Glossary of terms

Many of the words used in Asset-Based Community Development literature are common to other fields and everyday language. This may mean that the definitions given here differ from your existing understanding of the term.



See Asset-Based Community Development

ABCD Guide

ABCD Guides are Nurture Development Associates who provide:

  1. Support to Stewardship Groups, i.e. local residents who want to weave their community together.
  2. Support to Community Builders.
  3. Support Community Builders and Connectors to develop asset mapping methodology and sharing of learning in a way that makes sense local and enables local people to shape the learning process.
  4. Support to the Leading by Stepping Back Community of Practice.
  5. Programme management support linking with the partnership leads.
  6. Dedicated ongoing mentoring and coaching alongside ad hoc mentoring and coaching as required (off site and onsite).
  7. Support to host organisations to explore how they can use their supportive functions, assets and resources to support and enable community building.
  8. Informed support to Community Builders, on tools, techniques, etc, as required including the development of tools if not available.

ABCD Institute

The ABCD Institute was established in 1995 by John P. Kretzmann and John L. McKnigh, who continue to challenge the conventional wisdom of community development and support the growth of ABCD worldwide.

In the late 1980s, along with other associates, they traveled across North America visiting more than 300 neighbourhoods in 20 cities. They wanted to understand how citizenship and community prevailed in low-income neighbourhoods, despite multiple socio-economic and political challenges.

In their book Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community’s Assets, they described their findings, which confirmed that low-income communities facing hardship can, and often do, become stronger and prosper.

Their premise is that every neighbourhood is filled with human, associational and institutional assets that should be identified, connected and mobilised before seeking outside help. However, they also add that outside resources are almost always needed, but they are effective only when requested by local leaders and matched by local efforts.

Appreciative Inquiry (AI)

AI is a process for facilitating positive change in human systems (organisations, groups, and communities) that invites us to shift our focus from ‘what’s wrong, to what’s strong’. More info here:


Individual, association and organisational skills, talents, gifts, resources and strengths.

Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD)

A type of community development based on the work of John Kretzmann and John McKnight, of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute of Northwestern University. ABCD considers local assets as the primary building blocks of sustainable community development.

Building on the skills of local residents, the power of local associations, and the supportive functions of local institutions, Asset-Based Community Development draws upon existing community strengths to build stronger, more sustainable communities for the future.

It is a lens through which Nurture Development can support citizens and practitioners to effect more community driven development; and to validate and celebrate that which is already happening. We do this by leading workshops/seminar series, one day events, more intense immersion training, development of resource materials and facilitated events

Asset Mapping

A process through which community assets are identified and documented for community building uses.

Asset mapping involves generating a map or inventory of the capacities, skills and talents of individuals, associations, organisations, the natural and built environment, and local economy (inclusive of its gift economy). The asset mapping process is not about data collection, it is about connecting people to their neighbours and their ecology and economy on the basis of their assets and priorities. It is about collective-realisation, collective-empowerment and connectorship.

A visual map of resources is usually created from the identification process.


An informal or formal group of citizens working together to achieve a common goal. They usually achieve the goal by deciding on a common problem to address, developing a plan and taking action to implement the plan.


Building Blocks of a community

To help us understand all of the potential assets and resources, we often talk about 6 different categories of assets, which we believe are the building blocks of a community:

  1. The skills and experience of local residents.
  2. The power of local associations.
  3. The resources of public, private and non-profit institutions.
  4. The physical resources of local places.
  5. The economic resources of local places.
  6. The stories of our lives and evolving communities.

Bumping Spaces

The places where people come together naturally or as part of a group (e.g. school gates).


Capacity Building

Activities, resources and support that strengthen the skills, abilities and confidence of people and community groups. These groups can use this to take effective action and leading roles in the development of their communities

Civil Society Organisations

These consist of a variety of different formal and informal organisations that represent the interests of various members of society. They may include, for example, community-based organisations, producer associations, unions, and NGOs.

Community Building

This happens when people and organisations from across the community come together to envision how their ideal community should look. They then begin to develop plans to mobilise all of the community’s resources to achieve their visions.

Community Connector

Community Connectors are ‘people lovers, who are also loved and trusted’. They know and keep in touch with many people and are able to create and maintain long-lasting friendships.

Being a Connector comes naturally to them; which is a good thing, because it is not something that can be taught.

Community Connectors are natural networkers, relationship builders, positive, playful, optimistic, caring and compassionate local people. They are not paid workers and any attempts to turn them into ‘professionals’ should be resisted. Their priceless contribution is connecting people, associations and institutions more widely to the community, and in weaving the community together. But they are also tricksters, they know how to take the king on, and play with power in wonderful creative and sophisticated ways.

