1. Reframe the narrative from deficits to assets

Bring together local people to co-produce an area-wide vision of how an asset-based approach might look in practice. Agree and adopt the building blocks of a whole system model to begin to change embedded organisational cultures.

An asset-based approach recognises the potential of people’s strengths and resilience. It moves the narrative from solutions that are narrowly focused on needs, towards policies and interventions that are redesigned around what people and communities already possess and are capable of doing

A key assumption underpinning this model is that even troubled communities have the ability to set their goals and drive change.

All communities are repositories of aspirations, resources, capabilities and social capital that can be mobilised and activated to improve outcomes and increase the wellbeing of their members.

Local people – whether they are people who use services, carers or families – are placed firmly at the heart of asset-based approaches, as coproducers of the process.

The table illustrates what refocusing the policy narrative and practice towards assets may imply.

Deficit approachAsset approach
Starts with deficiencies and needsStarts with assets in the community
Responds to problemsIdentifies opportunities and strengths
Provides services to usersInvests in people as citizens
Emphasises the role of agenciesEmphasises the role of civil society
Focuses on individualsFocuses on communities and neighbourhoods
Sees people as clients/people who ‘use’ servicesSees people as citizens and co-producers with something to offer
Treats people as passive and ‘done to’Helps people to take control of their lives
‘Fixes people’Supports people to develop their potential

Source: LGA Task and Finish Group on Ageing (2015)

Examples of how key enablers can be achieved:

  • Focus on people as assets
  • Shift power to communities through co-production and partnership with voluntary, community and social enterprise sectors
  • See public services as catalysts and facilitators