“Start with what you have, build with what you know.”

The above slogan describes the essence of asset based community-led development (ABCD), a people-centered empowerment approach that encourages people and communities to ‘do things for themselves and each other’.

As noted by one of the drivers of ABCD in South Africa, Bernie Dolley from Ikhala Trust, ABCD “builds on communities’ existing assets (physical, social, financial, natural, human). This approach diverges from mainstream development paradigms, that are deficit oriented and needs based that often undermines and appreciates what communities have already done for themselves and by and large treats vulnerable communities as passive recipients in need of help and fixing.”

Watch this short animation done in partnership with Luc van der Walt from True Colours to get a better understanding…

Calabash received training and ongoing mentoring from Ninette Eliasov from Elamanzi and Ikhala Trust, where we work with an understanding that sustainable development comes from within. The term was coined by Kretzman and McNight (1993) who researched organised communities and found that efforts are more effective and longer-lasting when community members themselves dedicated their time and talents to creating the changes they desire (rather than waiting for outside “expert” help and focusing on what is lacking).

We facilitate ABCD workshops with schools and communities, which includes:

  • Shifting paradigms from negative, needs based to positive thinking;
  • Taking stock of and building on local assets (e.g. stories, knowledge, innovations, talents, associations, networks, local institutions, physical assets, natural resources, financial resources, cultural assets);
  • Visioning and planning from this point of strength;
  • Business development and project management training based on opportunities identified;
  • Creatively developing resources based on local knowledge and stories;
  • Detailed process reports.

[Please wait for a few pictures of ABCD workshops to load…]


  • To support an asset based initiative, visit our Donate page

  • For reports and more information, visit Resources

  • If you require ABCD facilitation and/or asset mapping, please Contact Us