Asset-based community development (ABCD) is a model for community empowerment and change that is focused on building and leveraging capacity in disinvested neighborhoods.

ABCD approaches communities with the belief that all places – even those that have experienced disinvestment – have significant assets in the form of their people, associations, and institutions. ABCD seeks to shift the focus away from neighborhood deficits in order to empower residents to strengthen and leverage their assets to make positive change.

In particular, ABCD focuses on recognizing the gifts and talents of individuals. These gifts may include hard skills like construction and car repair, but also encompass soft-skills like hospitality or spiritual support, which may be undervalued. By mapping these individual assets, as well as those of institutions and informal associations of residents, a clearer picture of a neighborhood’s strengths begins to appear. Stakeholders can use this network map to begin to match community needs with community assets, helping to build internal capacity to confront challenges.

The ABCD approach was developed by John L. McKnight and John P. Kretzmann and has been in use for three decades. The Asset-Based Community Development Institute at DePaul University promotes and continues to research the ABCD approach and provides technical assistance to communities.