Data About the Effective Use of ABCD by Cities and Non-Profits in the US

Jim Moynihan
Jim Moynihan
@jim-moynihan
3 years ago
7 posts

Hi everyone.

I know this question (about data with respect to where and how effectively ABCD is being used) has come up a couple of times in recent years from the threads I've seen. However, I'm still having trouble finding some good current numbers to share with folks asking me about this. Does anyone know how many US cities (governments and non-profits) are using ABCD and the impact they are experiencing? Thanks!


updated by @jim-moynihan: 10/24/16 04:49:29PM
John Hamerlinck
John Hamerlinck
@john-hamerlinck
3 years ago
39 posts

Hi Jim,

Quantifying this would be difficult, and might actually provide a distorted picture of the utility of the approach.

I believe that the most effective use on ABCD exists when there is collaborative leadership between people who arent necessarily getting paid to help create the change. Each day folks around the world are practicing ABCD without the permission of, or the controlling hand of an NGO or government agency.

There are certainly examples of projects that had a nonprofit or local government in some leadership role, but to try to quantify that subset alone seems a little dangerous to me. I have seen a number of projects led by institutions, that claimed to be using an ABCD framework, but were, in fact, simply engaging in exercises to map the assets of other institutions interested in a particular issue. Of course, this isnt always the case, but counting institution-driven attempts is going to overlook many, many promising strategies.

Perhaps a better approach is to compile stories of success. They are all over this site, and on the ABCD Institute site. Success stories will shine light on the role of institutions as a partner, as opposed to a program developer. We used the story approach for a book meant to inform higher educations rolein asset-based work. People seemed to respond to it.

Jim Moynihan
Jim Moynihan
@jim-moynihan
3 years ago
7 posts

Thanks for your thoughts, John. I agree with your assessment. Accurately defining the impact of ABCD is like nailing jello to the wall. The way you've responded is how I typically respond as well.

Having said that, however, it would be nice if we knew how many cities and non-profits around the country are applying ABCD in their contexts and how things are going with them. Similar to your story of institutions I've heard of cities who've adopted ABCD only to add it to their needs-based efforts never really transitioning to an asset-based paradigm. Even if these are anecdotal reports, it would be useful to me in answering those asking me for data to be able to share reports from around the country.

Thanks for the book reference. I'll check that out.

April Doner
April Doner
@april-doner
3 years ago
45 posts

This is a question I've been grappling with for quite some time, and continue to do so.

From what I have observed, two camps have emerged in the ABCD universe -- one which believes that since we have the data linking increased social capital and neighborhood engagement to pretty much every arena of community and individual well-being, this is enough -- and if anything, we with projects can work to keep track of how many connections / associations are forming as a result of asset-base work, but need not obsess over tracking other indicators.

The other camp believes that we do need harder data...

I honestly see both sides but am extremely curious about what a rigorous kind of measurement effort might yield. John, I deeply appreciate your point about not over-emphasizing the role or power of institutions in being the ones "doing" ABCD, and that demanding or prioritizing measurement can have that effect. But I still would love to see some aggregates, even something creative and nontraditional, making visible and indisputable the real results of an ABCD application.

I believe that this could greatly empower the role of ABCD in becoming a better competitor for funding dollars that are out there, but end up being directed toward programs that promise "hard results" -- even though we know that many of these results aren't making long-lasting impact, and residents are very rarely the producers or owners of the work.

For me, the major hangup in actually doing that has been that, as you said Jim, it's like nailing Jello to a wall. The outcomes and benefits of ABCD work are so multi-varied and seemingly unpredictable. My thinking currently is, What about a practice of appreciative, reflective evaluation? In which an effort simply tracks what the participants notice as signs of "Good stuff" that wasn't happening before? I know Broadway and its neighbors experimented with this and--utilizing several neighbors' gifts for counting and observing--began counting smiles over a course of time.

I think the other barrier is one you touched on, John, which is that much ABCD is not spearheaded by institutions -- they may be instigators to some degree, but by its very nature, ABCD work is done by residents. So, in my experience, when we try to introduce programmatic practices like counting and measuring results, ordinary people doing work in their neighborhood in the wonderful organic, adaptive way they do, simply don't want to, don't have time for, or don't see the necessity of such practices... they know and see and feel if something is working or not, and if it is, let's keep on -- if not, switch streams. In the Broadway example, I know that counting smiles was an idea, and a neat one, but I don't believe that it continued.

Currently I'm working with the Abundant Communities Initiative which implements asset-based neighborhood organizing that blends institutional structure with on-the-ground, unpaid block connecting. I'm interested in experimenting with how measurement techniques could be used that don't burden on-the-ground connectors/organizers and citizens, but might become a joyful process that complements their work but is supported by the people being paid in the program. For instance, an appreciative inquiry type gathering where the connectors in a neighborhood reflect together on "what's changing?" and might begin to notice patterns, that begin to be something we can count. Alongside that, one could begin tracking existing indicators of community well-being -- economic, signs of engagement (one example: deed enforcement calls to the City Government), new businesses, school indicators, etc. etc. -- and follow those as the work progresses. (Here we run into whether the "ABCD" work could claim to be the source of any found changes, since other efforts will surely be underway in any given area over a period of time.)

Thanks for this conversation -- this was a good opportunity for me to get my thoughts out!

Would love to hear thoughts on this, or if anyone has tried or heard of anyone trying something similar.

-A

Jim Moynihan
Jim Moynihan
@jim-moynihan
3 years ago
7 posts

I love your thoughtful and thorough response, April. I'm looking forward to this conversation continuing.

keith kelley
keith kelley
@keith-kelley
one month ago
10 posts

so....how has the work been going on data driven work that you were considering in ths exchange....idid you wok with a community survey?