REALISING THE POTENTIAL FOR ASSET-BASED COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
INTRODUCTION AN AGENDA FOR ACTION
A summary of the discussion and deliberations of the Consultation
ASSET-BASED COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
What is it? QUESTIONS STILL TO ANSWER
Why do we need a new approach to community development?
The importance of assets SOURCES OF FURTHER INFORMATION
A health warning
CAN DO and CAN BE PARTICIPANTS AT THE CONSULTATION
Being your own first investor
REALISING THE POTENTIAL FOR ASSET-BASED COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
A vital role for local groups and institutions
The institutional landscape
Reducing barriers to asset-based community development
Building up hope: realising the potential of asset-based community development
Taking community efforts to scale
Decades of well-intentioned institutional inside out. A range of approaches has
efforts to stimulate community been developed to assist communities in
development have achieved remarkably mobilising and developing their internal
little for marginalised communities. Despite assets, in becoming their own first investors.
the billions spent, social and economic Local community groups and institutions
inequalities continue to increase, and have a crucial role to play, alongside the
socially excluded groups remain utterly local people.
dependent on public money. Community
development policy has been primarily It was the Nobel Prize winning economist,
focussed upon a community’s needs, Professor Amartya Sen, who first used the
deficiencies and problems, with funding term ‘From Patients to Agents’ in his work
allocated in proportion to their severity. on a freedom-centred approach to
The ubiquitous needs survey counts up the development. In this he recognises that
emptiness in a community, turning people poverty arises as a result of deprivation of
into clients, customers or patients. People basic capabilities or freedoms, rather than
have been treated as being helpless and being simply a function of low income.
hopeless and, not surprisingly, have learned The asset-based approach to community
to become so. development helps to develop those crucial
freedoms for people living in poverty.
Time and again, however, case studies have
shown that when communities focus on The Consultation at St. George’s House
what they have and are able to organise was organised by the Building and Social
and mobilise these assets to fulfil a Housing Foundation to consider how the
community vision, community-generated potential of the asset-based community
development is achieved and the development approach could best be
community is successfully rebuilt from the realised. Persons of experience and
expertise were brought together from
around the world in order to share and
Asset-based community development
develop ideas as to how to meet this
A clear and simple Agenda for Action
has been drawn up as a result of the
deliberations of those at the Consultation, What is it?
setting out clearly the action to be taken by
local communities, community groups, Asset-based community development Time and again case studies have shown that
intermediary organisations and institutions. (ABCD) works from the principle that every the most socially sustainable communities are
This seeks to provide guidance that is not single person has capacities, abilities and those that focus on what they have, rather
specific to one particular national context. gifts and that the quality of an individual than what they lack or ‘need’. They seek to
This Agenda is set out on pages 31-36 and life depends in part on the extent to which identify local skills, talents and resources – in
outlines four broad areas for action. Firstly, these capacities are used, abilities expressed the individuals, local community groups and
raising awareness and understanding of and gifts given. Recognising the assets of institutions based in the neighbourhood –
the asset-based approach to community individuals and communities is more likely and later to organise and mobilise these
development; secondly, reducing the to inspire positive action for change from assets to fulfil a community vision. ABCD
barriers that currently exist to implementing within than an exclusive focus on needs and training methods inspire communities and
the approach and moving it into problems. ABCD focuses on what is present groups to recognise that every individual has
mainstream activity; thirdly, identifying the in a community rather than what is absent, something important to give for the good of
institutional change that needs to take place and requires us to look afresh at their community and that these contributions
and fourthly, suggesting action that can be marginalised communities and see can be mobilised, along with the resources of
taken by communities in partnership with opportunities rather than problems. community groups, local organisations and
local groups and intermediary businesses.
organisations. Asset-based community development,
however, is not:
Contact points for the organisations referred
to in the text, and others, can be found on • An end in itself, it is a means to an end … recognising the assets of individuals
pages 39-41. and communities is more likely to inspire
• An instant fix or silver bullet to tackle positive action for change from within
all problems faced by marginalised than an exclusive focus on needs and
communities problems …
• A ‘one size fits all’ solution.
