ABCD Asia Pacific Conference 2010

By Dee Brooks, 2010-04-14
The Strengths and Assets Summit - 2010This important Summit combines the 6th Australian Family and Community Strengths Conference and the 2nd ABCD Asia Pacific Conference.The Family Action Centre (FAC), University of Newcastle, in partnership with the Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) Asia Pacific Network and the Centre for Child Community Health (CCCH), Victoria, is convening the The Strengths and Assets Summit.When: 30th November-3rd December, 2010Where: The University of NewcastleThe summit will provide an opportunity for practitioners, academics, policy makers and community leaders in Australia and the Asia Pacific Region to come together to examine the opportunities and challenges on focusing on strengths and assets to improve the well-being of families and children.The Strengths and Assets Summit will allow delegates to move between the two conferences in a seamless way, providing greater choices and networking opportunities.A major theme of the Strengths and Assets Summit will be how to effectively measure the impact of our work.To express interest in attending or submitting an abstract (calling for abstracts soon) please send a email to an eye on our website for up to date information: regardsMichelle GiffordThe Family Action CentreThe University of NewcastleCallaghan NSW 2308E +61 2 4921 6403F + 61 2 4921 8686
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Surprising Stories are Everywhere!

By Dee Brooks, 2010-03-31


An interesting occurrence happend to me only 2 weeks ago...

I was driving back from a wedding in Melbourne and by the time I got to Albury I knew it was time to be a responsible driver and pull over for the night!

I booked in to a Motel and asked for directions as to where to get some dinner! I was handed a map of Albury and - on foot - I took off on an expidition of the foraging type! My 16 year old daughter EJ was with me and she pointed out some tents and people across the road in a parkland area as we passed by on our search for sustenance!

In a short time we found a wonderful authentic Italian restaurant where we sat down and ordered! While we were waiting for our food I glanced over the map I had been handed and looked at the list titled "Local Attractions" There was the expected; the botanic gardens, the war monument and kids activities - all great but...then something caught my eye...

The last item on the list read: "Community Pizza Oven"...

WOW! What a way to get my attention! When our waiter brought our food out I asked him what it was all about to which he replied, "It's a pizza oven built in the park with the assistance of the local council and actually we supply the dough and it's on tonight - the whole community is welcome - you should go!"

Well, I couldn't have eaten my lasagne any quicker so with EJ in tow with her father's very good quality camera in hand we took off again back to the tents where we had passed by earlier!

As we walked across the grass to the tents there was music, laughter and that buzz in the air that you hear when people are sharing a special occasion together! EJ started snapping pics of the oven and I sought out the wonderful Albury Council workers to get the goss (and permission to take pics)!

I was pointed in the direction of Narelle (and her beautfiul newborn baby) who is the Arts Officer at the Council who told me briefly about how she first discovered a community pizza oven in Canada while surfing the web and that's where the idea came to her that it could work in Albury too! This night in particular was celebrating Harmony Day which was why there was entertainment but the oven is opened periodically for community use!

After spending only a small time there (and feeling abit like party-crashers), EJ and I walked back to our Motel excitedly talking about what a wonderful community venture the pizza oven was!

Two days later and I was back at work but I couldn't get the story out of my head so I contacted Vanessa at Albury Council (Narelle is on maternity leave) and asked if I could showcase their story! We are in the process of doing this now...

I am so glad I decided to stop at Albury and not the first highway-motel available! I had a fantastic night there and was so impressed with the sense of belonging and community spirit that was evident in the park! If only we could all have our own community pizza oven - I don't think I would cook at home ever again!

Thanks Albury Council for this wonderful, inspiring glimpse into your wonderful community life!


The Network has also been developing a template for gathering ABCD stories which will be showcased on both this Ning website and the ABCD Asia Pacific website hosted by the Family Action Centre! There have been some wonderful stories which we hope will be reflective of other people's ABCD work and support them to continue supporting what is already happening in their communities!

We held the first meeting this week in preparation for the 2nd ABCD Asia Pacific Conference to be held in December here in Newcastle! There was some very exciting conversation generated about keynote speakers from overseas, such as the Coady Institute and others specifically from the Asia Pacific region! The shape of the Conference is taking form and looks to be highly energetic and dynamic - including a strong youth focussed stream!

