About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Asset-Based Community Development for Local Authorities

This guide proposes a way of working that changes the relationship between a local authority, its citizens, and communities by focusing on ‘what’s strong, not what’s wrong’. It explores how to embed and proliferate the use of asset-based community development (ABCD) within local government and lays out the key steps in implementing ABCD, illustrated by real stories that show how the approach can be adapted to suit different contexts and create change within communities.

The communities we live in and the relationships we have are the primary source of our physical and mental health – which in turn affects the kind of life we are able to live and what part we can play in society. By investing in communities, local authorities can focus on cultivating the conditions for people to flourish – and, over time, reduce the demand for services at the point of crisis.

ABCD approaches show that connecting people and creating more resident-to-resident relationships builds interdependence and reliance on each other. Connecting people to their shared interests, and enabling them to exchange skills and resources, helps communities identify and take action on the issues that are most important to them.

The experiences of the local authorities captured in this guide demonstrate how a new operating model for local government can be brought to life through practical action. With a mindset that understands communities as a source of rich abundance comes the ability to put ABCD principles into practice by building the right supporting infrastructure and capabilities.

Asset-based approaches can take many forms and are best thought of as a spectrum of options rather than a strict set of rules. This is partly determined by what a local area needs and what a local authority is able to offer – ABCD is inherently place-based, responding to an individual community and its geography, resources, strengths and talents.

The films below demonstrate how different councils have used ABCD to build different kinds of relationships with, and between, citizens.

Asset-based community development for local authorities

An overview of the asset-based work being done in Gloucester, York and Leeds.

Three good friends

How Leeds City Council uses asset-based community development to help citizens lead better lives.

A safer, healthier, happier place for all

How asset-based community development is helping Gloucester City Council build a radically different relationship with residents.

People helping people

How City of York Council is using asset-based community development to create resilient communities.

This guide was created using the insight and practical experiences of the Upstream Collaborative's Asset-Based Community Development workgroup.

Explore the New Operating Models Handbook

Go back


Jenni Lloyd

Jenni Lloyd

Jenni Lloyd

Programme Manager, Innovation Programmes

Jenni was a Senior Programme Manager, responsible for the development, management and delivery of government innovation programmes.

View profile

Emily Reynolds

Emily Reynolds is a freelance writer and copy editor.