ABCD works with students at Northwestern University and other schools and colleges in the Chicago area through several mechanisms, including teaching, civic engagement, and hands-on experiential learning opportunities.


Jody Kretzmann teaches Introduction to Community Development to undergraduate students from a variety of programs at Northwestern. The course examines both historic and contemporary community building efforts, paying special attention to approaches that were shaped by Chicago. This urban center, often described as a "city of neighborhoods," has long been a seedbed for community-based problem solving inventions. Jane Addams and her colleagues developed the Settlement House in Chicago. Saul Alinsky gave shape to modern community organizing. Scores of Chicago neighborhoods have developed effective community economic development organizations. Today, community building continues unabated, both in Chicago and across North America. Students in this course have the opportunity to learn from Professor Kretzmann as well as the numerous community leaders he brings in as guest speakers in the class.

Civic Engagement

All of the work of the ABCD Institute has at its core a solid commitment to civic engagement, and the Institute has been instrumental in the founding of a Center for Civic Engagement at Northwestern University. Jody Kretzmann was at the forefront of discussions about the importance of such a center at the university, and central to the planning, funding, and implementation effort. The Center for Civic Engagement promotes active citizenship and social responsibility among members of the Northwestern community, including students, faculty, and staff. The center supports and supplements an already substantial series of courses across several departments and programs that provide students with opportunities to become actively involved in Chicagoland communities. These include the field studies programs at both the School of Education and Social Policy and Weinberg College of Arts and Science, the Undergraduate Leadership Program, the Freshman Urban Program, the Civic Education Project, as well as the Asset-Based Community Development Institute. The Center for Civic Engagement's programs also include Engage Chicago, the Civic Engagement Certificate Program, Evanston Civic Internship, the Northwestern University Public Interest Program (NUPIP), as well as various graduate engagement opportunities.

Experiential Learning

The ABCD Institute reflects the principles of experiential learning through all its activities, believing that individuals learn best through engaging in real-life, work-on-the-ground experiences that enable them to understand the work at its core. Jody Kretzmann is the facutly member for Engage Chicago and currently acts as an advisor to the Freshman Urban Program, which introduces incoming freshmen at Northwestern to Chicago neighborhoods and the community organizations within them. The mission of FUP is to educate students about the city in which they will be living and help them understand ways they can be involved in social change. Kretzmann also provides an opportunity for the students in his three courses, Introduction to Community Development, Schooling in Communities, and Introduction to International Community Development, to work with local nonprofit groups in and around the city of Chicago and around the world. Kretzmann was a founding faculty member of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest's Urban Studies Program which provides undergraduate students from thirteen midwestern colleges experiential learning opportunities with local organizations in Chicago that teach them about the major sociological and political issues of the day.

The Mercado Central is a retail business cooperative that was developed by the Latino immigrant community in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Mercado Central (Cooperative Mercado Central) is the result of the creativity and hard work of members of this community, who joined forces with a faith-based organizing group and numerous community organizations to build a traditional marketplace in their inner-city neighborhood. Currently home to 44 businesses, the Mercado Central has transformed the lives of people in this community by recognizing their capacity to build their own local economy in a manner that reflected their traditions.

Visit this month's Featured ABCD Story


First Lady and ABCD faculty member Michelle Obama mentions the Asset-Based Community Development Institute and partner organization Public Allies in a speech at a conference hosted June 16, 2009 by Greater  DC Cares. Visit Michelle Obama's faculty page to read her speech.

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