From strength to strength

13 Jan 2016   |   Blog   |   Cambodia   |   Long-term Development

At Caritas Australia, we take a strengths-based approach to our long-term development programs. This approach is based on the principle that everyone has inherent God-given dignity and worth. And every member of a community has the right and capacity to participate in building their community’s future.

In our development programs, we identify and build on the strengths, abilities and assets that communities possess. This is called asset-based community development (ABCD). The intention is always to make best use of existing resources and ensure that the community is driving its own development process. In this process, a community starts by mapping its assets.

Recently ABCD was introduced in our Cambodia office as an important element to be incorporated in the design of programs for communities. At a workshop, an international expert from South Africa led ten of our Cambodian partner organisations through the ABCD process. Also present were Kath Rosic and Chanthea Nou, two of Caritas Australia’s Asia Programs staff from our national office.

Introducing asset based community development

The concept of ABCD centres around people identifying what assets they already have in their community. It’s especially important for communities to recognise that there are a whole range of different types of assets they might have – from human assets, to natural assets and social assets.

Diagram of asset based community development

All the staff from the Cambodia office worked together, embracing the ABCD method by mapping their assets and creating together a vision for the future that built on community strengths.

Cambodia office staff working together

One of the ABCD tools the staff learnt about was the ‘Leaky Bucket’. Using the concept of a leaky bucket, community members can explore what financial strengths and assets they have coming in, and also what financial assets flow out.

Here’s an example the staff came up with. They identified their many assets (top section), and their expenses (bottom section), such as healthcare, housing and education.

Leaky bucket tool

Bringing the idea to the communities

After the workshops, it was then time to bring the idea of ABCD out to our partners and the communities. Two communities were involved in a two day workshop of this new approach. The ideas of ABCD were discussed with the community in everyday terms, such as using a water bottle to explain the Leaky Bucket tool.

Explaining asset based community development

Community members then put their heads together to map their assets in their community. Creating a collective diagram of their assets and expenses enabled community members to realise that all are jointly responsible for sustainable development, and need to identify their priorities together.

Community working together

During the exercise, community members expressed their resolve to create the changes they desire, recognising their capacity to be active agents for development in their own community.

Community members sharing their ideas

Through sharing their ideas and a reflection at the end the end of the workshop, communities began to develop a shared vision for their own future, firmly based in their many shared strengths.

Community sharing and reflection

I am very happy to attend this group discussion because I can express my opinion through drawing pictures and then I present my group results in plenary group. Importantly, I have learnt a lot about community assets and development activities in my community, so I wish to participate with my villagers to develop my community.”
Sokhom, 15 year old student, August 2015

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