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Asset Based Community Development and Strategic Planning



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    Community Asset Mapping (CAM) is a capacity focused way of redeveloping devastated communities. This positive approach is proposed as a substitute for the traditional deficits focus on a community’s needs and problems (Kretzmann and McKnight 1999). Using problems to formulate human service interventions targets resources to service providers rather than residents, fragments efforts to provide solutions, places reliance on outside resources and outside experts, and leads to a maintenance and survival mentality rather than to community development (Kretzmann and McKnight 1993).

    CAM proposes the development of policies and activities based on an understanding, or map, of the community’s resources. This includes individual capacities and abilities, and organizational resources with the potential for promoting personal and community development. This mapping is designed to promote connections or relationships between individuals, between individuals and organizations, and between organizations and organizations (Putnam 2000).It uses an Asset-based community development (ABCD) approach to develop the map.

    Asset-based community development (ABCD) is a philosophy that was developed by John P Jody Kretzmann and John L McKnight from the Northwestern University in Illinois, USA in 1993. It is intended to initiate a process that will fully mobilize a community to use its assets around a vision and a plan to solve its own problems (Greene 2000).

    Principles of Asset Based Community Development

    The first one is appreciating and mobilizing individual and community talents, skills and assets rather than focusing on problems and needs (Kretzmann and McKnight 1999). This is symbolically affirmed as seeing a glass as being half full rather than half empty. The traditional approach taken by service providers when examining a community under stress is to focus on what is wrong, what the community lacks, and what is failing. This is a ‘glass half empty’ approach (Gord  and Alison 2002). One of the key assets of Fawkner Community House is their experience in running men’s projects over the past few years. Such experience comes with a strong community network.

    The group has also been very effective in building bridges across nationalities and age groups and has creatively involved participants with different disabilities. Participants have reported major improvements in their sense of wellbeing, social connectedness and sense of purpose. The active participation of the marginalised men in Fawkner community is in itself a resource to the project. They are even willing to meet outside and bring their own tool for work.

    The second is community driven development rather than development driven by external agencies (Gord  and Alison 2002).This means that community development activities come from the community itself. The Fawkner community House have identified the need for a flexible workshop and shed space to expand the existing men’s shed programme. There is an imperative need to reach other marginalized men in the local area, particularly the youth.

    The ABCD principles are build on some important elements. Most important is the appreciative inquiry which identifies and analyses the community’s past successes (Elliott 1999). This strengthens people’s confidence in their own capacities and inspires them to take action (Ashford and Patkar 2001). The Fawkner Community House has successfully carried out activities such as the construction of rabbit-proof fencing, building garden beds and construction of bluestone and stone paths. The participants themselves have reported major improvements in their sense of wellbeing, social connectedness and sense of purpose.

    Closely linked to appreciative inquiry is the recognition of social capital and its importance as an asset. This is why ABCD focuses on the power of associations and informal linkages within the community, and the relationships built over time between community associations and external institutions (Woolcott & Narayan 2000).

    The Fawkner programme aims at bringing men together in a spirit of goodwill and co-operation to share, to socialize and to gain a sense that they have a valuable contribution to make to the local community. This is an informal social linkage which is created over time. They are also partnering with other organizations such as Fawkner secondary colleges and other agencies.

    The third element is participatory approaches to development, which are based on principles of empowerment and ownership of the development process (Gitell & Vidal, 1998). The need to build the capacity of stakeholders in the project is critical to the success of any project. The community has been actively involved in Fawker’s activities. In fact the participants have been very effective in building bridges across nationalities and age groups. They have found creative ways to include other participants with different disabilities. The aim of the Fawkner is to broaden the participation of different cultural and age groups within Fawkner. The project is therefore owned by the community and this has been the reason behind its sustainability.

    The fourth is community economic development (CED) models that place priority on collaborative efforts for economic development that makes best use of its own resource base. ABCD is a strategy for community-driven economic development (Diochon 1999). The evolution of CED theory represents a confluence of three different development paradigms: developing or improving economic systems and infrastructure; developing the economic capacities of individuals; and developing the economic capacities of groups to undertake community economic development (Diochon 1999).

