Hello all! 

I recently led an activity at our church women's retreat inspired by Mike Green's Gift Assessment. In a group of 80 women, we asked people to identify the:

  • Gifts of their Hands (things they could do well and wanted to teach others)
  • Gifts of their Heart (things they cared a lot about and wanted to act on or talk about)
  • Gifts of their Head (things they knew a lot about and wanted to learn more about or teach others about

I gave a few examples, but left everything very open ended. The women each had time to reflect on her own gifts, and then they had 10 minutes to pair off and share their gifts with a partner (5 minutes per person). The conversation could have gone on for hours! 

After the 10 minutes, we broke into groups of 10. Each woman introduced her partner to the 10-person group based on identifying her gifts. 

The conversations that followed were incredible. While I had only allocated 30 minutes for the activity, we could have gone on for hours. Women who were strangers at first were uniting over common interests, hobbies, and passions. We had feedback throughout the weekend of groups who had gotten together to continue the conversation and make plans for action once they returned home. Women united over skills in cooking, passions over supporting women suffering from abuse, and love of dance. We discovered a large group of women who were skilled in art and when we returned, connected the women with the church's creative department to give them an outlet to share their talents. We united over common goals and goals that we could support one another in.

At the end of the retreat, a woman who had been inspired by the activity documented everyone's gifts and made plans to put it into a working document that could be shared between the 80+ women who attended the retreat.

The morning, and conversations that ensued, were examples of what happens when assets are identified. The 'activation energy' to initiate momentum lowers when people are able to offer their gifts to enhance their community. As an 'organizer', I was able to stand back and watch as momentum grew, connections were made and relationships were formed.

After all, relationships are key to this work.

Posted in: Stories | 2 comments

Lessons in ABCD from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

By racheldahlke, 2017-12-17
Lessons in ABCD from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Lessons in ABCD from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

According to Asset-Based Community Development theory, the “economy” and “physical environment” are two building blocks of communities.  Economies, depending on their structures, can build local wealth or engender poverty. In a “local economy” community members themselves own a greater percent of businesses. More dollars stay in the community. The physical environment can encourage or hinder relationship-building and local economies, too, such as by the prevalence of the automobile, and affordability of housing.

Recently, I experienced how local economy and physical environment build community in Puerto Vallarta (PV), Mexico.  PV is an international tourist destination on the Pacific coast; (it was a thriving Mexican village long before Americans discovered it thanks to Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, who had an affair there).  Now, 50% of PV’s economy is dependent on tourism mostly from Mexico, the US, and Canada, and 50% of income comes from industry and agriculture.

Puerto Vallarta provides a feast for the senses, as these photos show, including the wailing voices of musicians and their twanging guitars, the rainbow of colorful artwork hanging from vendors’ stalls, the rich taste of chocolate mole, salsas, and seafood in artisan food shops, the locally-distilled tequila, the smell of flowers that shop owners lovingly plant in front of their stores, and the feeling of peso bills in my hands as I buy treasures to take home.  How can one place be so filled with life, culture, and creativity?

PV's physical environment encourages Asset-Based Community Development because it fosters relationships, the "song of community." The beach area’s streets and sidewalks encourage face to face connection by encouraging people to walk (not drive), to explore, and to linger.  Along the entire beachfront, over one mile in length, is a malecón, or pedestrian boardwalk, attracting thousands of pedestrians at any given time.  There is no cost for admission, no dress code, and no car required. People young and old, rich and poor, foreign and local, meet there.  In addition, there are three plazas along the malecón, more opportunities for gathering and for vendors to sell their handmade foods and crafts.

Storefronts throughout the town are small, conducive to local economies because of the low cost of entry. Almost anyone can afford to start a small shop, and this environment supports diverse shopping experiences such as massage shops, tax preparers, sausage makers, candy stores, and handicrafts. In addition, the small storefronts discourage the types of corporations that  fill warehouses and also drive local businesses out-of-business. The malecón, the plazas, and the small-scale storefronts are all examples of how PV’s physical environment supports the local economy.

