Asset based approaches and the Common Good

The Asset Based Community Development approach is now well known but how does it connect with the Common Good?

The ‘Common Good’ is often defined as the set of conditions in which every individual in the community can flourish. But we prefer to talk about ‘the Common Good’ as something we build together, because those conditions need to be created by us, through our shared action. Flourishing communities cannot be built from the top down, or from the outside in, but only from the inside out and bottom up.

We therefore talk about the practice of the Common Good, which needs everyone to take part and take responsibility, according to their vocation and ability. This is how we create healthy neighbourhoods, communities and workplaces. 

For communities to flourish, it’s especially important that we work together across our differences, recognising each other’s gifts, in spite of our different backgrounds and despite strongly-held differing views. So forging good relationships is absolutely key to making positive change happen. Alongside this, the principles of Common Good Thinking can help us as we seek to build a common life together.

The ABCD methodology also starts with noticing gifts – gifts that are already present among the people in a community. This approach is practical and human, and it is always rooted in place. It highlights the importance of local associations and institutions coming together, and the connections between them, which is how civil society is strengthened.

The approach encourages a shift in mindset: rather than a starting point that is ‘needs-based’, it advocates an ‘asset-based’ approach. This resists a view that people are merely users or clients of services or consumers purchasing products. An ABCD approach is more about people getting on with things together, and less about ‘top down’ interventions. It recognises people’s dignity, that everyone has something valuable to contribute, and the fruitfulness of their relationships with each other.

We can see how ABCD can release us to become more empowered, to be less reliant on public services or on outsourced consumer-based solutions, but more interdependent with each other in community and therefore more connected. The approach is founded on three key principles:

  1. That every single individual, regardless of where they live or how much they earn, has something to offer others.
  2. That flourishing communities cannot be built from the top down, or the outside in, but only from the ‘inside out’.
  3. That relationships are absolutely key to making change happen.

This approach is very helpful as we work together for the Common Good. Cultivating relationships, person by person, and sharing in a common purpose, is the way to foster strong communities in which everyone can thrive.

Jenny Sinclair

With thanks to Nurture Development.