Sunday, February 18, 2018
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" Nature knows no pause in progress and development, and attaches her curse on all inaction. "

~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Recognising the Tools for Change

Villagers from Hlomendlini Village in Alfred NzoVillagers from Hlomendlini Village in Alfred NzoVillagers from Hlomendlini Village in Alfred Nzo identify skills and resources in their village that they can put to use for community development. They are involved in a CIDA-funded ECNGOC project, facilitated by Matatiele NGO Matat-EDA. The project is one of several ECNGOC projects that uses Asset-based Community Development methodology to improve the lives of communities in the Eastern Cape.

The Eastern Cape NGO Coalition promotes the approach of Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD). What do we mean by an ‘asset’? Well, think of all the skills a community has – builders, gardeners, teachers, leaders – as well as resources such as land and buildings, or equipment like shovels, bikes and cars. ABCD is about identifying the collective assets in a community or project, then putting them to good use. It is the opposite to what is sometimes called a ‘needs-based approach’, where people start from the premise of what’s missing, then look for external assistance in order to achieve their development goals.

Villagers from Hlomendlini Village in Alfred Nzo Villagers from Hlomendlini Village in Alfred Nzo

A story to explain

The following story helps explain the concept…

Two villages were planning separate celebrations. They each had plans to cook a delicious soup to feed all the people at their party.

The first village looked at the recipe for the soup and said, “We don’t have these ingredients. Let’s delay the party till we get them.”

The second village looked at the recipe and said, “Too bad we don’t have some of the ingredients, but we don’t want to delay the party. Let’s look at what we have and see what we can make instead.”

The second village put a pot of water on the boil and discussed what each person could bring. They quickly gathered the ingredients from their homes and gardens; salt, an onion, carrots, a chicken, some rice, a cabbage. Using their own cooking knowledge, they soon decided on a new recipe which was different to the original but promised to be equally tasty. Then they gathered around the pot and cooked, stirred, sampled and added till they had a wonderful soup for all to share. The party was a huge success. Soon people from other places heard about the delicious broth they made and wanted to contribute too so that they could also enjoy the soup. And so the pot was always full and people in the village were healthy and happy.

Meanwhile, the people in the first village gathered around their empty pot. They grew increasingly despondent. Their long faces did not encourage anyone to contribute to their soup. And so they simply sat, unhappy and hungry.


What can assets include?

The village that went ahead and made their soup, using what they had, demonstrates what ABCD is about. Identifying assets as ingredients for a ‘development soup’ allows communities to come up with their own ingredients and recipes. Assets can include:
  • Concepts - people’s creativity, culture, understanding and insights.
  • Capabilities – people’s abilities, talents and skills.
  • Capacity – access to resources such as money, infrastructure (roads, transport  etc), land, water and bio-diversity. Human rights, or rights of South African citizens according to the Constitution, is also a resource that can be put to use by a community through its capacity to undertake advocacy.
  • Connections – access to teachers and advisors, markets, government and other institutions.
The Eastern Cape NGO Coalition promotes ABCD by discussing with its membership the concept and tools of ‘appreciative development’ so that each organization, project or community can develop its own unique ‘development soup’.

If you are interested in finding out more about ECNGOC’s ABCD methodology, continue to visit this website as we add tools and case studies to it in the months ahead.

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