifies and makes visible the health-enhancing assets in a community
  • Empower communities to control their futures and create tangible resources such as services, funds and buildings (Foot and Hopkins, 2010)
 Our Sheffield project has been exploring the potential of Community Health Champions in undertaking asset mapping / asset based community development work in their own community. Read more here.

Read more about ABCD at: 

Nurture Development

ABCD in Action - an online community where people learn together and from each other about how to apply the principles and practices of Asset-Based Community Development. Join the discussion!

The Coady Institute, Nova Scotia

A Glass Half Full: How an asset approach can improve community health and well-being

Neighbor Power: Building Community the Seattle Way (Excellent book by Jim Diers)

Health Empowerment Leverage Project (HELP) - The Health Empowerment Group is a consortium of professionals working together to widen the use of community development in the field of health. Our main activity is the Health Empowerment Leverage Project, funded by the Department of Health and hosted by the NHS Alliance. The aim of the project is to explore the business case for the application of community development in health.