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The Impact of Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) at Public Allies

Public Allies honors the work, life, and legacy of John “Jody” Kretzmann.

We are grateful for the beautiful yet simple offering that people in communities are full of assets. And that solving our more entrenched problems as a nation would be better served and more sustainable if we celebrated assets rather than looking at deficits. Since 1992, Public Allies has trained over 9,000 Staff, Allies, and Alumni in Asset Based Community Development.


Inspired and built upon the work of the Asset Based Community Development Institute, founded and co-directed by Jody, Public Allies ensures that the people themselves are the ones that are designing and building solutions.

“Our founders and earliest staff understood innately what a powerful concept Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) is. Our job from the beginning has been to identify leaders that were overlooked, or were not going to be seen.. and to offer them a platform,” says Jenise Terrell, Interim CEO of Public Allies. “The very nature of that work requires that we see assets where others see deficits. That’s one of the reasons why ABCD has been part of the lifeblood of what Public Allies is all about.”


What is Asset Based Community Development?


In the 1980s, John “Jody” Kretzmann and John L. McKnight introduced to a set of ideas that are challenging to the conventional wisdom of community development, known as Asset Based Community Development (ABCD). They wanted to understand how citizenship and community prevailed in low-income neighborhoods, despite multiple socio-economic and political challenges.

ABCD is about individuals working together for the well-being of their communities. ABCD is primarily relationship building for action, for a collective purpose. It is a path to organize the community collective to act together for the common good.

Asset Based Community Development focuses on building power and the ability to act effectively through relationships.


How does ABCD accomplish this?


First, Asset Based Community Development is an approach to discover local community assets. This mapping is mostly what people do in the name of ABCD.

Second and more importantly, ABCD is praxis for mobilizing a local community to move into action with residents at the center… not outsiders. In this framework, the community is the principal actor rather than the client.

ABCD is community organizing. Its principles and practices to bring people into committed relationships for collective action towards what people really care about– enough to act. Community development works best when it’s not about manufacturing anything. Instead, it’s about bringing out the basic goodness that is present in each and every local community.

Our communities are places filled with gifts to be given and care to be discovered. The song of community is“We need you. We need you. Join us.” There is no one that we don’t need.