our methods

We believe that community storytelling is not only a process, but an essential outcome of community development.

  • Review of Literature and Best Practices
  • Community Questionnaires
  • Community Vital Signs
  • Community Asset Mapping
  • Community Conversations
  • Asset Planning and Priority Setting Processes

Our Approach

We work to inspire communities to continue telling their stories well after our reports are written. Our methods draw inspiration from the communities we serve and well-established social scientific methods. Each new project is unique and challenges us to design and seek out new methods. In the past, our work has employed a combination of four main methods.

Review of National Literature and Best Practices

Our projects are anchored in a comprehensive analysis of nationally recognized literature on and “best practices” in community development. Our methods ensure that (a) core insights of ABCD methodology are reflected, (b) nationally accepted approaches to community assessment are followed, and (c) core insights about effective action plan development and asset-based intervention strategies are considered. It is equally important that resources, toolkits and guidebooks deemed relevant are reviewed and offered to the community as forms of empowerment to create effective change.

Community Questionnaires

Our questionnaires assess community needs, community assets, and the aspirations of community members and organizations. The questions we use are rooted in previously validated and reliable tools. We first gather the characteristics of communities to ensure representativeness in our samples. Our questionnaires often focus on perceptions of community (strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats) and the motivations of members and organizations to better their community. They provide a basis for conducting further investigation and the application of other methods to understand the needs, assets, and aspirations within co

Community Vital Signs Assessment

At the core of every community assessment is an analysis of available data on socio-demographic and economic indicators that define the community, its residents, and its organizations. Examples of such data include: household composition, income indicators, health and public safety indicators, school performance measures, and other economic and life quality indicators. This methodology calls for assembling what is known about variables that have bearing on the vitality of the community.

Community Asset Mapping

The asset-based community development (ABCD) framework calls for creating desired community transformations by making effective use of the many assets within the community - including its people, facilities, institutions, programs and services. We gather a comprehensive inventory of these assets. We also assist communities in developing strategies to integrate and leverage their assets.

Community Conversations

A typical feature of ABCD assessments is to create a variety of opportunities for extensive conversations with and among the residents and organizations comprising the fabric of the community. These conversations take place in many forms, including one-on-one conversations, focus groups, town halls, and neighborhood meetings. Our process often includes both focus groups and interviews. Collectively, these methods offer a view into the prevailing concerns, hopes and aspirations of community members – both in general and in particular contexts.

Action Planning and Priority‐Setting Processes

Our assessments assists community organizations and members establish investment priorities based upon the results of the assessment process. Our team has experience in group-process facilitation with both private and public sector organizations. We encourage communities to select priorities based on their capacity to:  (1) perpetuate and enhance the community’s vision; (2) recognize the community’s diversity; (3) develop selfsustaining community development processes; (4) leverage existing resources and create new forms of selfsustaining revenue streams; and (5) establish a culture of performance-based learning using future evaluations.

*These descriptions of our approach are primarily derived from our previous reports.