2 INTRODUCTION A S S E T-BASED COMMUNITY DEVELO P M E N T 3
Asset-based community development does Projects developed show that the ABCD are normally fewer institutional barriers to UN-HABITAT’s enabling approach as
not ignore the fact that there are needs and capacity-building process has proved to be self-starting and self-correcting communities reflected through the Habitat Agenda seeks
deficiencies in the community, but has sustainable because the ideas, strategies in developing countries and less to remove institutional barriers to civic
shown that a capacity-focussed approach is and skills to implement it derive from the government finance available for engagement and is complementary to
more likely to empower the community communities themselves. An asset-based community development. asset-based community development. Its
and mobilise citizens to create positive and approach to community development was work in helping governments to become
meaningful change from within. Focussing set out in Building Communities from the A combination of fortitude, leadership and more open, transparent and accountable in
on the assets of marginalised communities Inside Out, by John McKnight and John motivation, with appropriate external its dealings with civil society is crucial if
does not imply that they do not need Kretzmann at Northwestern University in support and investment, are sufficient to communities are to be able to develop to
additional resources or support from Evanston, Illinois. The Asset Based raise the quality of life in a marginalised their full potential. Its work in facilitating
outside, they do. Rather, it means that Community Development Institute there neighbourhood in developed countries. secure tenure will better enable the poor to
outside resources will be much more continues to support and facilitate the In many developing countries, however, hold on to their crucial asset of a home to
effectively used if the local community itself approach throughout North America and even the most basic assets can be withheld live in. Slums are the most visible and
is fully mobilised, as it can then ensure that beyond, building upon and seeking to or taken away at a moment’s notice from extensive manifestation of urban poverty
the external funds are used most effectively complement other excellent neighbourhood those living in poverty – shacks can be and they are comprised of many real
to create the greatest impact. Although traditions of community organising. Similar bulldozed overnight, illness can drain a communities. UN-HABITAT’s mission of
creating an asset base in marginalised approaches are established throughout the family’s meagre resources completely. These slum upgrading over the next twenty years
communities is essential, it is not sufficient world. In the United Kingdom the Scarman situations are faced daily by the urban poor provides an opportunity to use asset-based
of itself to meet the huge development Trust pioneers the CAN DO and CAN BE in many developing countries and make it community development alongside the
challenges faced by some communities, and vision and is working with the government harder for people to identify and hold on structural improvements of bringing about
government continues to have a significant to bring these principles into action. It to their assets. So much so that they do secure tenure and improved urban
role to play. recognises that it is crucial to get people out often need outside help – at least in governance.
of the spiral of believing that they can’t do removing some of the very high barriers
things, that they are only half-people and to community development.
… the asset-based community that they don’t count and are invisible. It Why do we need a new approach to
Many communities find it difficult to pull
development capacity-building process seeks to replace learned helplessness with
themselves up by the bootstraps without community development?
has proved to be sustainable because stories of hope.
the goodwill of their central and local
the ideas, strategies and skills to governments and in many developing Community development aims to empower
The literature on ABCD has few examples
implement it derive from the countries the government takes little people in marginalised communities to take
of this approach being used in developing
communities themselves … responsibility for its marginalised more control over their lives. It seeks to
countries, where it is in fact much more
commonly practiced than in developed communities. build confidence, capacity and sustainable
countries. The reasons for this are that there networks in communities and restore their
physical, economic and social structures.
4 A S S E T-BASED COMMUNITY DEVELO P M E N T A S S E T-BASED COMMUNITY DEVELO P M E N T 5
Governments worldwide have been The importance of assets service-related, care-giving,
committed to promoting community maintenance and repairs, construction
development for the last three decades – so Assets are the range of resources that allow and many more
why do we need to look for a new approach? citizens, organisations and communities to
make their own choices about the future. • Abilities and talents including art,
Community assets fall into the following storytelling, crafts, gardening, teaching,
• Previous approaches as applied by • A dependency attitude has sports, political activity, organising,
governments have failed to achieve emerged in marginalised volunteering and more
any significant success. The communities that says it is the • Community residents
breakdown of economic and social role of government and donor • Interests such as sharing of skills,
systems worldwide is stark as agencies to provide and for the • Local groups or organisations where enthusiasm for learning and exploring
inequalities continue to increase. ordinary people to receive. Older local citizens come together to pursue new ideas, participating in a new
people have lost faith in their common goals (religious, cultural, activity
• Very little has been achieved as a sports)
abilities to improve their own
result of the huge expenditure of • Experiences such as travel, education,
lives. Younger people know only
time and money on promoting • Local institutions (schools, hospitals, etc. give an individual a unique
community development over the libraries, local government) perspective to share.
last thirty years and opportunities • The cost of dependency is
to make a difference in people’s enormous and governments • Physical assets (buildings, land, tools)
cannot afford it, especially with Once discovered, these capacities can be
lives have been largely wasted. • Local economy (formal, informal and
rapidly rising population levels mobilised using a range of well-tested
• Where large investments have illegal businesses). techniques towards all sorts of community-
and/or an increasingly ageing
been made in neighbourhood building projects. Using a capacity
population. It is the knowledge, skills, resources, values
renewal and regeneration of the inventory as a community-building tool
and commitment of residents that lie at the
physical environment, little • Fruitless approaches in the past produces both tangible and intangible
heart of the process, however, and these
attention has been given to mean that at least one generation results. Both are important and both
constitute the first set of assets to be tapped.
building capacities within of young people has been deeply, contribute to the overall well-being of a
What all community groups discover through
communities and promoting deeply failed. We cannot fail community. The tangible results generally
using a capacity inventory process is that
community-driven development. another. take the form of specific community
every community resident possesses an
building or economic development that
extensive array of individual capacities.
