Asset-Based Community Development is Part of Emerging Strengths-Based MovementI had lunch recently with Derek Alton to discuss his new role as Campaign Animator at the Tamarack Institute for Community Engagement. Derek is a sharp, creative, and ambitious young innovator who is very driven to fulfill Tamarack’s mission of “collaboratively creating vibrant communities by engaging learning leaders.”

I’ve stayed in touch with Tamarack’s co-founding president, and high energy driving force, Paul Born, over the years. Now 12 years old, Tamarack is “a charity that develops and supports learning communities to help people collaborate and to co-generate knowledge that solves complex community challenges. Our deep hope is to end poverty in Canada.”

Paul is an inspiring “social entrepreneur” who’s written books, developed workshops, provided facilitation and coaching, and built an impressive organization and extensive network aimed at “creating vibrant communities by building community, leading collaboratively, and reducing poverty.”

During my lunch with Derek we discussed the convergence of strengths-based leadership, positive psychology, and appreciative inquiry, with Asset-Based Community Development. I wasn’t familiar with ABCD and learned that this approach “is based on the belief that communities have skills, networks, resources, and energy that can be used to tackle local problems and improve the community’s quality of life. In turn, it strengthens the effectiveness of people and organizations working to find solutions to problems within the community … a positive approach to a problem is more likely to yield positive results.”

Click here to learn more about Tamarack and their community-based strategies for asset building using a 5 step approach. This paragraph especially leapt from their web page:

“Historically, efforts to revitalize communities have operated from a deficit perspective, which means that they begin by defining the deficiencies and needs of the neighborhood. Instead, asset-building looks at what currently works and is valuable within a neighborhood. This approach believes that the ‘glass is half full,’ as well as that even in the poorest of neighborhoods there exists a pool of assets (skills, resources, businesses and institutions) that can be better linked and maximized to create a more effective local economy.”

ABCD is yet another example of the burgeoning and rapidly growing movement toward building on strengths. Moving from the deeply entrenched weakness or gap-based approach is countercultural and revolutionary. But the research is clearly showing a strengths, asset, or positive development approach is much more energizing and 2 to 3 times more effective.

Further Reading:

• “Leadership Sweet Spot: Strengths, Passion, and Organizational Needs
• “The Best Positivity/Negativity Ratio for Peak Performance
• “Positive Psychology, Strengths, and Leadership
Peter Drucker on Making Strengths Productive
• “Is Your Culture Anchored in Strengths or Weaknesses?
• “Developing Strengths or Weaknesses” white paper