Community Development

Community development is both a process - developing and enhancing the ability to act collectively - and an outcome - a decision to take collective action and the results that action generates. Effective community development occurs when community members work together with organizations and governments to solve problems and realize new opportunities. Community development is an essential ingredient in effective community change efforts: helping to prioritize and align strategies to the community's context, as well as, revealing, and mobilizing, untapped community resources.

Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) is a proven strengths-based approach to sustainable community development. Developed by John McKnight, and now championed by a global network of practitioners, ABCD intentionally emphasizes gifts, skills, talents and resources rather than needs and deficits and consists of:

  1. Mapping the capacities and assets of individuals, citizens’ associations and local institutions.
  2. Building relationships among local assets for mutually beneficial problem-solving.
  3. Mobilizing the community’s assets for economic development and information sharing.
  4. Convening a broadly representative group to build a community vision and plan.
  5. Leveraging activities, investments and resources outside the community to support asset-based, locally-defined development.

ABCD identifies and links individual and organizational assets that support the community's priorities and its long-term visions. This approach reinforces shared ownership of - and commitment to - the community's future; and, nurtures the resilience and capacity of residents and the community overall.  Ultimately, the outcomes of ABCD include a strengthened social infrastructure within neighbourhoods and communities and an enhanced sense of belonging and connection between neighbours and citizens.

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Featured Resources

Getting Started

Asset Based Mapping

Using Asset Mapping for Asset-Based Community Development

By Tamarack Institute

Asset Mapping is an important activity in asset-based community development which emphasizes identifying community strengths rather than needs. A Capacity Inventory tool is one of the primary ways that communities can begin to identify and map their strengths and assets. Here are four useful resources that: provide an overview of ABCD, an introduction to asset mapping; a sample capacity inventory; and, a how-to for using the capacity inventory.

A Basic Guide to ABCD Community Organizing

A Basic Guide to ABCD Community Organizing

By John McKnight

This resourceful guide walks you through how to identify and celebrate community culture, the possibilities and power of individual and collective gifts, the power of associations, the vital role of connectors, and identifies key questions for community builders.

Taking It Further

Creating Abundant Communities

Creating Abundant Communities

By John McKnight and Peter Block

In this podcast, two compelling thinkers – John McKnight and Peter Block – share some of their ideas for awakening the power of neighbourhoods and families, and illustrate the value of an abundant community.

Where We Live Matters

Where We Live Matters

By Community Development Halton

This paper is a rich resource for undertaking place-based work at the neighbourhood level developed by Community Development Halton. It includes promising practices, a literature review and a proposed approach for this work for undertaking this work.

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Learn about Tamarack's upcoming learning calendar

Interested in expanding your knowledge and capacity to tackle the community issues you're facing? Tamarack hosts a number of in-person workshops as well as free online webinars and communities of practice to help you meet this challenge.

Explore upcoming opportunities