Tiny House
More About The National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation • Join Now!
Community News

Asset-Based Community Development Institute

The ABCD Institute was formed to assist in providing training nationally regarding the Asset-Based Community Development approaches developed by John McKnight and John Kretzmann at Northwestern University and documented in the book Building Communities from the Inside Out. ABCD produces resources and tools for community builders to identify, nurture, and mobilize neighborhood assets.

From the ABCD website as of September 2013…

The Asset-Based Community Development Institute is located at the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University. ABCD has a staff of three individuals, including the founders, John McKnight and Jody Kretzmann.

We are currently involved in four broad types of community building work:

  • Building community capacity is at the heart of ABCD’s work. ABCD engages directly with community groups to support their asset-based community development efforts. The Institute and its affiliated faculty also participate in an array of local, regional, and international conferences and workshops as keynote speakers, workshop and training facilitators, technical support providers, and learning participants.
  • Using a community-based participatory research approach, ABCD partners with community residents and other local entities to conduct research that helps prepare them to achieve their own community building objectives. ABCD also works with community groups, non-profits, and an array of other institutions to evaluate asset-based community development projects.
  • Working directly with students, Northwestern faculty, and other organizations, ABCD contributes to the development of the next generation of engaged civic leaders and community builders.
  • Producing community building publications and other resources for practitioners and scholars in the community development field, ABCD contributes to a growing body of knowledge about the effectiveness of the asset-based approach to strengthening communities.

ABCD and its affiliated faculty have created a library of community building workbooks, published scholarly articles, books, and chapters oriented to an array of audiences, and developed training curricula and other materials associated with the asset-based community development approach. Additionally, ABCD has gathered community stories from many of its partners and feature them on this website as a resource from which other communities can learn. Finally, ABCD provides examples of asset-mapping tools so that community groups and organizations can borrow from the experiences of others doing asset-based community development work.

Please visit us in the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University, in Evanston, Illinois.

Resource Link: www.abcdinstitute.org


Ascentum is a Canada-based professional services firm that combines a unique technology expertise with specialized management consulting services. Dialogue Circles was Ascentum’s intermodal approach to consultation that aims to maximize the synergies between the traditional and online worlds of consultation and dialogue. Dialogue Circles provided clients with the flexibility to hold online or traditional consultation and dialogue. According to Ascentum, many of the most successful consultation and dialogue endeavors now involve a mix of online tools and traditional face-to-face approaches that complement one another.

Ascentum-logoAs of July 2014, Ascentum lists these offerings on its website:

  • Idea Forum: The online “Idea Forum” tool uses a ‘crowdsourcing’ approach that allows users to post their own ideas around the consultation issue(s). The Idea Forum is a generative approach, designed to bring new ideas into focus. In Ascentum’s Idea Forum crowdsourcing tool, participants are provided with key questions (or themes) that are designed to solicit ideas. In addition to posting ideas, participants can also comment on other ideas and rate an idea by voting it up (like) or down (dislike). Clients also have the option of allowing participants to share their ideas with their friends and colleagues on leading social media platforms (Facebook and Twitter).
  • Choicebooks and Workbooks: are to online engagement what the conversation guide is to in-person conversations: a critical enabler of informed participation. Choicebooks allow participants to place themselves in the shoes of decision-makers, and as the name implies, make tough choices. To this end, they provide balanced information on the issue(s) at hand, outlining benefits, drawbacks and tradeoffs associated with various approaches or options. Scenarios may also be used to illustrate the choices faced by decision-makers. Workbooks, by contrast, focus on providing relevant context information and facts to facilitate issue exploration, allowing participants to familiarize themselves with an issue by “working through it”.In both cases, participants are invited to review the background material provided and share their views by responding to a mix of close-ended and open-ended questions. These guides are often prerequisites for participating in other online engagement activities, since they provide a common baseline of information to all participants.
  • Surveys and polls: Clients can take advantage of customized surveys and polls, of varying length and complexity, delivered online.
  • Story and Idea Submission Tool: This tool allows participants to share their thoughts and experiences in a structured, confidential way by submitting personal stories and ideas. These qualitative submissions represent an invaluable source of experiential data that puts a human face on the issue(s).
  • Design, Hosting and Administration of Consultation Websites: Ascentum offers comprehensive web design, hosting and administration services in support of all its online projects. Typically, a base consultation website is developed, which either replicates the look and feel of an existing client website or has its own unique look and feel. A customized mix of web-based participation tools is then integrated into this base website to support the desired participant experience and outcomes. The consultation website also offers extensive management features (e.g., content management, data export capabilities), participant management features (e.g., participant account creation and management, online registration module, subscription forms) and security features (e.g., login process for secure electronic access, optional SSL 128 bit encryption).

