Asset based approaches – local challenges and areas for improvement

Featured article - 13 April 2018
By Lynne Bowers, health and care worker and advocate

Head-shot of the author, Lynne Bowers, health and care worker and advocate

When looking at asset-based approaches, that is, assets that exist in communities and how they can be used to support people, the first challenge is to agree a narrative on ‘what is an asset’. 'What’s strong', not 'What’s wrong' - that's a great place to start. The value of an asset is, however, intensely personal and cognitive.

There is increasing recognition of the role of statutory organisations as ‘anchor institutions’. The Third Sector is referenced in all public sector reform documents and, although better collaboration is to be welcomed, there are concerning assumptions about capacity. All charities report a decline in contributions and volunteer availability can be speciality-specific, and geographically, unpredictable.

A sense is emerging that the most effective asset is locally determined, championed and delivered. Small amounts of money produce disproportionately positive results, but how to fund this? There are new economic models evolving that work both outside, and can work within, the prevailing philosophies.

Digital literacy

A major area for improvement is letting people know what is available whether for the individual, professionals, family or carers. There are assumptions made about digital literacy and access and what is perceived as an automatic default to people using websites. Challenges are not yet overcome in supporting seldom heard people and communities.

Assets are ideally hyper-local; and what constitutes local varies with history, demography, politics and culture. We are five nations, each one with villages and our cities are conglomerations of villages bounded by one street. Our nation sits on one Continental Shelf and in an ever-changing world. The biggest challenge and area for improvement is dealing with this level of complexity.

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