Training helps neighbors focus on community strengths

Can it really be as simple as ‘A-B-C-D’ to become better neighbors? See why organizers say this training really works …

In a relaxed, directed environment, neighbors share what they desire most to improve their neighborhood in this Asset-Based Community Development training program, held in the Lents neighborhood.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The concept called the “Asset Based Community Development” (ABCD) training program was a relatively new idea when we first learned about it in 2008.

> To see our previous story “Workshop provides the ‘ABCDs’ of community development” that details this program, CLICK HERE.

Apparently, people from all walks of life find this training useful; ABCD trainings continue. We checked in on one of these day-long programs a couple of weeks ago – being held at Kelly Elementary School in the Lents Neighborhood.

Co-facilitator Mike Vander Veen says ABCD trainings help community-minded neighbors meet and learn to work with like-minded individuals.

The event’s registrar and co-presenter, Mike Vander Veen, said he was working through a local organization called “Second Stories” in presenting these trainings along with Clark Blakeman, Andreas London, and Kevin Hiebert.

“The idea is to help people develop more connected, inclusive, and engaged local communities, using the proven ABCD strategy,” Vander Veen said.

Jalene Littlejohn and Christina Baldisseri participate in a partner sharing exercise.

“This one-day workshop provides a place for folks to stop, and really think through how they are approaching community in what they do,” Vander Veen continued. “The terms ‘community’ and ‘work’ are defined by the group. But the approach is based on developing relationships – really listening to folks you’re a working with, and focused on using the assets – to help better the community.”

By focusing effort on discovering and mobilizing the resources that are already present in communities, better solutions and more citizen involvement result, he added. “When people become more productive together – they exercise their power to address problems and realize dreams.”

ABCD participants look to build on assets already existing in their community, facilitators say.

The result of this, Vander Veen added, is there is a greater intersection and interlinking in partnership and operation. “In this way, folks who really care about their community learn to be good resource to other folks that are also doing good things in the community. ‘Cross-pollination’ might be another term to describe it.”

The trainings are relatively inexpensive. For more information about upcoming ABCD programs, contact Mike Vander Veen at

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News.

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