Resource Link: www.ascentum.ca


A program of the Ludwick Family Foundation, Arsalyn promotes constructive dialogue between groups with diverse viewpoints as well as the sharing of models and methods. Arsalyn has been convening a series of regional conferences geared toward helping young people–especially politically active youth–develop skills that will help them communicate effectively with those of opposing views or with more lukewarm potential allies without alienating them or poisoning the wells of deliberation and common action. The aim of these conferences: to explore of the art of political deliberation and to apply this art in 'bridging the partisan divide.'

Resource Link: www.arsalyn.org

Arizona State University – Intergroup Relations Center

The IRC provides education and training opportunities to students, faculty, and staff as well as intergroup conflict prevention and mediation services. It sponsors retreats, workshops, seminars, and institutes for faculty, staff and students, and collects, develops, and disseminates educational resources and data on discrimination, hate crimes, and intergroup conflict incidents at ASU.

Resource Link: www.asu.edu/provost/intergroup/



P.O. Box 871512




Appreciative Inquiry Commons

The AI Commons is a worldwide portal devoted to the fullest sharing of academic resources and practical tools on Appreciative Inquiry and the rapidly growing discipline of positive change. This site is a resource for leaders of change, scholars, students, and business managers–and it is hosted by Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management. http://appreciativeinquiry.case.edu (more…)

Animating Democracy: The Artistic Imagination as a Force in Civic Dialogue

This report reveals pivotal and innovating roles that the arts can play in the renewal of civic dialogue as well as challenges faced by arts and cultural organizations as they engage in this work.

Barbara Schaffer Bacon, Cheryl Yuen and Pam Korza – Animating Democracy Initiative of Americans for the Arts

Americans for the Arts (1999)

Resource Link: www.artsusa.org/animatingdemocracy

Download this resource for free from the Animating Democracy website.

Animating Democracy Initiative

Animating Democracy, a program of Americans for the Arts, fosters arts and cultural activity that encourages and enhances civic engagement and dialogue. It is based on the premise that democracy is animated when an informed public is engaged in the issues affecting people's daily lives. Launched in fall 1999, ADI is a four-year programmatic initiative of Americans for the Arts which fosters artistic activity that encourages civic dialogue on important contemporary issues.

Americans for the Arts works to strengthen the role of artists and cultural organizations in civic life. The arts and humanities can contribute unique programs, settings, and creative approaches that reach new and diverse participants, stimulate public dialogue about civic issues, and inspire action to make change. 

Resource Link: www.artsusa.org/animatingdemocracy

Barbara Schaffer Bacon, Co-Director (with Pam Korza)




The work of AmericaSpeaks began with a clear and compelling vision: to reinvigorate American Democracy by engaging citizens in the public decision-making that most impacts their lives. For nearly two decades, AmericaSpeaks brought this vision to life and, in so doing, made a lasting contribution to the field. Through 150 projects that engaged more than 180,000 people and touched thousands more, AmericaSpeaks repeatedly broke new ground and achieved real results across the U.S. and around the world.

AmericaSpeaks closed its doors in January 2014. In a final blog post, AmericaSpeaks president Steve Brigham wrote: (more…)

Americans Talk Issues

The ATI Foundation promotes a democratic process that combines repeated large-scale, random polling of Americans with 30-minute deliberations between individual voters and unbiased professional interviewers. The result is a consensus of public opinion, which sometimes includes unexpected positions and solutions. As explained in the book Locating Consensus for Democracy, Public Interest Polling provides an inexpensive, practical way to locate a consensus of all Americans on major national issues.

As explained in Locating Consensus for Democracy (LCD),   Public Interest Polling gives us an inexpensive, practical way to locate a consensus of all Americans on major national issues.  It shows that the policies and government actions that most Americans want (75+%) are practical, pragmatic, internally consistent, and persistent over time.   And it shows that there is a huge disconnect between what the people want and what we get.


The mainstream news media takes seriously only policies that political leaders want.  The media justifies ignoring the disconnect because national elections so far confirm that the public simply continues to elect leaders who follow their own agendas and ignore the public's consensus views.


A presidential candidate might run a campaign committed to healing the disconnect and adopting the public consensus.  From the last four elections there is growing evidence that some candidates and their advisors are beginning to consider such a commitment seriously.   A candidate who runs such a campaign more clearly and convincingly than competitors is considerably more likely to be elected than the candidate running the typical campaign promoting the candidate's own agenda.

Resource Link: www.publicinterestpolling.com

National Dialogue on Social Security

In 1999, Information Renaissance collaborated with Americans Discuss Social Security to host a non-partisan electronic discussion and debate on Social Security reform. Thousands of Americans participated in a national discussion with policymakers, experts and each other via the internet. You can browse the archives of this event to learn more about large-scale online discussions.

The National Dialogue on Social Security is part of the Network Democracy program of Information Renaissance, which seeks to expand opportunities for public participation in government through the use of the Internet.

Resource Link: www.network-democracy.org/social-security