emerges out of the increased awareness of
These typically come in the form of:
residents and local organisations about their
… community development seeks to build confidence, capacity and sustainable own capacity to act effectively. The
• Skills in a wide range of categories
networks in communities and restore their physical, economic and social structures … intangible results are those differences in
including creative, office and retail,
6 A S S E T-BASED COMMUNITY DEVELO P M E N T A S S E T-BASED COMMUNITY DEVELO P M E N T 7
attitudes and feelings – community spirit A health warning The Scarman Trust is a national UK charity assets, the Scarman Trust is now supporting
and pride are enhanced, individuals have committed to helping citizens bring about can-doers in developing much larger scale
a more positive view of their power and After the assets have been identified and change in their community, in the way that initiatives such as enterprise development,
abilities, those who were ‘too young’, developed, it is important to remember they want. It recognises that all communities partnerships for public service delivery or
‘too old’ or ‘too poor’ are seen, and see that they also need to be managed, are wealthy – rich in assets such as skills, advocacy with government at all levels.
themselves, as valuable members of the maintained and deployed. If not, they can knowledge, land, buildings, networks,
community. become liabilities. There is no point just organisational resources and spending power
holding assets for the sake of it. Asset-based – but that these assets often go to waste. It is Being your own first investor
Owning assets enables a person to move community development is all about working with the British government to fund
from the status of patient to agent; from connecting the asset to make maximum use and give practical assistance to hundreds of There are many examples of how
client to citizen, i.e. it gives greater control of it, either by borrowing against it or remarkable people with a 'can do' attitude. marginalised communities have been able
over their life. The benefits to be gained for realising it to create other forms of asset. These can-doers are people who act as a to turn around a depressing and despairing
an individual from owning assets include Assets need to be managed and catalyst and mobilise assets for positive and situation and go on to continue to achieve
the following: maintained. Social capital assets can be lost concrete change. A credit union, a community so much else. Whilst the two examples
if they are not looked after and it must be business, a care scheme, a food co-op – given below are in very different parts of
• Making it easier to cope better remembered that asset management has an whatever it takes for community renewal. the world, they have many similarities:
with life’s setbacks associated cost. Proper education is needed By mobilising assets in this way, communities
about assets and how they can be used. can begin to negotiate and work with
• Making it easier to look to the • Both have taken many years of
Assets can leak out of the system and government as equal partners, gradually
future with a more positive struggle against intransigent and
people burn themselves out because they redirecting public resources to better use and
attitude self-serving bureaucracies and
want to go faster than the people around providing people with the opportunity to live
• Having a stake in society them are capable or wiling to move. to their full potential.
• The community itself is at the
• Having a feeling of self-worth Small amounts of high-risk money,
heart of the process
and status normally around £2,000, and practical
CAN DO and CAN BE
support are provided for the can-doers. • The initial success of the
• Making it easier to seize By March 2004 over 4,000 individuals community has led to an
opportunities With its overtones of morality, volunteering
will have been supported, reaching out expansion of its work to meet
and nostalgia, citizenship is a popular political
• Being a catalyst for civic to possibly 500,000 other people. This other community needs
bandwagon. It is, however, one of the
involvement and enterprise approach is designed to create as little
fundamental issues facing all societies – it is • The communities now provide
development. dependency as possible and encourage
about power and identity – the power to expertise for other groups wishing
self-help and mutual aid. Building on its
achieve CAN DO and then self-realisation, to follow their example.
ever-growing base of people, ideas and local
becoming who we would like to be – CAN BE.
8 A S S E T-BASED COMMUNITY DEVELO P M E N T A S S E T-BASED COMMUNITY DEVELO P M E N T 9
The Eldonian Community is based in the Led by determined and tenacious local The Eldonians continue to extend their • Innovation and business enterprise –
poverty-stricken inner city area of Vauxhall people, the fruits of 25 years struggle activities, searching for sustainable sources a commercial approach to developing
near the Liverpool docks in the UK. Having against red tape and political problems are of income as well as grant aid for their sustainable local businesses has helped
had to watch local housing and communities there for all to see. 250 permanent jobs work. A joint venture is being undertaken generate a stable and sustainable local
around them being demolished and dispersed, have been created. Over 400 high quality with a private sector company, a successful economy.
a group of local people realised that the only and affordable homes for rent have been neighbourhood warden scheme is being
way they were going to improve their living built with an equal amount of private provided for other communities and a large • Partnership – they always sought to
conditions was if they did it themselves. In the sector residential development. Volume retail development is being planned for the work in partnership with the local
face of nonsensical local politics and large job house builders were attracted to this community that still does not have a post authority and other agencies, but as an
losses, as the major employers moved out of former derelict area due solely to the office or bank to serve its financial needs. equal partner with something on the
the area, the Eldonians fought to keep their successful work of the Eldonians in table, rather than as a grant applicant.
community together and to provide good regenerating it. 43 hectares of derelict land The Eldonians identify the following reasons
for their success: • Leadership – strong leadership and
quality, affordable housing for themselves and around the terminus of the Leeds-Liverpool
visionary drive have united the
others in need. canal have been restored. A village hall,
• Community ownership – over 600 local community and enabled its members to
sports centre, day nursery and residential
Having successfully provided themselves people are members of the Eldonian take responsibility for their own future.
care home for 30 older people have been
with good quality homes after years of Community Trust Ltd and are genuinely
designed and built, as well as managed The Eldonians have shown what can be
struggle, the local community set about involved with the decisions that affect
workspace containing 55 office units and achieved by local people with a commitment
looking at other needs of the community their lives and surroundings.
