Needs-based Vs. Asset-based Community Development Approaches

There’s a real difference in a community development approach that’s based on needs rather than assets.

Historically, much of community development has been based on needs due in part to government involvement. Grant programs often are managed by government agencies and directed toward meeting the needs that those government agencies have identified in various communities.

Let’s take a look at needs-based development.

Two things stand out that I believe should be considered:

1.  The differences between what government agencies see as the needs in a community vs. what those who live in the community believe to be their needs.

I’m among those who think that the residents of the community are the people most capable of accurately assessing their needs.

2.  Majoring in negatives rather than building on positives.

This one strikes at the heart of what’s too often already present in community development — discouragement. It’s a daunting task to put together and implement a successful community development program.

Here’s a global view of the two approaches that will make as much sense in rural Arkansas as rural Africa. I hope you will take the time to read it.

Increasingly, community development is tied to global considerations.

— Dan Cowling



4 Responses to Needs-based Vs. Asset-based Community Development Approaches

  1. Thanks Dan. This paper (downloadable as a pdf) is a real gem! I’ve sat through too many needs-based community assessments and watched the energy drain out of the room, just when the community needed to be rallying.
    One more step in this process is the “how” piece. Marci Penner at the Kansas Sampler Foundation teaches Kansas residents how to do their own town’s assessment in 8 categories of Rural Cultural Elements. Everything fits into these 8 categories.
    People finish with pride and enthusiasm, and the results lead to action. Check it out at Marci and I have been in discussion about how to get this program available everywhere.

    • Dan Cowling says:

      Thanks Joanne. Your Rural Cultural Elements are excellent! A perfect way to put rural community planners on a positive path.

  2. cpap says:

    Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though
    you relied on the video to make your point.
    You definitely know what youre talking about, why waste your intelligence on just posting videos
    to your blog when you could be giving us something informative to read?

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