Five Steps For Implementing ABCD in Rural Communities

ABCD Rural Communities

Over time, the structure and dynamics of rural communities have changed. Services have moved from local to regional, young residents are moving away, long-term residents are decreasing, and new residents are coming into the community. In the past, rural communities knew how to use the Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) approach naturally. But with changing times, how can they focus their assets to build community?

We recently worked with Laverne Booth, a community partner, to write a case study outlining how small, rural, and remote communities along the east shore of Kootenay Lake in BC brought residents together using an ABCD.

ABCD-1This project created a local framework that had 5 steps to gather the assets of the community:

  1. Map capacity and assets;

  2. Build relationships and trust;

  3. Mobilize assets for development and information sharing;

  4. Pull the community together to build a vision and plan;

  5. Leverage resources to support defined priorities.

The project went on a cycle of gathering info, processing the data, mobilizing the assets, building relationships with organizations and people, and then went through the cycle again. The result was the development of an asset map that consisted of connections with 415 businesses, organizations, and services, community engagement with 8 kitchen table conversations, 2 events, a video that reached 173 people, and formed partnerships and relationships.

The project is still ongoing through the cycle. They are ensuring continued communication and connections between the communities, mobilizing the plan, and developing a community conversation model.

Here are five lessons learned from the project:

  1. Building Partnerships: Creating partnerships with organizations, students, and residents enabled the project to gather assets, past studies, and in-depth descriptions of community-owned and operated facilities.

  2. What to do with the assets collected: There needs to be a plan on what to do with the assets and data. The absence of a plan means more work because the data was incomplete and had to be sanitized and reworked.

  3. Collaboration: Each small community tends to function on their own, often, with little awareness of what other communities are doing. To plan for the region, everyone needs to know what everyone else was doing and share the information among residents. This is an important step and helps lay the foundation for future planning and continued community engagement.

  4. Residents lead: Each community is unique, and volunteer organizations do most of the work done by governments or other agencies in larger centres. How each area moves ahead as a community depends on the individuals and organizations willing to volunteer.

  5. Thinking together: Appreciation for the towns and what it has as a regional community is an underlying principle in the ABCD process. When residents are proud of where they live, and the actions that happen in their community are community-driven, they will attract people to live there.

Using the ABCD approach in rural communities takes more time and resources because you need to go where the residents are. However, It is a useful tool for communities who want to generate growth based on the values of people and organizations in the community.

To have real, meaningful conversations with each other, reveal the gifts and assets of residents, learn to listen to different opinions, imagine the future together, leads to endearing relationships and ideas. The ABCD approach gives the opportunity for communities to imagine and define their own future, use their own assets and gifts to make change happen, and when needed, seek out agencies and institutions to support them.

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