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Enabling Gifts

Every single person has capacities, abilities and gifts. Living a good life depends on whether those capacities can be used, abilities expressed and gifts given.

John McKnight (co-founder of the Asset Based Community Development framework)


Ideas about GIFTS are central to the worldview that gives life to Asset Based Community Development (ABCD). Helping to identify, appreciate, and enable the giving and receiving of gifts, of everyone in our communities, is at the heart of the ABCD community-building practice. In this worldview, the more citizens contribute their gifts to the well-being of their neighbours and their community, the healthier, safer and thriving communities (and their members) will be.


In the ABCD worldview, gifts include three basic categories:

  • gifts of the head - things that we know and would enjoy to talk about or to teach and share learning about with others - for example, we may know how to play the guitar, create a garden, manage a program, read, create a meal, develop and app…

  • gifts of the heart - things that we care deeply about, our passions, hopes and dreams - we may care deeply about leaving a better world for our children, or about revegetating a local creek, or ensuring that each person in our community has access to a home, or that all animals are treated humanely …

  • gifts of the hands - things that we can do, skills and abilities that we can share with others, including ways that we can ‘lend a hand’ - we may be able to care for children, make bookshelves, give blood, plant trees, look after a neighbour’s dog…

We can also focus on all kinds of other gifts … including gifts of ancestors, of community connection, and of daily life. Ways of thinking about, mapping and enabling gifts are limited only be the imagination (a gift in itself) and creativity (another one) of those looking to grow and sustain community for the benefit of all.


This emphasis on gifts, including strengths and assets, is at the heart of so much of the work that Centres do in their communities. The question of ‘What can we do together, to nurture the life of our community and its members?’ could be seen as a ‘founding question’ of our network. Another way of putting this might be - how could we use and grow our gifts, to grow and strengthen our community for all?


So a ‘key skill’ in our work as community builders could be described as ‘enabling gifts’. Being able to recognise, appreciate, draw forth and enable the giving and receiving of gifts is a gift in itself - and one that a can itself be grown, nurtured and developed.


Along this path, the ABCD of Thriving Communities team has begun to explore some questions that will develop our abilities in this area. We’ll be reflecting on and evolving these questions as we travel through the coming year. We’ve included a PDF of the questions so far, in case you would like to choose a couple for holiday reflections or simply to carry with you over the summer break …


And if you feel like it, let us know what you learned or what it was like to reflect on these questions! We’d love to hear your stories, insights, suggestions, questions, or ideas about enabling gifts, and to share them among our network … email us on abcdofthrivingcommunities@linkwest.asn.au

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