In PV, individuals' gifts and talents are the drivers of the local economy. Mexican culture is profoundly diverse and rich, and on the malecón, the 'asset' of Mexican cultural richness is regularly expressed through creative enterprises. Artists, sculptors, weavers, street performers, chefs, jewelers, and musicians make their living. A man sells purses he makes from the pull tabs on top of aluminum cans. Voladores perform by flinging themselves off a 40 foot pole and spinning upside down to re-enact an ancient ceremony. Two sand men play a chess game of sand pieces while pouring sand wine. Food is served in countless stalls. It is these locally created masterpieces that create the incredibly rich experiences that continues to draw tourists to PV.

I do not wish to so romanticize the local economy in PV that I fail to mention that global economic forces are inequitable. Developing nations like Mexico suffer from low wages. The GDP per capita in Mexico is only $18,900 (Wikipedia).  Unfortunately wages in PV's tourism sector are low and seasonal.  While a local economy certainly helps create parity and wealth in communities, global economies must also be structured to benefit all people, not just the wealthy.  

Posted in: Stories | 1 comments

Health navigators

By Ruben L Medina, 2017-12-05


 I have been working with the be well initiative of the Stap[leton Foundation. We are using the principles of ABCD to connect to the community. They have started a program called Block Captains. These are health and wellness leaders from the community who are utilized to inform their communities around the health and wellness of their community. 

We go out in the community and talk to people at community functions and find the leaders and people who are interested in health and wellness. We then invite them to an orientation where they can learn more about the program. If they are interested we host a class. The program is 4 weeks and the community members meet two times per week for two hours. We utilize videos, data, expert speakers, etc. to help inform, educate and give the community a good set of information regarding the topic areas. The areas we cover range from transportation, economics, health disparities such as diabetes, heart health, etc.

The other ways we connect is we have small groups working on service projects that the community wants to address. For instance we worked on a part of the city of Aurora where there is a food desert. The community had no grocer close that had fresh fruits and vegetables. People had to travel miles to get to the nearest grocer that offered these items. We were able to assist the community group with the city government, a local small grocer and pitched the idea. With help with some incentives from the city with some funds for the grocer and the community input of what items they would like to see offered the store became a reality. It took a few years to make happen. The community now has a place close that offers the fresh fruit and vegetables. Plus, we have a quarterly coalition meeting of all the different small groups to convene and listen to what service projects they are working on in their communities. So that the agenda and the information comes from the community and its efforts to make the changes they want to see.

We also offer this program for youth so we work in schools to active this group of community leaders to help them live a more healthy lifestyle. It is structured around the same format but have the parents participate with the youth. We work in schools and youth ages 10-18 yrs of age. Some of their service projects have been to work with the school to offer a healthy alternative for lunch. they worked with the school, community, teachers, and parents to make the change. They were able to get a salad bar in the schools so those youth who wanted this alternative could choose this choice. 

So all these connections in the community we use the ABCD format to connect. We offer the community monthly meeting so they can meet and talk with other members from other neighborhoods. WE also, offer some monetary incentives for them to come to the meeting. So people can get $25-$50 per meeting per month depending on their commitment to the Block Captain program. We do this to help the community because we value their time and commitment. We also host health and wellness fairs throughout the year and we ask our Block Captains to assist us and to allow them to get exposure in their communities as the leaders. 

We also, have be well centers at some of the recreation centers where we offer free health screening, BP checks, heart Health checks, free fitness classes and nutrition cooking classes for them to participate in. These classes can be taken by anyone in the community and they do not have to be a Block Captain.

At the beginning of the year in January we have a celebration to honor and celebrate the Block Captains both adults and youth. We have guest speakers, entertainment and we give all our Block Captains recognition for their work over the year.