There are also many events planned throughout the year by various Faciliators and Presenters so make sure you check the Events section on this site or email me directly at if you are not already on the ABCD mail out list!

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ABCD Asia Pacific in 2010!

By Dee Brooks, 2010-01-27
Hi All,Well here we are in 2010!There has been alot of amazing discussions happening around the globe regarding asset based approaches and I will be endeavouring to keep people up to date more often with these conversations! (see for example)It's great to see people are still finding out about and joining this site and, with your assistance, we would like to plan to make this online community generate similar discussions to our overseas friends!Please drop me a line and let me know how this site would best help you! What are you after? How do you see this site becoming a vibrant online community?Let's use the assets, skills and abilities we all have on this site to create a hub of ABCD information, discussion and action!Welcome to 2010 - I hope to chat with more of you over the year!Regards,Dee Brooks,Facilitator,ABCD Asia Pacific Network.
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By Dee Brooks, 2009-09-15
Well it's time for an official launch of the ABCD Asia Pacific Network website!How do I achieve that online?I am sending a group invitation to all database members tomorrow but something's missing?!?When a ship is launched they break a bottle of champers on the bow!When a marriage is launched they go on a honeymoon!When young people are launched into adulthood they celebrate with their peers!So, I'm asking for suggestions!How would you feel launched?
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Dare To Think Small!!!

By Dee Brooks, 2009-08-01
Well after many years of discussion (and a gentle reminder to use the ABCD principles myself) I decided to finally get the ABCD Asia Pacific Network a website!!!What do I hope to achieve through this venture?* To create a place for networking with other community-minded people* A place for all ABCD-ers to share ideas and resources* An opportunity for facilitators to collaborate* To be regularly reminded how powerful collective wisdom can beI hope the people who join up here also get the opportunity to link up in the real world! So please help me to create a vibrant and innovative online community that can support and strengthen individuals and communities across the globe!How can you do this?* Post blogs (e.g. stories of success)* Upload or send the link to relevant documentation* Don't hide in the shadows - participate!* Find new friends and/or colleagues* Use the ABCD principles and apply them to yourselfI have deliberately left the page 'open' - there is no moderation - it's your page as much as it is mine - so please let me know if anything innapropriate pops up and as a community, we can decide whether moderation is needed!So, let's get to it!!!
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The following is an actual conversation I had with the Manager of a medium sized organisation in 2008 after I had delivered anAsset-based Community-driven(ABCD) keynote presentation at a national conference in Brisbane:

Manager, We tried that asset mapping thing! It didnt work!

I asked, Could I ask what you did and with who?

Manager, It was a staff meeting, I drew up 6 columns (one for each asset) and asked all my staff to populate the columns they filled it out and after that, nothing happened! Nothing changed for us!

They had created a directory of assets and unfortunately, this is all too common; organisations and services oftendothe workforcommunities and delivertheiroutputstocommunities.

In contrast, ABCD holds central to the principle of community empowerment so, I have also had many conversations like this:

Manager, We did some asset mapping with our community!


Me, Tell me what happened!

Manager, We showed them the framework and gave them the tools and they ran with it; theres now so much going on that we are not a part of but they come back to us if theyre stuck or need support! Its great!


So, what is Asset Mapping?

Within any neighbourhood or community there is an often hidden treasure trove of resources, skills and abilities. Asset mapping supports community members to discover these hidden treasures and to link into them as the foundational building blocks of gettinggood stuff done!

Following is another conversation I have had:

Community worker, Yeah, but youre looking through rose coloured glasses! Communities have real issues!
I replied, I agree and by supporting community members to find their strengths and assets, we help them find the exact things they need to address those issues

For example, a community I was supporting for many years had multiple socio-economic issues and a bad reputation. They even jokingly called themselves the derogatory names that society had labeled them with (think bogan), but they were also committed to turning that opinion around so, we embarked on a learning journey together to discover what was strong and good about their community instead of looking at what was wrong or bad.

What are community strengths and assets?

