Asset-Based Community Development is not an alternative to Services
Sadly ABCD rhetoric is being bandied about in some quarters as a quick fix solution, as is Time Banking, Local Area Coordination and anything else that speaks to community-led action.
But both citizens and savvy practitioners know rhetoric is not practice, and ABCD in particular is not a model. You can’t therefore throw it at people as a means of getting them to do for themselves and each other what you can no longer package and deliver in a service.
The thinking around all of this has become confused of late, especially in the UK, so in an effort to be helpful and hopeful, yet challenging, I wanted to put together a clear articulation of how ABCD as a practice and perspective differs to more traditional community engagement approaches.
Here it goes. Suffice to say Asset-Based Community Development practice does not seek to save the system money, but rather to save people from the system. Ethical ABCD practitioners are not interested in creating citizen-led ‘services’ or alternatives to mainstream services, they are interested in supporting regular people to live interdependent lives and to grow powerful civic action. The box below sets out how ABCD differs to traditional “service based thinking”, hence it is not about service reform or redesign but about having a life, growing free space and deepening democracy.
As with every approach, when it comes to ABCD there are those who talk a good show but engage in crap practice, those who’ve never heard the words ABCD but live it every day in their practice, and those who do both. Hopefully the distinctions above help in figuring out the difference and making the best choices possible in difficult times.