Why Asset-Based Community Development is not a Model

Asset-Based Community Development is not a model, it is a description of how people join together – at hyper local level – to use what they have, to get what they all agree they want.
Regardless of context, Asset Based Community Development has some common features (described by John McKnight in last week’s blog). It is an approach that is:
1. relationship focused.

2. capacity oriented /asset based.

3. Internally driven/place based.
So why is it not a model? Well to answer that I need to define what I understand ‘a model’ to typically mean.
As a noun it tends to have the following meanings:

  • Representative
  • Classic exemplar
  • Type
  • Archetype
  • Prime example

As an adjective, synonyms like these come to mind:

  • Typical
  • Normal
  • Regular
  • Similar
  • Standard
  • Usual
  • Conforming
  • Ordinary

None of these nouns or adjectives capture Asset-Based Community Development. Indeed, I’d like to suggest that words describing the very opposite of a what a model is are far more apt in describing ABCD.
So, what is the opposite of model?
That which is:

  • Atypical
  • Different
  • Irregular
  • Uncharacteristic
  • Imperfect
  • Unusual

Everything I’ve seen on the ground since I started working through the ABCD approach continues to confirm that it is an iterative, context specific, messy approach that can’t be standardised, replicated, industrialised and brought to scale. Nor can it be managed or controlled.
That’s not to suggest it does not have a core or an essence as John McKnight describes it, but that it is not a model.
Cormac Russell

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  • Agree too bad the ABCD and Asset based approach has not taken it one step further forming a theoretical frame work for it all. Easy for me to say who started at the other end of the stick by working with Antonovskys SOC theory within the salutogenic framework. This now gives the opportunityto work with EFGH, EVIDENCE FOR GOOD HEALTH action and intervention being able to evaluate what we do. (See our new contribution The Hanbook on Salutogenesis, open access on Springer.)
    Health Literacy – the buzz word of contemporary public health and health promotion runs into the same problem as ABCD because the concept has become diluted encapsulating all, everything and nothing

    With all respect for one of my stars John McKnight whom I hope to meet one day
    Bengt Lindstrom
    Professor of Public Health-Health Promotion and Salutogenesis

    August 3, 2016 at 10:37 am
  • Thanks for your response Bengt. John whom I’ve worked closely with for over twenty years would I suspect suggest that ABCD is a descriptive narrative that is anthropologically in nature, describing through applied research what happens when communities behave effectively. He recently punctuated that point in a post on this site which I think you’d enjoy: http://www.nurturedevelopment.org/blog/abcd-origin-essence-john-mcknight/

    It’s great to hear from you again, and I hope to catch up with you again next year at the Saluogensis conference. The grounding theory you present continues to be of great value to the institutional world as they get their heads around health beyond healthcare, and the idea that indigenous communities can also create their own health, especially when health is understood in political and social terms.

    August 21, 2016 at 3:00 pm

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