8 workshops. and enthusiasm to fight to recreate a better
and addressing how to bring sustainable
• Design and good practice – the local life for themselves and their children.
development to their rundown area of Over £25 million of assets have been
people were involved on the design of As well as the new housing and facilities
Liverpool. Jobs were wanted and the created in the community and
their homes to provide a safe, tidy and created, a new sense of confidence and
vulnerable groups left behind in the £100 million of inward investment
attractive environment. security has been achieved, resulting in
community needed care and support. has been attracted.
Canal 1970s Canal 1990s Before After Before After Before After
10 A S S E T-BASED COMMUNITY DEVELO P M E N T A S S E T-BASED COMMUNITY DEVELO P M E N T 11
increased levels of private sector sanitation work, laying underground piped BARRIER HOW IT WAS OVERCOME
investment, new business and new jobs. sanitation and water systems at a fraction
of the cost that would be charged by the Psychological The people came to understand that the lane, and not just the house they
At much the same time as the Eldonians city authorities. lived in, belonged to them.
began the fight for their community in
Liverpool, a small team led by Dr Akhtar The lane was the unit of organisation. Social An organisation was created at the lane level and later on a federation of
Hameed Khan was working to help local Each lane comprised 40 - 50 houses and lanes, to support the individuals.
people in Orangi achieve their own was small and cohesive, providing good
Economic The cost of the work was made affordable by simplifying the technology
development needs rather than rely on transparency. After being provided with a
and providing appropriate tools.
foreign aid. Orangi is a squatter settlement map and an estimate of labour and
covering 60 hectares and is home to material costs, the lane manager would Technical Support was provided by OPP through designs, estimates, surveys and tools.
1,200,000 people in Karachi, Pakistan. collect the money from the lane households
The people had identified as their main and initiate the work on sewage lines with
priority the development of sanitation, the assistance of other members. As more OPP’s work was taken so seriously by the culverts over natural drainage systems and
followed by health, education and and more lanes began to provide their own city authorities that they have since sewage treatment facilities. The federation
employment. sanitation, a federation of lane cancelled loans from the Asian of lanes monitored these government works
organisations was formed and the work Development Bank in favour of the and no substandard work was permitted.
extended throughout the entire settlement. community-based approach pioneered by Having realised their ability to change their
… to date, approximately 90% of To date, approximately 90% of Orangi OPP It is the support of the communities
. own environment, the communities
Orangi households have built their own households have built their own sanitation that gives credibility to OPP’s work and the continue to meet other development needs
sanitation systems … systems. The people have invested $1.5m successes achieved by the people have – providing education services, good quality
of their own money. Within 10 years of meant that the government is willing to building materials and housing, planting
starting the programme, infant mortality carry out complementary work providing trees etc.
Initially the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) led had fallen from 128 per 1,000 to 37. Some
by Dr Khan identified activists in individual doctors are looking for situations elsewhere,
lanes in the settlements. These activists with better income earning opportunities…
called a meeting of the lane residents. Once
the residents had formed an organisation Four major barriers had to be overcome in
and nominated a lane manager OPP was order for the local people to believe that
able to provide them with technical they could provide their own sanitation.
assistance. Mapping and surveys were Once these barriers had been overcome,
carried out by OPP and the community the people went ahead and did the work.
members themselves completed the
Environmental Context Barefoot Architects Improved Roads and Sanitation
12 A S S E T-BASED COMMUNITY DEVELO P M E N T A S S E T-BASED COMMUNITY DEVELO P M E N T 13
The OPP approach is now used in eleven
other cities in Pakistan as well as
Realising the potential
internationally. Communities, activists or for asset-based community development
NGOs contact OPP. They come to Orangi
and spend time seeing how the work is
done. If interested, further visits are made.
A small team of organisers and a technician
receive training from OPP in surveying, The vital role of local community groups They do not need to have technical
mapping, estimating, supervision, capacity or professional ability. Their
documentation and accounts. The new The presence of local groups working indispensable contribution to community
organisation becomes part of a network of together for a common goal in a development is that they:
similar organisations, for mutual support community is critical to its capacity to
and on-going training. develop successfully, reinforcing and • Can reach and involve more people in
amplifying the gifts, talents and skills of community action than institutions
individual community members.
• Are recognised as being the most
The depth and extent of these organisations significant vehicles for changing
and their activity in any community is people’s attitudes and behaviour
mapped as part of asset-based community
• Mobilise members to take on
development and is always found to have
additional roles: for example, a church
been vastly underestimated. Some groups
group setting up a day centre for older
are created by people of a common faith,
people, a woman’s group running
others are organised around a particular
health awareness centre.
need or issue, for example, a neighbourhood
watch group or babysitting circle, a political
or environmental group. Others are
organised around recreational needs such as … the presence of local groups working
sports or arts or by physical proximity such together for a common goal in a
as neighbourhood improvement groups. community is critical to its capacity to
Their unifying feature is that they have develop successfully, reinforcing and
come together with a shared vision for amplifying the gifts, talents and skills
common action. of individual community members …
14 A S S E T-BASED COMMUNITY DEVELO P M E N T REALISING THE POTENTIAL FOR ASSET-BASED COMMUNITY DEVELO P M E N T 15
Their strengths are multiplied even more interests converge and will quickly come local community groups and institutions. best by understanding that they do
when they are linked into coherent together to negotiate those interests. The Intermediary organisations have an different things’.