Community Group

Groups of people that live/work in the community and who make things happen. Community groups may be associations.

Community Development

The act of engaging community members to improve a community through the adoption of goals, objectives and putting that into practice.

Community Empowerment

The state of affairs that exists when members of a community feel empowered to achieve their self-determined goals, with some measure of significant control over the processes, strategies, resources, enterprises and assets to attain these.

Community Engagement

Refers to how stakeholders in communities are engaged in determining their needs and/or ways of addressing these. It refers particularly to those actors in a position to facilitate this by way of funding and/or other measures of assistance (eg. government agencies).

Community of Practice

It is a learning forum where a group of peers willingly come together to develop expertise in a chosen area of practice that will support their work on strategic areas.

This happens through:

  • Sharing experiences (credible information, insights, successes, challenges).
  • Building a specific knowledge base.
  • Developing and implementing new ideas and approaches.
  • Finding creative solutions.
  • Evaluating outcomes.


Local people who support an asset based community development programme and are in a position to positively champion the approach across the community e.g. local GPs .


Local people who have a natural gift for connecting others in the community. They know and keep in touch with many people and are able to create and maintain long-lasting friendships.

Being a Connector comes naturally to them; which is a good thing, because it is not something that can be taught. Community Connectors are natural networkers, relationship builders, positive, playful, optimistic, caring and compassionate local people.


Deficits-based approach (see needs assessment)


Disruptive innovation

It challenges the status quo by providing solutions to inadequately addressed social issues.



Gifts are abilities that we are born with. We may develop them but no one has to teach them to us.



Organisations run by professionals to provide their expertise to people with needs and deficits. Institutions include schools, social service agencies, libraries, local, state and federal government, hospitals, universities, law enforcement agencies, etc.


Learning conversations:

Intentional conversations that help Community Builders and Community Connectors understand the wide range of gifts, talents, resources and passions that exist across their community. Revealing gifts to individuals, organisations and communities can be extremely powerful. In every conversation, Community Builders and Connectors have the ability to reorient people and communities to the power they hold to make change happen.

Learning Site

A Nurture Development Learning Site is a neighbourhood where local residents are energised by the idea of weaving their community together. It is a visible and intentional process of community building. It will involve someone, or some group, of people taking on a community building function and some local people prepared to direct the process and engage in the community building effort. Learning Sites are neighbourhoods where intentional action is taken to develop citizen led approaches to building communities of hospitality. They also show that wellbeing is determined by how well strengths are expressed, not by how well needs are addressed.


Needs Assessment

Identifies the needs that individuals and communities have. It is sometimes called a deficit index because it determines the degree to which a community has deficits. Items such as adolescent pregnancy, drug abuse, poverty, suicidal behaviour, depression, blight indexes, burned out buildings, etc. are part of needs assessment.



In Asset-Based community development, resources usually refer to outsiders and outside funding that assist communities, neighbourhoods and blocks to achieve their objectives. Outside people and professionals are utilised as resources and are only involved when invited by people from the neighbourhood.



Talents that we’ve acquired in everyday life such as cooking and fixing things.

Sponsorship Group:

Sponsorship Group is an important part of any community building programme, providing a public facing entity that supports and champions the developments across a community. Each group typically includes:

        • ‘Conductors’: local people who support an Asset-Based community development programme and are in a position to positively champion the approach across the community e.g. local GPs
        • The Community Builder(s)
        • The Community Connector(s)

Sponsorship Groups ensure that the community building developments hold true to the principles of ABCD:

        • asset-based
        • place-based in focus
        • emphasise the power of relationships over the power of money and position
        • committed to social justice
        • promote citizen / community led action.

Stewardship group

A group of community weavers who step up and keen to roll up their sleeves and get on with inclusive community building across a community. They are established at the beginning of any community building process to ensure citizen-led action from the earliest stages. They ensure that the community building developments hold true to the principles of ABCD.

Strength-based approach

Strength-based approach is a philosophy with a focus on the strengths that people bring to a problem or crisis. The term ‘strength’ refers to different elements that help or enable the people to deal with challenges in life in general and in meeting their needs and achieving their desired outcomes in particular. These elements include:

their personal resources, abilities, skills, knowledge, potential, etc.

their social network and its resources, abilities, skills, etc.

community resources, also known as ‘social capital’ and/or ‘universal resources’.


More info here:


Time Banking

Time banking is a means of exchange used to organise people and organisations around a purpose, where time is the principal currency.