    Fawkner is already doing this through their capacity and skill building activities. The marginalized men, who previously lacked employment skills, have started on various income generating activities. They have even proposed other activities to be done in a workshop such as bike maintenance and green gyms.

    The fifth element is efforts to strengthen civil society. These efforts have focused on how to engage people as citizens rather than clients in development and how to make local governance more effective and responsive (Pretty 1994). The main aim of the Fawkner is to bring disparate elements of the community together to work on projects that are socially engaging. This way community based groups are formed and strengthened and they becomes the centre of development in the area.

    Having discussed the principles of ABCD and the elements upon which it is build upon we can now be able to develop an asset map for the Fawkner community.

    Community Asset Map

    Primary Assets

    These include those assets that are under the Fawkner’s community control. They are also the personal capacities and skills of the participants of the Fawkner Community House.

    Community Assets

    .   Fawkner Leisure Centre              . Fawkner Community House Participants

    . Fawkner Library                 .Moreland Community Health Service (Fawkner)

    . Fawkner Secondary Colleges      .  Fawkner Bowling Club

    . Fawkner Returned Services League                                              . Fawkner Tennis Club

    Secondary Assets

    These include resources located in the community but mainly controlled externally. These include schools and other educational institutions, service agencies, health services, police, fire and emergency services, libraries and parks, gardens and public open spaces.

    . Elderly Citizen’s Centre                    .Public utilities in the community

    . Local Shops in Bonwick Street

    Principles and Process of Strategic Planning

    Apart from the ABCD, another approach to community development is the strategic planning. It is a framework providing a systematic approach to planning for future development and allocating needed resources for anticipated changes (Droham 1997). Ordinary planning and goal setting usually looks at the past and bases the future on historic trends. The basic principle of strategic planning, the community development approach, is consideration of possible future events and trends, and then bases planning and resource allocation on anticipated changes (Kolzow, & David 1988).

    The crux of strategic planning is “anticipated” change. In other words, the Fawkner Community plans for the future by envisioning what the future will be like. The obvious questions they will need to ask are “How will the future be different?” and, “What decisions can we make now, based on this perception of the future?” There is a case of newly emerging communities of unskilled unemployed men. They must therefore expand their progamme to accommodate them.

    Second is the focus on key variables such as external trends that impact on the local community and internal factors that are either strengths or weaknesses (Woods 1988). These are the key critical issues, not an exhaustive list of all possible issues. The Fawkner community is experiencing a rapid changing ethnic mix, fragmented across cultural lines. There is a high level of social disengagement among some groups of local youth which creates tensions with older age groups and impacts on the sense of safety of many older residents. Such factors need to be considered critically less they impend on the House activities.

    As David R. Kolzow states, “Strategic planning stresses implementation rather than just goal-setting or long-range planning.” Strategic planning does not try to arrive at the “best of all possible out-comes.” Its purpose is to foster a better outcome than the current environment would produce. (Chapter 9  p112). There are a number of areas into which Fawkner Community House is intending to broaden the focus of the men’s shed programme. This should not just be stated but, they should work towards implementing it.

    Strategic planning deals not only with the long-term, but also the short-term and the intermediate planning period. Thus, those involved should be working toward goals that address important issues for the next 1 to 6 months as well as issues that will take longer to resolve (Drohan 1997). The flexible workshop and shed space is a short term activity while mentorship and increased participation are long term activities for the community.

    The process is inclusive rather than exclusive, and all interested citizens should be encouraged to participate. However, it is important to identify people who have a large stake in the community and personally invite these individuals or their representatives to participate in the process (Drohan 1997). In this project, marginalized men are the primary stakeholders and should be encouraged to participate.

    Finally, the process should be repeated every 2 to 5 years, depending on the amount of change that has occurred since the last strategic plan was completed. For continuity, an the Fawkner House make the strategic planning process an on-going part of their responsibilities (Graham 1984). This will institutionalize the process and ensure its sustainability financially, socially and politically.

    The first step in strategic planning for a community development project is devoted to organization. During this phase, it is critical that the Fawkner Community has the “blessing” of the political unit it represents. This could be the district officers, political leader in charge of the project area and village elders.  Next, a complete review should be done of ongoing actions and planned projects that may have a major impact on the community (Drohan 1997). For example, national youth development project, action plans for the disabled by other agencies.

