Asset-Based Community Development Festival 2015

Dear friends,

Between June 15th-19th more than 180 people gathered from 21 countries around the world to celebrate local citizen-led action, and the last 20 year of Asset-Based Community Development.

ABCD Festival-board_02

As well as having the pleasure of the company of 180 people, we also had virtual connections to thousands of others around the world through social media. The result became evident on Thursday afternoon, when we trended at number 6 in the UK on Twitter for over two hours -then dropped to number ten for a further hour- and also at number 9 in Canada.

As well having brilliant presenters, we also had terrific conversations and dialogue about people’s vision for the next 20 years on community-driven action and localism. The voice of young people was clarion, especially on day 3!

If you weren’t there, here’s a flavour of  what happened in the form of audio clips, photos and tweets from the festival. And if you were there, here’s a warm reminder to take you into the weekend! We hope you enjoy. My thanks to you all! Cormac

June8 blog_252015 marks the 20th Anniversary of the ABCD Institute, established in 1995 by John McKnight and Jody Kretzmann and an extended circle of friends at Northwestern University in Illinois. ABCD Europe -ably assisted by MyLife CIC and its partners from the ABCD Institute, Coady International Institute, ABCD in Action (North America), ABCD Asia Pacific, and Bank of I.D.E.A.S– hosted a five-day gathering on 15-19 June 2015, which we called ‘The ABCD Festival’. We gathered inthe village of Ribby Hall, in Preston in England, where we created our own community/ village.

The Festival was dedicated to Judith Snow who, hours before she passed, was planning her trip to Europe to be with us for the ABCD Festival and many other speaking engagements.

June3 blog_09

Judith Snow

Our speakers included:

John McKnight and Prof. Jody Kretzmann helped us review the lessons that have emerged across the last few decades and read the tea-leaves on what might lay out ahead.

Listen to their presentations:

John McKnight and Jody Kretzmann

John McKnight and Prof. Jody Kretzmann

Peter Kenyon from Bank of I.D.E.A.S in Australia, shared his extensive experience of facilitating ABCD in near 50 countries around the world over the last 20 plus years, talked about rural development through the lens of ABCD.

Peter Kenyon

Peter Kenyon

Deb Wisniewski, from the North America ABCD Network, ABCD in Action, and Dee Brooks, from the Jeder Institute in Australia & facilitator of the ABCD Asia Pacific network, facilitated the participant-driven conversations and helped us use the Art of Hosting to go deeper into our inquiry questions.

28Coady International Institute

Deb Wisniewski and Dee Brooks

John Ashton (President of the Faculty of Public Health) and Maggi Morris reminded us that our community assets determine our health, and not the clinical machinery of the medical world or the pills of Big Pharma.

34John Waters

John Ashton

Martin Galvin (University of Limerick) shared his research on how systems displace the agency of local residents, and invite us to see that learning is a community function not the sole responsibility of a school.

Martin Galvin

Martin Galvin

Alison Mathie and Gord Cunningham from the Coady International Institute, shared lessons from the field from across the Global South, through some extremely powerful stories of how communities journey from being disaffected poorly served clients to powerful citizens.

Listen to their presentations:

Alison Mathie and Gord Cunningham

Alison Mathie and Gord Cunningham

  • Listen to Jody Kretzmann on talking through the concept of the Gapper and introducing us to Jeff Yost, President and CEO of Nebraska Foundation who shared his experience of being a Gapper. 

We also heard about some ground-breaking research in South Africa where 25 ABCD pilots have been evaluated. Shaun Samuels and Hanna Nell presented their findings.

Shaun Samuels & Hanna Nell

Shaun Samuels and Hanna Nell

Colleen Cameron shared some innovative approaches to Health through the lens of ABCD.

Colleen Cameron

Additionally we heard about some pioneering work in Canada that looks at health through the ABCD lens.

I also had the opportunity and privilege of contributing a reflection of the essence of the Asset-Based Community Development approach: creating a culture of community and to open and close the conference.

Cormac Russell

Cormac Russell

Richard Perry, from the Coady International Institute, conducted all audio interviews throughout the conference and provided plenty of social media updates and pictures.

12G Richard Perry

Richard Perry

The speakers were just one component of the festival, there were also topic tents that were themed that allowed people follow particular lines of inquiry to learn more, or share more about a particular aspect of Asset-Based Community Development. 


I also launched my new short book Asset-Based Community Development: Looking Back to Look Forward– In conversation with John McKnight about the heritage of ABCD and its place in the world today. You can find more info and links on where to get it here.


Aside from the conference programme, true to the title ‘festival’, we had a lot of fun and mischief, From local entertainment, to ‘come dine with me’ evenings, music and dance. See for yourself!


All pictures used here are from the Festival participants who shared them via Twitter and/or Facebook. You can access more pictures here and all audio clips here, which were recorded and edited by Richard Perry. You can also see a summary of what the participants shared via Twitter.


List of presentations:

  1. Cormac Russell – Our way is the community way AUDIO / VIDEO
  2. John McKnight – What I have learned so far AUDIO / VIDEO
  3. Cormac Russell book: Looking back to look forward: The heritage of ABCD AUDIO / VIDEO

Warm Regards,

Cormac Russell

Faculty member of the ABCD Institute (Convener)

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