Exploring Asset Based Community Development

Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) is at the centre of a large and growing movement that considers local assets as the primary building blocks of sustainable community development.

Cath Barton, AFG Rochdale Community Circle Co-ordinator reflects on the power of asset based community development following her one workshop with Cormac Russell (Faculty ABCD Institute) and Caroline Tomlinson (CEO and founder of My Life Social Enterprise).

A day with Cormac Russell and Caroline Tomlinson

Cath Barton, AFG Rochdale Community Circles Co-ordinator

Cath Barton, AFG Rochdale Community Circles Co-ordinator

Monday mornings…does yours start with delightful anticipation of what the day could bring?  Luckily for me and a group of colleagues from Alternative Futures Group this Monday in particular did.

We spent a day with Cormac Russell, who is the Managing Director of Nurture Development, Director of ABCD Europe and a faculty member of the Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) Institute at Northwestern University, Chicago and also Caroline Tomlinson, CEO and founder of My Life Social Enterprise, who is also profiled as 1 of 25 Mothers of Innovation in the world by Nesta.

Asset based community development is not about reforming systems and making professionals better, it’s about community and relationships; what are the gifts, talents and assets that a community has that can benefit everyone. It’s about developing community alternatives so the ‘system’ doesn’t have to intervene.

We were asked to think about the connections and relationships that are present in the lives of the people we support.  Often these relationships are family members or people who are paid to be in someone’s life. People often spend time with others with the same label but there may be an absence of natural relationships; connections and friendships that develop through shared interests, reciprocity or contributions.

It is in this space of natural relationships where the magic happens.

We all have things in our lives that make us unique, different things that are important to us and our own choices about how we want to live our lives. I often hear a common theme around what gives people quality in their lives and this is based around people’s relationships; knowing we have people and connections in our lives is what often gives us value.

Cormac asked us to think about three questions;

  1. What do you care enough to act upon?
  2. What skills and talents are you going to use?
  3. How can AFG support you to work with other people?

For me I’m passionate about people and relationships, recognising and developing people’s gifts and talents and supporting people to have quality in their lives. For many people relationships and connections develop naturally, for others, often people with a label of disability, relationships aren’t as naturally occurring and we need to be intentional about inviting people into someone life.

Caroline spoke about how the system is designed to be ‘special’; it sends a message to the community that ‘specialist’ people are needed to support people with a label. We need to be consciously inviting people in, recognising the gifts and talents of everyone and making opportunities to develop and share these.

As Community Circles Coordinator in Rochdale; working with people living with dementia and also people (with a learning disability) supported by AFG, my role is to develop Community Circles; intentionally building a community around a person, recognising their gifts and talents and helping them to build relationships and connections with others.

What talents will I be using?
That I’m a people person, a good listener, a do-er, passionate about making a difference…and calling on my networks and connections to support the journey, learning and sharing as we go along.

How will AFG support me?
AFG have invested in my role, a great commitment to support people to develop relationships, to invite the community in and to make a difference.

I’ve been thinking about the link between Community Circles and ABCD; Community Circles recognises the gifts and talents of people who are part of the circle, sharing these to make positive differences in people’s lives.  I’m going to be exploring this link more as the journey continues.

So after the day spent with Cormac, Caroline and colleagues, the delightful anticipation continues, we have it in ourselves to make a difference, what do you care enough about to act on?

For more info about Community Circles

Email: cath@community-circles.co.uk
Follow us on Twitter: @c_circles
Like our Facebook page: Community Circles
Join our Groupsite: www.communitycircles.groupsite.com

Cormac Russell and Caroline Tomlinson

Cormac Russell and Caroline Tomlinson