Some Definitions

What is: Asset Based Community Development:
Asset-based Community Development (ABCD) is presented as an alternative to needs-based approaches to development. It’s pretty new and innovative stuff in Australia but speak to anyone who has been working in International Aid and they’ll tell you that it’s been a rule-of-thumb when working in the majority world for some time.

Asset Based Community Development is a methodology which seeks to uncover the strengths within communities as a means for sustainable 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.

For the Church (and particularly Churches with congregational/flat/bottom-up models of leadership) this shouldn’t be new stuff because we have know of the value of it within our congregations for a long time- this is now just about how we apply these same strengths to enriching the lives of the community we live in.

Watch a 3 minute video summary of ABCD here

What is: Co-Design?
The ‘co’ in co-design stands for collaborative. Co-design is a problem solving methodology that develops solutions through the collaboration of people experiencing problems with professionals of different disciplines. Typically co-design projects use a staged process that starts with the design team developing an understanding of people in context before creating and testing solutions with those people in context.

A significant number of businesses use co-design for innovation in product and services, and increasingly co-design is being used to tackle social problems by social innovation labs, governments and not-for-profits in the UK, Europe, US, Canada, Africa and Australia.

Co-design is founded on a belief that effective solutions won’t come from professionals working alone, or even from professionals working across disciplines, but from people and professionals working together – each drawing on the other’s expertise. To adopt a co-design approach is to have decision-making about services and solutions be driven by the end users of those solutions. Co-design enables a shift of power – however it is not a true bottom-up methodology, nor a top-down methodology, but both bottom-up and top-down.

What is: Design for Social Innovation (System Thinking)
So this is a big one for me.  Every time I have a light-bulb moment in community development world and share it with my lovely husband he responds with something similar to; “I learned that in design school.”

So that got me thinking- why aren’t we, as community investors, learning more from “design school”.  Then I found out I wasn’t alone in thinking this.  Many think-and-do-tanks were cottoning-on to the same thought. I was particularly blessed to have the opportunity not long ago particularly to hang out with these guys for a day and talk about this:

Watching stuff like “The Story of Stuff” only made me more passionate to want to use this “design thinking” for good and not for “evil”.  Designers today (my honourable and highly-moral husband included) spend so much time designing stuff for the trash heap.   About 99% of the products currently bought by western consumers (and created beautifully by designers) will be trash in only six months’ time!

And me (with my Mother Teresa complex) keeps asking HOW can we, rich westerners, not see that we only live how we live because so many people (in the majority world) are poor? *mini-rant over for now*

At the same time many of my friends are beginning to give themselves the title of “entrepreneurs”.  So I ask: What is the meaning of adding value as an entrepreneur today? Is it solely about making the next hip toothbrush or keeping stakeholders happy with profits?

What is the value of a designer in the rapidly changing world today?  Well based on my convos with hubby I think a big one!  Design and entrepreneurship are collaborative acts and the skills and mentality of both designers and entrepreneurs should be shared with people around the world. About listening to community  about form following function, about adding value not just meeting need, and about taking off our “expert-hats” and allowing the process to become what it must be.

8 Responses to Some Definitions

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  2. John Baxter says:

    Wait wait wait, I missed the definition. What ARE Community Design Principles? I do very much like the sound of it, but not sure what you mean.

    I very much see the benefit of a lot of design techniques in all sorts of areas, and do lament that there aren’t more designers making inroads into other fields. People like you and I on the edges can help, but the non-designers will never pull them in because they don’t see the need (until they taste the contrast).

    You might like this article on pattern languages as a method of developing pragmatic fields of knowledge… yes, it’s a design thing. I think pattern languages (very akin to principles) have a lot of potential in community practices:

  3. Thanks for your input John.
    Are you involved in:
    I’m having a look at this at the moment and it looks fantastic!

    The more I look at the world of community development the more I realise how much we can learn from a number of different disciplines. For example a colleague of mine recently ran a document he is producing to describe a community engagement process past a friend of his who works as a system engineer. For his mindset of engineering this friend was able to afford my colleague a lot of insight.

    I have said this often to my Board of Governance: “don’t take your business hats off and try to force a community services hat on when we meet because I need your professional perspectives.”

    Having said this I do particularly think designers (in all their creative forms) have an awful lot to offer to the community sector: especially in designing solutions collaboratively with communities and applying their creative minds and entrepreneurial expertise to help us learn to be more risky and innovative with our approaches.

    Obviously this has a lot of cross over with the Co-Design stuff you’re engaged in (they may be one and the same but I thought they were worth individual consideration as frameworks). I have also heard it referred to as Social Design and Human-Centred Design. To be honest I’m not quite sure why I chose Community Design Principles over the other two possible names… I may chose to change that at some point if it helps make things clearer.

    • John Baxter says:

      Oh, I see – you meant community design principles as a method of engagement and collaboration? That is quite different to the ‘pattern language’ I had assumed it was like. (i.e. community design as something communities do, not as a lense to understand how they work)

      I think in the human/organic disciplines there is a lot of overlap and a lot to learn, especially since these are all still being formed. (In comparison to business / industrial / mechanic systems which have developed established niches.)

      And yes, CoCreate is my thing… Experiments creating systems which empower people to actively contribute to the development of the world around them (i.e. cocreate it), instead of being shut out by the specialised industrial-type systems we build at the moment. Good things happen there. : )

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