How would we know that an area had become asset-based?

Featured article - 14 February 2020
By Alex Fox and Clenton Farquharson

Head-shot of the author, Alex Fox and Clenton Farquharson

In the previous blog, we revisited the Asset-Based Area (ABA) model which tried to distil down how an area can become asset-based in everything it does from strategy down to the grassroots, into ten actions, starting with mapping your local assets, and including sharing power with people who are usually excluded, and building a diverse range of community approaches which are now gathered in an online catalogue. Three years after the original thinking, we are developing the ABA model in more detail through the Social Care Innovation network.

We’ve grouped the ten actions into three:

  • Co-production, partnership and power sharing: building & valuing community capacity and community organisations, tackling inequalities.
  • A strategic approach: a clear story translated into shared outcomes, asset-based commissioning, grant-giving, and provider market development.
  • Diversifying workforces & building local enterprise: investing in volunteers & social entrepreneurs, valuing lived experience, growing mutuals & co-ops.

Becoming Asset-Based

In this section, we want to think about how we would know that an area had become asset-based. What would we measure and how?

Greater Manchester has adopted use of system activity measures collected every quarter, combined with a range of personal outcome measures collected locally across the city region. These include measures already well-established across public services, such as health outcomes, measures of demand and cost, and wellbeing outcomes: recognising that wellbeing - living a good life in a good home and a welcoming community – is intertwined with more clinical outcomes.

Key Human Indicators

Many areas and organisations have Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Perhaps every area needs Key Human Indicators. Are people achieving wellbeing? That usually means that people who need support are able to experience the right balance of independence and connection for them, which will change at different times in their lives. For workers and systems, KHIs will include warmth, kindness (as set out in Julia Unwin’s brilliant report) and dignity. Networks can be more important than bureaucratic service structures. In Shared Lives, friendships are seen as key indicators of wellbeing, so Shared Lives Plus’ national outcomes measuring tool asks participants how many friends they have and whether Shared Lives support is helping them make and sustain those connections, or getting in the way.

At a community level, KHIs could include the extent to which local resources have been identified and mobilised, and the impact that services are having on enabling communities to overcome vulnerability and disadvantage. Birmingham University’s ICECAP-A measurement tool links wellbeing and economic development, measuring:

  • Attachment (an ability to have love, friendship and support)
  • Stability (an ability to feel settled and secure)
  • Achievement (an ability to achieve and progress in life)
  • Enjoyment (an ability to experience enjoyment and pleasure)
  • Autonomy (an ability to be independent)

What measures do you see as most important? In our final section, we will consider the behaviour changes we would expect to see in an Asset-Based Area, and again ask for your input, before we put all of these questions to the group of councils and innovative organisations with whom we are working in phase 2 of the Social Care Innovation Network.

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