Taking the example above, we started with anAppreciative Inquirystyle conversation, which looked at:

  • What has worked in the past? (exploring past successes)
  • What have we already got to build on? (what resources do we have)
  • How can we get more of the good stuff? (putting vision into action)

Inspired 269w" />

By asking what has worked in the past, community members had the opportunity to reflect on a time when their community was unique and strong and encouraged them to share stories with each other. The story sharing was positive and transformational and provided a solid foundation on which to start exploring what they already had to build on.

The community then identified the resources and assets they had to build on by developing their own, unique asset map utilising the following 6 assets:

  • Individual assets (e.g. the skills, talents, abilities and passions of community members)
  • Local community groups and networks (e.g. social services clubs, mums & bubs groups, sporting clubs etc)
  • Local government and non-government agencies (e.g. churches, schools, departments, neighbourhood centres etc)
  • Physical assets (natural and built environment)
  • Economic assets (productive work of individuals, consumer spending power, local businesses)
  • Cultural assets (local stories, heritage, identity, values)

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Community members started to get very excited and realise the potential they had to support the co-production of their own well-being and there were subsequently many community-driven and community-led activities and actions that arose from the discovery of their strengths and assets.

What should we map?

In ABCD training workshops, theJeder Instituteteaches3 levels of asset mapping:

  • Individual; skills and abilities
  • Community; resources and connections
  • Organisational; opportunities and resources


I recently facilitated a 2-day festival for a local government council in NSW where their aim was to start to break down the silos within their own walls. Over the 2 days, we had 4 sessions, each with a different focus, e.g. economic development and community engagement. We identified overlaps and looked at underpinning frameworks to support crossover; it was a dynamic festival!

Most people understood the individual and community mapping very easily but, there were light bulb moments when we looked at mapping the organisational assets of a local council and heres why; the question I pose after organisational asset identification is, How can the assets you have identified strengthen what communities are already doing?

For example, the list of organisational assets would look different to the individual and the community assets and they might look like this:

  • Personnel
  • Expertise
  • Economic Power
  • Constituents
  • Networks of Connections
  • Space and Facilities
  • Materials and Equipment

So, how can your organisations networks of connections strengthen something thats already happening in community? Is there an introduction you can facilitate? How can your space and facilities be offered to community groups who werent successful in gaining funding (or werent after any)? Do you have materials, equipment or expertise that you could offer which willstrengthen what communities are already doing? How can doing this strengthen you as an organisation?

3 Steps to Asset Mapping

Asset mapping is a vehicle for community to identify, discover and connect with each other. Its not the only strategy to empower communities but it is more than a tool; it connects people through the sharing of stories and the identification of mutual strengths. We have found there are 3 key steps to asset mapping:

  • Discover the assets
  • Join the assets together
  • Create opportunitiesfor these assets to beproductive and powerful together

In conclusion, ABCD is committed to some guiding principles that can be covered in 4 questions, as follows:

  • What functions can community residents perform by themselves?
  • What functions can community residents do with some additional help from government and agencies?
  • What functions must government and agencies perform on their own?
  • What functions must government and agencies STOP doing?

action 300w, 600w" />

In ABCD training workshops, I emphasis that an asset map must be a living document; if you do put it on paper, dont shelve it, keep it moving through multiple hands and ask for amendments, additions and subtractions depending on the task at hand. For example, if you are supporting a community to develop an asset map around strengthening the links to the local school, put the school at the centre and map around it; dont merely create a directory of assets in 6 columns like the Manager in the opening paragraph!

Above all else, when mapping the strengths and assets of a community, make sure you connect, dont just collect!

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I would love tohear from others who are blending practices andprocesses for the benefit of the communities they live and/or work in! There is a growing movement which is bringing together a whole range of awesome people and this is just the tip of the iceberg! Please find my full blog post here:

Abstract: "Ive been feeling unsettled lately. It started when I read a blog by a self-proclaimed master of community work practitioner who espoused the benefits of one particular methodological practice, above all others. It made me uneasy because it essentially negated half of my lifes work, which is; to find effective intersections in community building practices in order to engage community members in meaningful conversations that will support their individual dreams and broader communitys hopes and aspirations."

