The appreciated world came into being with the development of man’s capability for self-reflection, a faculty encompassing much more than just thinking. This reflection holds the world—the physical, social, and spiritual aspects of man’s world—……. through all forms of experience. It embraces our appreciation of what this world can do to and for us, and what we can do to and for it… Thus, the appreciated world becomes the motor for change induced by human action. — Erich Jantsch  

Asset-based community-driven development (ABCD) – also called asset-based community development – is a bottom-up way of working with communities that focuses on community strengths and assets, rather than need, deprivation and problem solving: the glass half-full, not the glass half-empty!

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Appreciative Inquiry is a philosophy and strategy for purposeful and profound change. It identifies the best of ‘what is’ and then encourages dreams of ‘what could be’. It is a collaborative search for the strengths and passions which can lead to inspired, positive change and its link with social construction provides the opportunity to see new possibilities for the future.

A key characteristic of AI is that it is generative – generating new ideas, committed actions, and deeper connections between people, which makes the AI process about much more than positive thinking. This means that it can have a broad impact in the community.

We use AI, its philosophy, principles and its processes, as a fundamental component of ABCD rather than just an optional tool. Its generative effect and emphasis on building on ‘what works’ means that it operates across a wider spectrum than community assets. Its use provides opportunities to see new possibilities for the future and contributes to increased conversation, social cohesion and wellbeing.

Ideally, its principles permeate the whole system – ensuring co-creation and co-design amongst everyone who works and interacts with the community. (You can read more in our blog on Five ‘vital elements’ of AI: conversations, cooperation, co-creating, co-design and continuation). 

In a nutshell, using AI in community settings engages with everybody equally. The work that the community on Rathlin Island has done with Appreciating People is a good example of how this approach can serve a community – nicely illustrated here.

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Asset-based approaches to health come from a similar perspective – they look at how to support wellness and tap into the strengths of an individual or an institution so that they feel empowered to manage their own health. For example, we’re facilitating a workshop for Public Health England on Application of participatory, asset-based approaches in the prevention of excess weight and maintenance of healthy weight with Oldham council.    

Angela Blanchard of Neighborhood Centers describes her approach to ABCD in this Ted Talk. We really enjoyed hearing her talk at the 2015 World Appreciative Inquiry Conference.

If you’re interested in reading more, this is a great blog on the topic.

The Rathlin Island communities develops a plan for the year 2020, based on 'every change starts with a conversation'...

The Rathlin Island communities develops a plan for the year 2020, based on ‘every change starts with a conversation’…