CHICAGO — Drawing upon 30 years of experience and accomplished community engagement, the internationally recognized Asset-Based Community Development Institute has relocated to DePaul University’s Irwin W. Steans Center for Community-Based Service Learning and Community Service Studies.
Bringing the national headquarters to DePaul provides the ABCD Institute with an opportunity to further its scholarship and work, and for the missions of both organizations to thrive.
At its core, the ABCD Institute works with community residents and local entities to analyze and build upon already existing neighborhood assets, empowering communities to create a more sustainable future.
Founded at Northwestern University in the late 1980’s by two professors, John McKnight and Jody Kretzmann, the institute promotes citizen-centered and citizen-led community building. By focusing on the skills and talents of community members, and connecting existing assets and resources in neighborhoods, ABCD works as a counter balance to a historically needs-based approach to community development.
The ABCD strategy is based on four years of research in hundreds of neighborhoods across the United States, asking the question: “Can you tell us what residents in this neighborhood have done together that made things better?” Kretzmann and McKnight published their findings in their best selling book, “Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community’s Assets.”
The work initiated a movement in which the importance of local resources provided a new framework for analyzing and implementing community change. Despite the fact that the research was conducted largely in urban areas of the United States, the method has proven to be universal with ABCD strategies spreading to Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia.
Kim Hopes, the assistant director of the ABCD Institute, sees DePaul as a good fit for the institute’s new home and was struck by the university’s commitment to its community. “Since I’ve been at DePaul, it has been very clear to me that the university’s mission is not just words. There is already so much asset-based community engagement happening and we can help support that,” she said.
The institute is home to 32 active and nine emeritus ABCD Institute faculty members located across the United States and nine international faculty members in Europe, Canada and Australia. ABCD faculty are selected for their commitment to asset-based community development work and hold a wealth of knowledge across multiple ABCD disciplines, including: community organizing, health, faith-based organizations, international development and inclusion of individuals with developmental disabilities, the elderly, and other often traditionally marginalized people.
The ABCD faculty participate in an array of local, regional and international conferences as keynote speakers and act as training facilitators and support providers. They also contribute to a library of scholarly articles and training curricula associated with the asset-based community development approach.
Howard Rosing, executive director of the Irwin W. Steans Center, which houses the ABCD Institute, believes that these domestic and international connections will benefit DePaul greatly. “We will be able to connect our faculty and students to projects that are happening in other parts of the world through the ABCD Institute,” he said. “It will open up several doors for students who are doing theses and dissertations, service and research as well as support the work of faculty in Chicago and across the globe.”
While the institute will allow for an expansion of the Vincentian mission within the university, DePaul also provides in-kind support to the institute including collaboration with DePaul faculty and community partners.
Looking forward, the institute plans on expanding training programs within DePaul among local community partners, and eventually create a national ABCD training conference at DePaul.