networks. This helps them to get organised size of overlap between professionals and important role to play in providing a bridge
and powerful and increases their ability to politicians is often directly proportional to between community focuses and the larger … intermediary organisations have an
engage with local institutions. Once linked, the distance from the people – the larger scale strategic decisions. People working at important role to play in providing a
these groups can facilitate peer learning – the interaction between these, the greater community level often have trouble getting bridge between community focuses and
face to face exchange of information and the distance from local community groups. enough objective distance to understand the larger scale strategic decisions …
sharing of experience, which is recognised There is a need for collective overlap their role in a larger picture, whilst those
as the best way to help people become among all parties involved. working at the strategic level can’t
more powerful. They are then in a better communicate well enough with the An example of one such intermediary is the
position to have an effective say in those Intermediary organisations are well community to move the agenda along. Common Ground Community in New
issues that affect their area and to resist the established in the US but are less so in Intermediaries are also able to provide the York. This issue-focussed organisation is
inevitable opposition and inertia they will other countries where community expertise needed when the practical limits concerned to solve homelessness in the city.
face. In order to organise successfully across organising is not as advanced. They come of citizens’ capacity to take on technical Its emphasis is on the re-use of significant
a number of groups it is important to have in a range of forms, including the issues is reached. Marrying the technical under-utilised properties in marginalised
a specific focus of interest and to ensure federations of local community groups that processes of housing development with a areas of the city. Typically old dilapidated
that there is a space where politicians, provide mutual support to their members citizen-based organisation almost always and disused welfare hotels are restored to
professionals and people can meet on an as well as the professional community results in the technicians and professionals their former glory to provide homes for
equal footing. Professionals and politicians support organisations who facilitate, dominating, however unintentionally. In the homeless persons and low-income workers.
are skilled at identifying where their connect and weave relations between US, most citizen groups quickly spin off the The method used seeks to renew, support
housing development element to a separate and expand community renewal efforts and
organisation as it threatens to overwhelm works with other local community groups
their levels of competence and engagement. and organisations that are concerned with
The awareness is ‘each do that that they do broader community revitalisation.
Common Ground Community – The Prince George Before After
16 REALISING THE POTENTIAL FOR ASSET-BASED COMMUNITY DEVELO P M E N T REALISING THE POTENTIAL FOR ASSET-BASED COMMUNITY DEVELO P M E N T 17
Common Ground Community is increasingly Common problems faced by intermediary excellent position to better support “If institutions are to protect people and a
recognising that community assets are more organisations include the following: community empowerment and agency at broad range of assets, they must respond to
than just the buildings and that the homeless local level. and shape the major changes that will unfold
persons and local volunteers are extremely • They are trying to coalesce efforts over the next 50 years…institutions must be
valuable assets in themselves. When invited Unlike the community residents and small capable of changing and adapting, and new
working from the ground up, but
to work in a 250-block area of New York, it local community groups that are clearly institutions must emerge.”
they themselves do not
very soon realised that the first task was to responsive to local conditions, challenges
necessarily have roots in the
organise the organisations, since there were and plans, the local institutions are often This statement by the World Bank clearly
32 different organisations working on directed and controlled by forces and demonstrates mainstream acceptance of
homeless issues in one form or another – • The institutionalising relationships outside the neighbourhood. In an asset-based approach to community
churches, transportation managers, mental arrangements are made too early larger cities especially the leaders and staff development. It is important to change
health services. It has taken time for this on in the life of the organisation of these institutions answer first to the institutional structures with more power
grouping to come to a common strategy and and can restrict and set in stone larger system of which they are a part, not devolved to local agencies along with new
a definition of homelessness, but it has been their potential for activity to the local residents, and they are often accountability, i.e. the duty of partnership.
extremely useful in terms of being able to based outside the area. Re-establishing the It will also be important to pioneer new
• Inappropriate structures are used links between the community and these larger-scale mutual institutions. These will
share information and work together to
and limit the effectiveness of the institutions is not always easy and local include development trusts, community
improve the situation.
organisations. people have to reassemble the political development credit unions, neighbourhood
It is important to have the right kind of power to re-root these institutions in the service companies, community learning
intermediary structure. Experience in the US neighbourhood. Much change needs to networks and many others.
