Analysis of the Role of Asset-Based Approach in Sustainable Community Development (Case Study: Imamzadeh Hassan Neighborhood, Tehran)

Document Type : Research Article



The Sustainable Community Movement offers a response to global issues by linking the practice of community development with detrimental global impacts, suggesting that our most critical global environment issues are rooted in local and day-to-day problems. In particular, this movement notes that global risks affecting our human habitats, are local matters more often than not created by humans. Therefore, the action to address the negative consequences recognized at the global level requires human interventions at the local level, where humans experience the integration of legislation, policies and planning practice. In this regard, “local viewpoint” has substituted “comprehensive viewpoint” and according to this standpoint, development commences from the very smallest urban unit that is “community”. Community development has two main approaches: one is “need-based approach” which is influenced by entitlement policy and believes in technical values and the other is “asset-based approach” that implies on local capitals, residents’ participation and capacity building. In recent years, Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) has caught the attention of numerous community development experts. As an alternative to the more commonly practiced need-based approach, ABCD shifts the focus of community development from “problem-solving” to “asset-building”. This approach is premised on the idea that people need to take control of their own lives. It is committed to the idea that people can and should take more responsibility for identifying their own needs and managing their own welfare, resources and directions. This is well-aligned to the holistic approach of developing sustainable communities. Community assets mainly include social and physical capital. Social capital as an important part of local capacity can be used by individuals and groups to facilitate their accessibility to local resources. Also physical capital (buildings, roads, open and public spaces) which makes up the most visible and formal part of a community’s fabric, is essential to the success of community development process. It is known that social capital is multi-dimensional with each dimension contributing to the meaning of social capital although each alone is not able to capture fully the concept in its entirety. Also it is clear that the components of social capital need to be treated as multidimensional rather than one dimensional. Measurement of social capital to contain its multidimensionality is a major issue in experimental research. Scientists have proposed a set of indices to measure various dimensions of social capital such as participation and social engagement, perception of community, social interaction, social trust, reciprocity and social cohesion. In this article, after the introduction of asset-based community development approach and sustainable community development, different aspects of them are investigated. In this regard, organized participation tendency and quality of physical facilities (as the main goals and important factors in sustainable community development), as well as the social and physical capital (as two main assets in community level) are studied. The indicators of the research are extracted from domestic and international studies and are measured through survey and random sampling in Imamzadeh Hassan neighborhood. To determine the presence or absence of correlation between local assets and sustainable community development factors, the indicatorswere turned into quantitative variables and analyzed with SPSS software. The results of correlation analysis indicate that there isa direct relation between local capitals and sustainable community development factors. Therefore, the main research hypothesis is proved. Also the results of multiple regression and path analysis of sustainable community development, social capital and physical capital indicate that social capital has direct increasing effect on both organized participation tendency (0.477) and quality of physical facilities (0.369). This is while physical capital mediated by social capital has an increasing effect (0.448) on organized participation tendency and quality of physical facilities.Such analysis and comprehensive studies, an example of which is presented here, can be a guide for planners and urban designers. However, any urban development plan needs to be based on an infrastructure. The context for the practical application of this approach should also be emphasized.  This will help further consolidate the local assets and allowthe growth of non-governmental and community-based organizations. Needless to say that this will require a special attention to the capacity of the partnership.