My thoughts on ABCD is that it has to be at the core of any process and to any organization who wants to truly engage the community authentically. I feel that this works when organizations learn and listen to the community. In this way the organization gets the ability to create capacity for its programs and the community benefits by getting issues they need get attention. In this way it is a win- win for everyone. When organizations work collaboratively and truly utilize the resources of the community true change happens that is mutually beneficial for all involved. 

Posted in: Stories | 1 comments

Recent Articles

By Allison Lourash, 2017-12-04

Hello Everyone- Below are some journal articles that have come across my desk recently that show the reach of ABCD.  If you do not have access to an academic library, send me a message if you would like a copy of any of them.

Feldhoff, T. (2016). Asset-based community development in the energy sector: energy and regional policy lessons from community power in Japan. International Planning Studies, 21(3), 261-277. doi:10.1080/13563475.2016.1185939

Lightfoot, E., McCleary, J. S., & Lum, T. (2014). Asset mapping as a research tool for community-based participatory research in social work. Social Work Research, 38(1), 59-64.

Misener, L., & Schulenkorf, N. (2016). Rethinking the Social Value of Sport Events Through an Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) Perspective. Journal Of Sport Management, 30(3), 329-340. doi:10.1123/jsm.2015-0203

Van de Venter, E., & Redwood, S. (2016). Does an asset-based community development project promote health and wellbeing?. The Lancet, doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(16)32344-3



Posted in: Other | 5 comments

Facilitating Communities of Opportunity

By Lori Stanlick, 2017-12-03

Hello fellows!  Looking forward to the time when we all meet again and exchange stories in person.   In the meantime.....I thought I'd share how we are utilizing the principles of ABCD in the affordable housing arena.  I have spent the last six months educating counselors/property managers at our properties about ABCD.  So Detroit, Newark, Manchester, CT, and Harlem, NY staff are now focusing in on talents and associations of tenants.  We all have our toolkits, and we are now speaking a common language with a unified approach.  Many times in our industry and in social work in general, the service model has been to create a program that you have "assessed" that people need, and pray they show up.  It is amazing how attached people are to that model!  Shifting the mindset took some doing.  Now, we have coffee hours and open forum vision sessions across the portfolio.  Tenants are working with staff on their vision for their communities, and then by using ABCD, we are defining the talents and associations of tenants (the pathway to the larger communities and resources).  So the traditional model of cooking up what you think might work always led to nearly empty community rooms full of workers good intentions! Now, these open vision sessions, with not much more incentive than a cup of coffee, are bursting at the seams.  A senior building in Newark with 300 tenants has worked very hard in the last two months.  Here is what they envision their community to be:

1.  Safe

2.  Clean and Beautiful

3.  Kind

The talents and associations identified in that community has led to tenant led activities that are not only heartwarming, but effective.  For example, we have a group of senior women that identified themselves as willing to be building captains/health advocates.  They are checking on neighbors daily, and are helping to identify any well-being issues amongst the homebound elderly.  Another group created a green team. On this team are two tenants who are well connected with City Hall.  They are planning major green events at the property this Spring to keep it clean and beautiful.  They have asked their grandchildren to participate.  It is now intergenerational.

The desire to be Kind can be tricky, but the tenants had actionable goals.  Some were suggestions for staff (be nice and smile!), and gentle reminders to themselves to be the change they want to see.  In that spirit, a social committee was formed of tenants with various talents (artistic, musical, cooking, etc...).  They are creating events so people can socialize more and JUST HAVE FUN.  They decided that they have gotten in a rut in how they see each other.  That they were fearful of their neighbors and the neighborhood.  Now they see things are changing, and how they are key to the transformation.  They have decided to create a welcoming committee so new tenants can feel the kindness.  Love and kindness as a goal.  Who can argue with that?

So grateful to the creators, thought leaders, and faculty of the ABCD Institute.  Because of your wisdom, I now have a front row seat in one of the best shows in town!  ABCD in Action!  Hope everyone is having as much fun as I am!

Posted in: Stories | 2 comments
ABCD Fellows 2017-2018