has shown that when they are created take place within the existing local
intentionally these structures tend to The institutional landscape institutions in order to be more responsive
become top down and authoritarian and it to community needs. Reducing barriers to asset-based
becomes difficult to maintain the fluid and In addition to the assets represented by
local individuals and citizens’ organisations, An institutional landscape is important in community development
dynamic structure of the organisation. It
also shows that membership organisations every community has some combination of community development – it must contain
small and large organisations, local ones as In order to introduce an asset-based
tend to work better than more formally formal public, private and not-for-profit
well as official ones, those that rely on self- approach to community development it is
created ones. Intermediary processes are institutions – such as schools, parks,
generated income and well as those important to understand the barriers that
often confused with intermediary libraries, police stations, colleges, hospitals
requiring grant support. Accountability, currently act as an impediment to the
organisations – it is vital to resist pressures and faith centres. These institutions can
devolution and strong working relationships process. These barriers can be unintentional
to institutionalise, formalise and organise bring many assets to support the
are all important. as well as intentional. Identifying them is
too soon and appropriate forms of community-building initiatives of citizens
the first step towards their reduction or
organisation should be allowed to emerge. and their associations. They are in an
18 REALISING THE POTENTIAL FOR ASSET-BASED COMMUNITY DEVELO P M E N T REALISING THE POTENTIAL FOR ASSET-BASED COMMUNITY DEVELO P M E N T 19
BARRIER MEANS OF OVERCOMING IT BARRIER MEANS OF OVERCOMING IT
Lack of awareness • Overcome the conviction of people who believe that they are Lack of access to • Provide innovative, appropriate and easily accessible financial
and confidence hopeless, helpless and cannot win. appropriate financial products to meet community needs – small loans, low-cost
opportunities insurance, start-up finance for micro-enterprise.
• Map the assets of community residents and local community groups.
• Build up the discipline of repayment with the use of affordable
• Help a community to understand that it has to be its own first investor.
loans rather than grants wherever appropriate.
• Tap into the confidence and energy of young people.
• Pioneer new larger scale mutual institutions and encourage greater
• Keep the fun – celebrate success and everything else! investment in communities by the private and not-for-profit sectors.
• Include ABCD training in professional development and training for • Approach existing institutions in the community (schools, colleges,
those involved in the financial, education, housing and social work and housing organisations) to be more creative in how they can use
sectors. their assets to support the community.
• Use participatory planning tools, such as Planning for Real, to help
Lack of technical • Provide business support for small enterprises.
cut through the talk.
• Establish a community exchange system and cross-community
Isolation and • Link up local community groups to form a mutual-help federation collaboration to match up technical needs and resources.
lack of support to provide greater support and the ability to withstand problems.
• Provide technical support and training to support self-build and
• Create strategic alliances to support the community – in local other initiatives, where there is little or no previous experience.
government, NGOs, media and academic institutions.
• Establish community-based technical and training institutes.
• Share experience by visiting other communities to learn from their
successes and problems. Inertia • Identify and reduce the bureaucratic obstacles and red tape that
currently prevent community action and financing.
Existing power • Provide training in asset-based community development for
• Reduce the departmental complexity so that there is a more direct
structures community development professionals.
route for communities to work in cooperation with local government.
• Introduce financial and other incentives/regulations to change the
• Work to provide secure tenure and improved urban governance to
patterns of existing vested interests.
create an enabling environment for community building.
• Ensure that local and central governments understand the political
• Fast-track innovative products.
and economic advantage to be gained from the approach.
• Ensure that paid staff and consultants remain answerable to the
20 REALISING THE POTENTIAL FOR ASSET-BASED COMMUNITY DEVELO P M E N T REALISING THE POTENTIAL FOR ASSET-BASED COMMUNITY DEVELO P M E N T 21
Building up hope: realising the downward spiral of hopelessness and The key to growth in the upward spiral is community to take control of the process.
potential of asset-based community despair (Spiral A). that the community owns the aims and Assets are built up and used to take the
development objectives of the interventions and community forward. This process is not
Communities are dynamic and will strategies, owns the development of carried out in isolation. There is a whole
continually change. The spirals continue solutions and their implementations, the range of uncontrollable external factors –
Communities are different. Some are
and repeat, and do not come to an end, processes and the monitoring. These governments changing, world changes.
positive and cyclical, centred on solutions
hope will build on hope and despair will upward spirals can be clearly seen in the There will be additional assets going into a
and action, and there is a continual
build on despair if there is no trigger to examples of the achievements of the community and assets will also flow out,
improvement (Spiral C), others don’t have
bring about a change of direction. Eldonians and the communities in Orangi. both positively and negatively. Some of the
any major crises, coping and gradually
improving as they go along, but not money will flow out of the community but
The aim of asset-based community The start of the process is the mapping of
changing significantly (Spiral B). However, so will knowledge, empowerment and
development is to change these downward assets at all levels right across the spectrum
a common denominator in marginalised experience going to other communities.
negative spirals into ones that are upward and – from individual assets through to large
communities, centred on problems, is the positive, with a continual building of hope. mega-land deals. Mapping leads to This process can be seen in the diagram
catalysing – enabling and energising the below.
