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Taking an asset-based approach

What is it?
This is a useful way of thinking about how to involve and engage people in discussing issues that affect them. It is increasingly used by local authorities and voluntary and community sector organisations to inform the engagement processes they undertake. The approach can be valuable in helping to understand what matters to people, what worries them and what makes them happy. It can help participants feel more positive and enthusiastic about their own skills and potential, and the area they live in. It also aims to help those people to play an active part in coming up with follow-up actions. This can help to build their personal confidence, their social networks with neighbours, local groups and councillors, and to inspire a greater sense of community spirit more widely.

Key principles

  • It’s more productive and more empowering to help people think about what they have, rather than what they don’t have, and to focus on making better use of what already exists – our ‘assets’ – rather than wishing we had something else.
  • ‘Assets’ are not just financial, but a host of things which help us live our lives, whether as individuals and families or as wider neighbourhoods and communities. These could include possessions, community buildings and public spaces, even commercial spaces like local pubs and shops.

As a ‘way of thinking’ it can underpin a range of engagement approaches, but as the central theme of a workshop it can work well for bringing together a specific interest group to reflect on practical things that would make their lives better – for instance, how to keep happy and healthy in old age, or how to cope as a young single parent. Any group of people or a community can benefit from thinking about their assets and how best to use them, but the value can be greatest where people tend to feel more negative about where they live, or are not confident about their own ability to affect positive change in their lives.

Example event plan: Ageing Well workshop