Squaring off the Triangle: how Asset-based Community-led Development (ABCD) supports & strengthens Art of Hosting (AoH) practices in community engagement & development work.

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By: Dee Brooks
Posted in: Reflections and Ideas

I’m regularly asked about how we blend ABCD with AoH. I wrote a brief overview of our broad approach to blending ABCD and AoH a while ago and as we continue to roll out Art of Participatory Community Building workshops, I have been thinking more about how to explain what we do. This is a start!

Each practitioner has a unique, personal response to how they view communities, and they also have a professional one, depending on their particular educational bent, personal stance or lived experience!

Some people naturally view communities through the lens of the “glass half full” and other practitioner’s view is “half empty”.

This is a look at the potential outcomes of each view and aims to respond to critiques of strengths focused approaches that assume, and even suggest, that we ignore the needs of a community!

We don’t!

We view both although, we focus our intention on the strengths! After all, as John McKnight, an ABCD co-founder says, “you can do something with an asset, (strength) what can you do with a need?”


The three-sided example:
The Art of Hosting’s purpose, need, powerful question triangle

Note: the identifying purpose questions below, for both the triangle and the square, could be interchange-able and are usually aligned to the practitioner’s lens

Identifying the purpose:
Why are we doing this? Who needs help? Why do they need it?

Discovering the needs:
A needs or gap analysis does exactly that; focuses on what’s broken or needs fixing and discovers gaps and issues or problems for government or organisations to solve

Crafting a powerful question:
The powerful question is probably now deficit based & resources & networks are sourced to respond to what needs fixing!


Squaring it off:
Adding the strength of ABCD; purpose, need, strengths, powerful question

Identifying the purpose:
What do we already know? What has worked in the past? Who cares?

Sensing the need:
Learning conversations such as ABCD’s framework; concerns, dreams, skills and abilities offer a platform to hear the challenges / issues and for community members to be heard before reframing

Discovering the strengths:
Applying a strengths-focused or appreciative inquiry lens offers us the reframing needed to shift our focus to what works, instead of a problem solving focus which asks us to do less of something we don’t do well anyway

Crafting a powerful question:
The powerful question is now re-framed due to acknowledging the needs & discovering the individual, community & organisational strengths, (resources & networks) that are already available, probably included local knowledge and community member’s voices and is focused on generative action

In conclusion, but by no means the end, the more strength we apply, the more powerful the question and therefore, the outcome can be. This is one example of how we reframe around one tool/framework and there are plenty of others to explore, which I will endeavour to write more about.

As one of our good mates, Liz from LinkWest in Perth, WA says, “the Art of Hosting is how you achieve effective ABCD!” They can go hand in hand, when intentionally applied, and can create a productive and powerful space for individuals, organisations and the broader communities we work and live within.

To discover a broad range of potentials tools and strategies, see our website for more information on Participatory Community Building workshops and download the FREE handbook: http://jeder.com.au/art-of-participatory-community-building/

Originally posted on the Jeder Institute's website blogs


Dee Brooks
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