22 REALISING THE POTENTIAL FOR ASSET-BASED COMMUNITY DEVELO P M E N T REALISING THE POTENTIAL FOR ASSET-BASED COMMUNITY DEVELO P M E N T 23
Governments at all levels will need to make Two key elements are required: responsibility effective. Local leaders to take out a loan for £250 to mend the
a greater effort to genuinely listen and and activists set the process in motion, roof – these are all vital financial services in
respond to the intermediary organisations, beginning to build the skills, hope and poor and marginalised communities and
• Access to relevant finance,
to the local community groups and their confidence of other people in the societies. The hard physical assets of cash in
building wealth right across a
federations. Money will need to be kept in community, thus adding impetus to the the bank, businesses, community buildings
spectrum of assets
communities longer than it is now, legal and upward spiral. Engaging people in the and home and land ownership are as
financial changes will be needed. Power • A propelling force to drive change community development process will build important as the social capital or
relationships will need to change, with and maintain the upward energy and momentum, which will in turn community spirit and cannot be ignored in
existing barriers removed and a letting go of movement of the spiral. feed back into the communities. It is a self- asset-based community development.
power. These are significant and far-reaching generating system that depends on the
changes, but they are essential if a reversal power of a few individuals in the first
Propulsion requires a source of energy, a … asset-based community development
of the spirals is to be achieved. instance. Developing the skills and
trigger to set the process in motion. begins with a community’s wealth, not
determination of others will ensure that
So how will this change be brought about? Experience has shown that change is most its poverty, with its abilities rather than
there is a continual supply of energy.
Will it be through evolution, revolution, often triggered by the following factors: its powerlessness …
step changes, a quantum leap or all of It will take time for an upward spiral to gather
these? What is certain is that it is needed • A crisis – for example, a new motorway pace. It will begin slowly in many It is important to highlight the link between
NOW, before millions more lives are or flooding in the local area communities but will grow exponentially. individual asset building – savings, investing
damaged and destroyed in a downward Once the energy is created and the perception in education or starting a business – and the
• Fear – a growing sense of fear usually
spiral of despair. There needs to be in, and of, the area has changed from wider asset-based community development.
linked to the level of safety in a
innovation and creativity, thinking outside hopelessness, it is likely that property values Both are interlinked and unless the asset-
the box and learning from everything – the will begin to increase, crime will begin to decrease building capacities of individuals can be
successes, the failures and the just • Opportunity for access to authority and and jobs, banks and shops will come back in. unleashed it will not be possible to
interesting. Bending the spend of existing responsibility that was not there maximise the capacities of communities.
programmes is necessary to make sure they previously.
are more effectively used and will support Marginalised communities are virtually
the assets that are being built. The successes achieved by asset-based entirely dependent on grant aid, with a
community development have identified current average expenditure by government
In a capitalist society it is financial assets
this third factor as a way to trigger change. of just less than £11,000 per person in the
that give people and communities a voice.
… engaging people in the community It grows from the serious reallocation of UK – but what is there to show for it? In
Marginalised communities are rarely heard,
development process will build energy authority, which requires people to most cases these communities are still in a
and even more rarely listened to. Having
and momentum, which will in turn feed reconceive who is responsible and identify dire state. Where does this money go? Most
the right to acquire property, access to
back into the communities … the tools to be developed to make that of it leaves the community – in the form of
credit to start a small business, being able
goods and services purchased from outside
24 REALISING THE POTENTIAL FOR ASSET-BASED COMMUNITY DEVELO P M E N T REALISING THE POTENTIAL FOR ASSET-BASED COMMUNITY DEVELO P M E N T 25
the community, on the salaries of Over time it also breeds a culture of The ABCD institute gives the following Access to credit is a major problem for
contractors, consultants and professionals dependency on those that provide the guidelines for community-based groups individuals and organisations in marginalised
who do not live in the community, on land grants and all understanding is lost of how applying for capacity-oriented funding: communities. Often for individuals the only
and buildings owned by others outside the anything can ever be done otherwise. source of credit is predatory lenders – loan
community, on repayment of debts. Very • Clearly identify the skills, abilities, sharks or moneylenders – who can, and do,
little is left to circulate in the community Current systems of payments according to charge ridiculously inflated interest rates.
capacities and assets that local
and foster growth. It is important to deficiency or needs perpetuate the mindset Likewise, funding for organisations and small
residents will contribute to the
prevent money leaking from the local of learned helplessness. This is not to say businesses is hard to obtain, with banks and
economy in marginalised communities. that a complete overhaul needs to be made insurance companies preferring to lend
immediately of all grant determination and • Clearly identify the capacities of elsewhere.