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My Neon Cathedral

By Dee Brooks, 2015-03-13

I recently attended a one day workshop on Collective Impact in Sydney, facilitated by Paul Born of theTamarack Institutewhere he talked about the concept ofThird Placesas described by Ray Oldenburg from theProject for Public Spaces.

Although the term is not new to me and is what one of my ABCD colleagues,Jim Diers, calls Bumping Spaces, it got me thinking about my own neighbourhood and how I connect with locals in my own town.

I live in a semi-rural area of New South Wales, in a small village that boasts a school, a shop, a telephone box and a pub and I'm not often home!


Paul Born talked about how he connects to his community; he door knocks, organises get togethers, knows people's names and also mentioned that his family have started going back to church as a way to connect better.

In contrast,I teach community engagement and development around the country but when I come home, I'm just home; I'm not part of the local environmental group, although I know they exist. I don't attend local sports games, although I know many of the people who do. I'm not part of the local Rural Fire Service, but my neighbours are. As a national Trainer, I often feel like the plumber who has no running water in their own house!

It got me thinking? How do I connect? Where do I connect? Where's my church?

The answer was the pub! I live 3 doors down from the local pub and my verandah is in line with the pub's verandah. We have a great view of the mountain range and I often sit out the front after an arduous travel stint and reflect on how lucky I am to be only an hour away from the closest main city but have access to such natural beauty.

When I'm sitting on the verandah, people walking to the pub often stop to have a chat. I catch up on local news, hear what's happening in town, discover new people who have moved in, what babies have been born, what events are coming up. This is where I engage!

On occasion, I head up to the pub. It's not often, contrary to popular belief, but when I do, I know people and they know me! I can comfortably go there alone and know I will find someone to have a chat with.

In reflection, over the years, I have been involved in loads of community events but, as a community member, not as a professional. In fact, most of the locals wouldn't even know what I do for a living!

The pub has hosted community markets, trivia nights, raffles, live entertainment and the big one of the year; the Christmas Eve Hay Ride. Take note before reading any further: a "ute" or Utility, in Australia, is a pick-up truck in the USA, so...

At approximately 5pm each Christmas Eve, any local community member with a ute or a flat bed truck decorates their vehicle with Christmas tinsel and baublesand they all meet at the pub where hay bales are provided as seating in the back tray of the vehicles (where the hay bales come from, I'm not sure? they are just there, every year), each vehicle is loaded with local children and we all follow Santa around the streets, tooting our horns, calling Merry Christmas to those residents who are still at home and singing Christmas carols.


Santa has had a myriad of entrances, ranging from skydiving in to traveling by horse and buggy but more often lately, he's atop the local Rural Fire Service (RFS) truck. He gives out donated bags of lollies, RFS show-bags and Christmas cake for the older residents. It takes us about 2 hours to get around the dozen or so streets in our village andwhen we're done, we all head back to the pub (where the parents have been having child-free time and connecting with each other) where we all celebrate Christmas Eve together with a free sausage sizzle, live music and plenty of fun!

Every year, I drive a decorated ute. My kids, who are now older, have not missed a year (until very recently when my eldest daughter moved interstate) and what I witness as part of the beauty of ongoing community-led engagement is that the young people and young adults are now the driving force of the Hay Ride because they grew up with it and they recognise its' value and importance to our small community! They want to be part of it and they make sure there are enough utes, hay and tray-room for all the younger children! Some of the previous year's"children" are now married and bring their ownchildren! The cycle continues!


The other interesting thing I have noticed is that since I have lived here, the pub has changed hands many times and we have had half a dozen publicans over the past decade but not one year's Hay Ride has been missed! Why? I believe it's because the locals tell each new publican, "This is what you need to do on Christmas Eve" and they do it, because they're asked to! (or some may say "told to")

So, where's my church? It's at the pub and, although it's a wine drinker's social convenience, the pub is also the backbone of engagement in my village. It has taught me much more than I expected;about connecting, belonging and discovering a sense of community, that is always there, even when I feel like I'm only home part-time!

Upon entering our village youmightsee a Local Council signproclaiming us to bethe "Jewel of the Mountains" and if you stop at the pub, you might see some localscontentlysmiling becausetheyall know that the informal, caring, community-led activities that happen here are more than what the sign implies!

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