There is No One Version of ABCD

This is the latest post in a series that looks at Asset-Based Community Development. Previous posts include:
Asset-Focused Leadership
Asset-Focused Leadership Part II: the Importance of Associations
The Unexpected Benefits of ABCD

I want to present a different way to think about Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD). People tend to think of ABCD as something that requires a “community” in order to implement strategies, or projects. Community is after all, part of the name, right? We have a vision of what we want things to look like, and our minds jump to a scale that reflects the ideal. We want a ‘big tent,’ and go to great lengths not to exclude anyone. That’s admirable, but I’m impatient. I have a bias toward action.

I believe that before you create a group, or better yet, a network, you consider your own assets. What can I do RIGHT NOW based on the skills, talents, and relationships that I have? Where can I plant the seeds of change? Who can I help educate? Make a list that answers these questions, the make it a to-do list. This is also ABCD.

If when you are accomplishing these small tasks you cross paths with one other person who shares your values and your vision, have them answer the same questions. Then try to connect your combined assets in a way that could lead to a specific action. Do your assets complement each other’s? Do they get you at least halfway to a collaborative action? This is also ABCD.

When I think of things that could be changed for the better, I often divide the necessary changes into two categories. Is this problem something that requires a change in policy, or is it something that can be addressed by changing practice? When you look at a list of changes of practice that could lead to positive improvements, those modifications are frequently things for which you don’t even have to acquire permission. For example, handling situations with more generosity, and more humility isn’t difficult, or expensive. It also tends to reveal shared values among people who are not frequently in conversation. This is also ABCD.

I will repeat something I have said many times before. ABCD isn’t necessarily a detailed process, or plan. It is more of a worldview. You can engage in ABCD without creating an actual asset map. You can engage in ABCD without positional leadership. ABCD simply requires authentic human connection, and a mutual commitment to create change by allowing people to share their skills, talents, and knowledge for everyone’s benefit.