Asset-based community development delivery mechanisms, but rather that community’s citizens’
begins with a community’s wealth, not its changes could be introduced at local level associations, and indicate how The provision of available and affordable
poverty, with its abilities rather than its in order to ensure that funds are allocated they will be involved in both financial mechanisms to create community
powerlessness. This is a world away from on a capacity-oriented basis rather than a governance and problem solving. control of assets is crucial in promoting
the practices of most government agencies multiple misery index. sustainable community development. In the
and programmes. Most government grants • Indicate how this proposal will United States, Community Development
and those of other funding organisations Grants and soft (low-interest) loans, mobilise, use, enhance and Finance Institutions (CDFIs) represent one of
are awarded on the basis of how bad things however, do have a place in a expand these local capacities. the most successful ways of bringing
are, or continue to be. As well as creating comprehensive funding system. They are financial services to marginalised
very important for start-ups, for developing • How will it contribute to building
perverse incentives for people not to try to the local economy, for example communities and to encourage mainstream
increase their income, it spreads the general and innovating new projects and products, repayment behaviour. It is not the case that
for new ideas and research. It is important by employing community
corrosive attitude amongst professionals residents, enhancing local poor people cannot afford to borrow money
and organisations that really nothing can that soft loans should not be written off or or will not repay it – repayment rates are
turned into grants. Even though the terms purchasing, capturing public
ever be done. budgets for local use, etc? typically higher than average. It is the access
may be soft, they should be enforced and to credit that poor people do not have. CDFI
outstanding debts should be chased in • How will it show evidence of loans typically have high interest rates, to the
order that discipline of repayment is significant investments of point where they are sometimes considered
… the provision of available and retained and developed. resources and time by local usurious. These higher rates are due to much
affordable financial mechanisms to
residents and organisations before higher costs of delivering financial services to
create community control of assets is
funding starts? marginalised neighbourhoods, of providing
crucial in promoting sustainable
community development … significant levels of business support and of
sustaining their own small organisations. It is
these high costs that prevent the retail banks
from operating in this sector. Even 9% short-
26 REALISING THE POTENTIAL FOR ASSET-BASED COMMUNITY DEVELO P M E N T REALISING THE POTENTIAL FOR ASSET-BASED COMMUNITY DEVELO P M E N T 27
term lending rates (when the average rate is These equity-like investments can leverage need systemic solutions, however, and scale the work of OPP with the local communities
6% in retail banking) are still much more through guarantees or other financial solutions are needed to address the larger or living in the lanes of Orangi gave it sufficient
accessible than the extortionate rates transactions to the tune of 40:1 their own national structural issues. influence and authority to be used at the
charged by the predatory lenders – the only value in the activity within the neighbourhood. citywide and regional level.
other source of finance in poor communities. Reaching scale is defined as linking small local
efforts into a critical mass and is only desirable
CDFIs have been established for many years if it conforms to the interests and goals of the … scale in community work is achieved
Taking community efforts to scale more effectively through knowledge
in the United States and are heavily local community. It is not desirable if it is only
supported by the government with the coming from the top down, for example large- transfer than through the expansion of
The asset-based approach is increasingly individual organisations …
provision of matching funding and low scale government clearance and
being recognised by national governments
interest rates. The long-term commitment redevelopment schemes that destroy
and other organisations such as the World
enables them to become well established communities. It is well to remember that: Community movements grow from sharing
Bank as offering a positive and valuable
and self-sustaining. It is common practice for information. The people themselves are the
approach to community development. This • There is always more than one way of
housing associations to set up CDFIs in their primary actors and the best teachers.
in part reflects the reluctant acceptance that doing something
communities and there is mutual advantage Encouraging more collective action and cross-
there is little to show for the vast amounts of
in the two activities being linked, especially learning between groups is vital and exchange
money spent in the last thirty years on urban • Action needs to be taken at a range of
with regard to providing reassurance that the initiatives that run from one community to
and community regeneration. Although levels
CDFI is not yet another loan shark. another are invaluable in this process. The
there are many differences, at heart there
• The most effective solutions are the Eldonian and Orangi communities are both
The crucial thing to ensure is that people has been no fundamental change.
thievable ones – those that are taken continually involved in talking to others. Most
have the right amount of money, at the
Dissemination of any innovative approach up spontaneously and rapidly by those people learn from action and reflection and
right time on the right terms, and there
takes place through a population of potential who can use them. not from bespoke training courses run by
should be a mixed economy in terms of the
adopter organisations and individuals. The institutions. Coaching rather than controlling
financing products available. It is healthier if Scale in community work is achieved more
process by which new practices are adopted relationships foster learning. Peer learning –
there are a range of organisations providing effectively through knowledge transfer than
is iterative, complex and multi-directional. the face to face exchange of information and
a range of sophisticated financial products through the expansion of individual
Five main stages in the adoption process have sharing of experience – is probably the most
and services designed specifically to meet organisations. If an organisation expands it can
been identified: knowledge, persuasion, effective way in which people realise what
the needs of the communities. The Ford easily detach itself from its own roots and will
decision, implementation and confirmation. can be achieved and cross-group associations
Foundation in the United States has done no longer reflect its mission and community
Spreading knowledge requires trust – trust in are vital in putting the infrastructure in place
much work in this field over many years base. Multiple roots and community bases are
the people we know and trust in experience. to support this. It is important to maintain the
and has found that patient capital (i.e. the way forward, rather than one effort on a
The adoption of new approaches frequently fun and passion in the process and to
prepared to wait for social and financial massive scale. A certain degree of scale is
involves re-invention during the celebrate victories. Involving young people
returns) and long-term investments are very necessary, however, for a group to have
implementation process in order to match it and their creative energies will naturally
big elements in leveraging funds. sufficient leverage. For example, scaling up of
to its local setting. Systemic problems do bring life and dynamism.
28 REALISING THE POTENTIAL FOR ASSET-BASED COMMUNITY DEVELO P M E N T REALISING THE POTENTIAL FOR ASSET-BASED COMMUNITY DEVELO P M E N T 29
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