Module 5: Capacity Inventory

Whereas assets can include anything about the surrounding environment and its various constituents (people, institutions, natural resources, physical spaces, economic infrastructure), capacities refer specifically to the skills, or personalized assets, of individuals.

“Each time a person uses his or her capacity, the community is stronger and the person more powerful. That is why strong communities are basically places where the capacities of local residents are identified, valued and used. Weak communities are places that fail, for whatever reason, to mobilize the skills, capacities and talents of their residents or members.”(1)

ABCD organizations have developed “capacity inventories” to aid in identifying existent capacities that could contribute to successful development programs. Taking a capacity inventory typically involves asking community members questions like those in the following categories. This capacity inventory was developed to specifically suit the intentions of the New Prospect Baptist Church of Cincinnati, Ohio.(2)


Gifts are the abilities with which we are born. We may develop them, but no one has to teach them to us.

  1. What positive qualities do people say you have?
  2. Who are the people in your life to whom you give your gifts? How do you give your gifts to them?
  3. When was the last time you shared with someone else? What was it?
  4. What do you give that makes you feel good?


Sometimes we have talents that we’ve acquired in everyday life, such as cooking or fixing things.

  1. What do you enjoy doing?
  2. If you could start a business, what would it be?
  3. What do you like to do that people would pay you to do?
  4. Have you ever made anything? Have you ever fixed anything?


Dreams are the goals we hope to accomplish.

  1. What are your dreams?
  2. If you could snap your fingers and do anything you wanted to, what would you be doing?

Another sample capacity inventory, adapted to the preferences of Greyrock Commons Co-Housing Community in Ft. Collins, Colorado, involved asking community members to identify their gifts of the head, hands, and heart(3):

Gifts I Can Give My Community

Gifts of the Head (things I know something about and would enjoy talking about with others; e.g. art, history, birds)

Gifts of the Hands (things or skills I know how to do and would like to share with others; e.g. carpentry, gardening, cooking)

Gifts of the Heart (things I care deeply about; e.g. protection of the environment, civic life, children)

The strategies proposed by the Asset-Based Community Development Institute, while translatable across culturally distinct contexts, have primarily been used by communities in North America to radicalize the interchange of ideas and skills between empowered individuals. In many of the ABCD success stories, the “community developers” are the community members themselves. They are the ones who identify an opportunity for change and work to achieve that change via sustainable methods.

For circumstances in which organizations or outside groups are involved, applying these capacity inventories both internally and externally is crucial. To explain further, ABCD is unique in that not only does it encourage community developers to discover the skills, desires, dreams, and motivations of community members, but it also asks that community developers take inventory of their own capacities and specialized expertise. So while the ultimate objective of sustainable asset-based community development is the unearthing of local skills and facilitation of local ownership, this does not discount the contribution of external agents. As mentioned in the “Asset Mapping” module, developers would do well to itemize not only the community’s assets, but also their organization’s assets. Likewise, members of a development group should identify, for example, their gifts of the head, hands, and heart in addition to identifying these same qualities in community members so as to best match interests and responsibilities with intended project outcomes.

“In summary, [this] information … is not useful until local individuals, leaders, associations or organizations act to enable the capacities to be used. Community development is the process by which local capacities are identified and mobilized. This mobilization mainly involves connecting people with capacities to other people, local associations, local businesses, local institutions, capital and credit.”(4)

To review these concepts, as you did above, watch Segment 5 (from the 4:50 minute-marker to the 12:13 minute-marker) of Kretzmann and McKnight’s video training program: Mobilizing Community Assets, based on their book Building Communities from the Inside Out. This segment can be found here (scroll down on this “Resources” page of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute to the section with the video segments).

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(1) Kretzmann, J., and McKnight, J. (2003), 1.

(2) Kretzmann, J., McKnight, J., Dobrowolski, S., Puntenney, D. (2005): 23.

(3) Ibid, 24.

(4) Kretzmann, J., and McKnight, J. (2003), 4.