Instead of focusing on a community's needs, deficiencies and problems, asset-based community development helps them become stronger and more self-reliant by discovering, mapping and mobilizing all their local assets. Few people realize how many assets any community has:
By the late 1990s, communities around the country were mapping and using these resources in imaginative ways, bringing them out of the closet and into creative synergy with each other, with dramatic results. Asset-based community development has provided leaders and institutions in all sectors with an approach that is relatively cheap, effective and empowering, that avoids paternalism and dependence -- an approach that can be supported by all parts of the political spectrum and initiated at any level of civic life.
John P. Kretzmann and John L. McKnight, Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community's Assets (Center for Urban Affairs and Policy Research, 1993; $15 from ACTA Publications  397-2282)