    The third element of phase one is the creation of a mission statement that gives direction to the entire strategic planning process, from the identification of issues to the allocation of resources. The main goal of the Fawkner Community is to provide programmes aimed at bringing disparate elements of the community together to work on projects that are socially engaging. To provide opportunities for making useful social contributions and which provide skills training in ways that are flexible and informal, which build confidence and a sense of having valuable skills to share.

    Phase two is the analytical phase. Since the key ingredient of strategic planning is the development of a plan based on anticipated future changes, the Fawkner Community needs all relevant social and economic information for the local community. Envisioning the future, understanding the competition, and analyzing local and external factors are necessary to identify key issues affecting the community. (Kolzow, & David 1988).

    Phase three is devoted to shaping the plan into a formal document. Goals that address the designated key issues are developed during this phase as well as corresponding objectives and strategic action statements (Kolzow, & David 1988).The specific objectives of the Fawkner House will be drawn out. The corresponding strategies to achieve the stated objectives will be defined.

    Phase four is devoted to finalizing the plan and launching it. During this time, responsibility needs to be assigned along with the resources to accomplish the tasks. Along with the design of the action plan, evaluation criteria should be developed for measuring accomplishments.

    The final document should ask the Fawkner Community these five questions. What do we want our community to become? What are all the possible actions we can take to improve the quality of life in our community, given our vision statement above? How do we organize and proceed to implement our plan? Who is going to lead and who is going to follow to implement our plan? Where do we find all the resources to support the implementation of our plan? (Kolzow, & David 1988).

    Strategic Plan for Fawkner Community House Men’s Shed Project

    Vision statement

    A brief and clear statement of how the Fawkner Community sees its role within the community. To provide programmes aimed at bringing disparate elements of the community together to work on projects that are socially engaging. To provide opportunities for making useful social contributions and which provide skills training in ways that are flexible and informal, which build confidence and a sense of having valuable skills to share.


    The specific aims of providing skilled training to the Fawkner community in ways that are flexible and informal. The aim of bring together marginalized men living in Fawkner. Men who are curbed with isolation, unemployment, lack of work skills and social disengagement.

    A professional resource base

    Brief background details on the members of the Fawkner Community House , the working committee conducting the current phase of the development of the flexible workshop and shed space

    Community support base

    A list of the more prominent members of the general community in Fawkner who have endorsed these goals and activities.


    A means of achieving the proposed development at Fawkner Community. This may be through donor funding or participants’ contribution.

    Activity Profile

    The activity profile of the workshop and shed space. This has been necessitated by sufficient space for members to meet, brainstorm and plan for development projects. The activities in the workshop will include restoring furniture for asylum seekers and people moving out of homelessness, technical aids for the disabled and local revegetation work as well as skills development programmes .Cross-cultural relationship building, mentoring programmes for ‘at-risk’ adolescent boys and young men, social support activities, bike maintenance, a tool library, a community nursery, community vegetable garden and other green gym activities.

    Strengths and Limitations

    In ABCD, Fawkner Community identifies the resources they already have through the asset map. This drives their motivation to carry out the proposed development of a workshop. The community which consist of marginalized men are made to see how much they have instead of what they do not have. This will work to the advantage of Fawkners House in mobilizing resources.

    However, taking into account the assets of the Fawkners House does not auger well for the community members and the participants. This is because the participants need to be given the true picture of what they do not have so that they may contribute towards developing it. The reality is that the project has also some liabilities. There is strife between the youth and the elderly citizens, there is insufficient working space and the target group is very sensitive due to their marginal character.

    Strategic approach is very comprehensive and therefore incorporates all the aaspects of development in the Fawkner’s project. The identification of both assets and liabilities provides a means for the Fawkner community to develop effective stategies to achieve their objectives. The approach however will require the community to engage professionals to develop the step by step plan for their proposed activity.This will create additional expenditure.


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    Asset Based Community Development and Strategic Planning. (2016, Jul 31). Retrieved from

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