Asset-based approaches to transform communities and services

September 7, 2017

A national network of community practitioners is calling for all public sector professionals and commissioners to work with people’s ‘assets’ rather than their ‘deficits’, if they are to build strong communities and sustainable public services. To enable this, it has published a new briefing on asset-based approaches to transform communities and services.

The briefing gives a compelling case for why asset-based approaches should be the basis of all local area planning and service delivery, and follows on from the launch of Engaging and Empowering Communities in 2016, which gained support from national leaders, including NHS England's Chief Executive, Simon Stevens.

The Asset-Based Area briefing was compiled by Alex Fox OBE, Chief Executive of Shared Lives Plus and Chair of the Building Community Capacity network, hosted by Think Local Act Personal (TLAP), which is leading the way. It describes ten features of an ‘asset-based area’ necessary for developing strong communities and sustainable public services. It will be of interest to council, clinical commissioning group commissioners and wider public professionals.

In it, Fox and the network offer practical guidance with a description of the ten features of an ‘asset-based area’ that nurtures people’s wellbeing, resilience and influence, so that they become equal partners, not passive recipients to the organisations and people who respond to their needs.

They also suggest a number of planning and support models that use asset-based thinking and have been operating for years in different areas and with differing degrees of take up and success. Models include Homeshare schemes, dementia-friendly communities and time-banking.

Alex Fox OBE said, ‘During this period, where there’s huge pressure on money available to local areas, it is more important than ever that every area can find value and build the full range of resources and assets that could be available to it. This would require leaders and decision-makers to see their role as working with, not for, people. Working in co-production with people with health and care needs is at the heart of all asset-based methods.’

Clenton Farquharson MBE, Chair of Think Local Act Personal Board, said, ‘I have nearly 15 years’ experience of arranging my own support and employ a Personal Assistant, who enables me to live a full and active life, including spending time with family and running a Disabled People's User-Led Organisation called Community Navigator Service CIC, besides other interests and ambitions. I don't want to be part of the lucky few, I want more people to be supported and facilitated to live the type of life I enjoy.’

Angela Boyle, Head of Programmes, Coalition for Collaborative Care, said, ‘There is clear evidence that building asset-based areas works. By bringing together people and organisations, we can nurture stronger, healthier communities. This paper supports community leaders with practical tools and models to effectively utilise the powerful assets that already exist in their communities for improved health and wellbeing.’

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