“Community development” is a rather catch-all term which generally refers to infrastructure improvements, business development, and city or regional planning, sometimes crossing over into the social realm of citizen involvement. “Asset-based community development” (ABCD) includes all the above, but with a major focus on social capital in addition to fiscal and natural resources. (For more about ABCD, visit the ABCD Institute or read this abstract.)
The basic idea is simple: Build on your strengths. In order to do so, strengths must first be identified accurately. Then, the next logical step is to develop those strengths as differentiating factors for business retention and recruitment, civic planning, etc.
TIP Strategies incorporated some aspects of ABCD in their Economic Development Plan for Northfield (complete PDF here) . In their professional, objective opinion, they identified Northfield’s unique strengths as:
- Highly educated workforce
- Authentic downtown
- The presence of St Olaf and Carleton Colleges
But in addition to the combination of assets above which are readily visible to the outside world, I believe Northfield has other assets of remarkable strength which may not be as easily recognized, but nonetheless contribute to the “asset base” upon which we can build.
For example, Northfield has a large number of people involved in significant volunteer efforts, both civic and charitable. We also have a thriving and growing online community dialog, which is unusual nationwide (and particularly so in a town of our size). These are just two examples, and I’m sure there are many others.
Can you help me identify more? They may be difficult to quantify, but it helps paint a more complete picture of this community.