ABCD logo jpegTim Harrold and Andy Blakey

Recap from previous articles…

On Thursday 18 April, seminars were held at Orsett Hall on the subject Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD).

The main bulk of the 120 or so delegates were from Thurrock Council, which is of course seeking ways to change its methodologies in this age of austerity in order to establish preventative strategies in the face of the soaring cost of curing all forms of societal malaise.

Facilitating the sessions was Cormac Russell of Nurture Development and the ABCD Institute.

What follows are links and quotes about ABCD taken from Tim’s notes for the day.

Info taken from:


Cormac Russell jpegCormac Russell
Cormac is Managing Director of Nurture Development and a faculty member of the Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) Institute at Northwestern University, Chicago. He has trained communities, agencies, NGOs and governments in ABCD and other strengths based approaches in Kenya, Southern Sudan, South Africa, the UK, Ireland, Canada and Australia.

In January 2011 Cormac was appointed to the Expert Reference Group on Community Organising and Communities First, by Nick Hurd MP, Minister for Civil Society in the UK.

Cormac holds degrees in philosophy and psychology and is also an accredited civil and commercial mediator with the ADR group. He uses these and other skills and processes including World Café, Appreciative Inquiry and Open Space Technology alongside strength based thinking to support those with whom he works to move towards inclusive, actionable change.

Cormac has advised on a ground breaking report by I&Dea called The Glass Half Full: how an assets approach can improve community health and well being.

His focus within ABCD is the local community level in terms of community empowerment and citizen driven development.

See also:

  • other examples of Cormac’s work are available on Nurture Development’s website at
  • Cormac presenting on ABCD and social inclusion visit
  • hear Cormac being interviewed about ABCD and the Big Society visit

Two of Cormac’s favourite quotes:

  • “Do not depend on the hope of results … In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything.” – Thomas Merton
  • “What we need is here.” – Wendell Berry

ABCD Institute
The Asset-Based Community Development Institute (ABCD) is at the centre of a large and growing movement that considers local assets as the primary building blocks of sustainable community development. Building on the skills of local residents, the power of local associations, and the supportive functions of local institutions, asset-based community development draws upon existing community strengths to build stronger, more sustainable communities for the future.

“Competent communities have been invaded, captured, and colonised by professionalized services” with devastating results.

Community assets are key building blocks in sustainable urban and rural community revitalisation efforts. These community assets include:

  • the skills of local residents
  • the power of local associations
  • the resources of public, private and non-profit institutions
  • the physical infrastructure and space in a community
  • the economic resources and potential of local places
  • the local history and culture of a neighbourhood

Example of ABCD: Jim Diers in Seattle
Neighbours can generate tremendous power when they come together as a community. They can influence the actions of government, developers, and other external forces. They can also mobilise their own assets—their passion, knowledge, skills, and relationships—in support of caring communities, revitalised neighbourhoods, and a better world.
For more see

In Thurrock…

Towards a “Wellbeing Day”
There are many Third Sector (voluntary and faith) groups and activities which echo the ABCD model, too many to list here. The Christian Faith Community delivers a good number of such Asset-Based projects. Meanwhile, exchanges of skills and knowledge between ordinary people goes on all the time, because that’s how life is actually lived out.

In the film Prometheus, the aliens’ city is marked out by enormous pyramidal (triangular?) structures arranged in orderly rows among the surrounding random mountains. The character discovering the city says, “God does not build in straight lines”.

This simply expressed thought reflects the heart of ABCD, and also Alan Hirsch’s writings (e.g. The Forgotten Ways) and the Newforms’ training referred to elsewhere on this website (see link to left of this article). We need to grasp that all these things coming together are signs thatPICT16982

  • Father is doing a new thing (Isaiah 43:18-19)
  • Father is doing a whole lot of shaking (Hebrews 12:26-29)
  • Father is transforming his people by the renewing of their collective mind (Romans 12:2)
  • Father is healing the land (2 Chronicles 7:14)

Following the much-maligned Wellbeing Survey that the government carried out a while back, Thurrock is deemed to be among the least favoured places to live in the nation. At the time, many objected to this negative labelling, and a few of us began to talk about how we might ‘come in the opposite spirit’. (See articles written at the time to the left of this article.)

Myself, Andy Blakey and Colin Baker (right, praying over the M25 in 2010) have come up with the idea of a day when all of the borough’s community change agencies – which we now know are Asset-Based – can come together with their stories to celebrate the fact that Thurrock IS good news.

After all, Cormac Russell urged us to “celebrate achievement and make it fit for purpose”.

At the ABCD day, folk were invited to speak out their ideas. Andy Blakey gave a short but empassioned and envisioning speech about the idea of a ‘Well-Being Day’ (name yet to be confirmed), the response to which was an enthusiastic round of applause. Thurrock Council are fully supportive of this idea, and planning has begun.

Watch this space!