11skills gifts john mck

ABCD stands for Asset-Based Community Development. Now that’s quite a mouthful but don’t panic – it’s basically a really simple and common sense idea. It’s about people coming together to make things better where they live. It’s about growing communities from inside out – not labelling and defining people by their problems but respecting that every single person has something to give. It is a positive, glass-half-full approach. Instead of looking at our deficits and defining us by our needs, we look at our assets – our gifts (what we were born with), our skills (what we’ve learnt), our passions (what we care about) and what we can teach other people.

ABCD was pioneered by John McKnight and Jody Kretzmann in the USA in the 1980s. They travelled across the USA, visiting over 300 low-income neighbourhoods in 20 cities. They asked people ‘‘can you tell us a story about a time when you and your neighbours came together to make things better around here?”

They gathered 3,000 stories and learnt that there were 6 key community building blocks

The skills of local residents
The power of local associations and clubs
The resources of public, private and non-profit organisations
The physical resources of local places
The economic resources of local places
The stories and heritage of local places

John and Jody eventually called these  building blocks ‘‘community assets”


In June 2015, people from 17 countries travelled to Blackpool for the international ABCD Festival. Here are some of the key messages from the Festival collected from Twitter:

“If we just map assets, there’s no point – we need to do something with the info” Jody Kretzmann

“Assets need to be connected to be of real value.” John McKnight

“People who are ‘labelled’ are least likely to have freedom of expression” John McKnight

New shift “From DCBA (Deficit Counting Before Assistance) to ABCD”

“We gotta defend the power of the small.. Against the forces that step on local and squashes it” Jody Kretzmann

“With your gifts, with my gifts, the people will be well.” Maori proverb

“The most effective support is the support you don’t see. Often you don’t call it ‘support’.”

“What is important is conversation around abilities, not disabilities.” Peter Kenyon

“Social media is a tool, but best way to connect with people is face-to-face” – Youth panel

“Too much money can squash community-building, institutionalise what should be neighbourly relationships” Jody Kretzmann

“80% of health is determined outside of medicine.”

“The only people who can build community are those who live, work and sleep there”

“Be suspicious of ABCD rhetoric, without practice, ‘asset-mapping’ without asset-mobilising” Jody Kretzmann

come alive