What is Asset-based Community Development?
The asset-based approach to community development draws on the strengths of individuals and their community, rather than focusing on their ‘needs’, to solve local problems. It uses local people’s skills, interests, knowledge and connections to address challenges. It works on the premise that communities can drive the development process themselves by identifying and mobilizing these existing, but often unrecognized, ‘assets’.
It’s the opposite of the ‘needs-based’ approach. This focuses exclusively on the problems and deficiencies in a community, such as deprivation, illness and health-damaging behaviours. It designs services to fill the gaps and fix the problems. The result is that people can feel disempowered and dependent upon professionals, passive recipients of services rather than people actively in control of their lives. It turns many in our communities, especially the poor and marginalised, into ‘patients’ and ‘service users’. They no longer turn for support to families and neighbours, which is what people did in the past. This results in these individuals seeing themselves as people with special needs that can only be met by outsiders.
The asset-based approach is a set of values and principles and a way of thinking about the world. In the context of public health, the approach:
- Identifies and makes use of the health enhancing abilities in a community
- Sees citizens and communities as the co-producers of health and wellbeing, active agents in change, rather than the recipients of services
- Promotes community networks, relationships and friendships that can provide caring, mutual help and support
- Recognises that everyone has something to offer – there’s no-one we don’t need
- Values what works well in an area
- Identifies things locally that have the potential to improve health and wellbeing
- Supports individuals’ health and wellbeing through fostering and supporting: self-esteem, coping strategies, resilience skills, relationships, friendships, knowledge and personal resources
- Empowers communities to control their futures and create tangible resources such as services, funds and buildings
- Encourages listening and asks for ideas – decisions should come from conversations where people are heard.
West London Collaborative is committed to investing all profits into assets-based community development projects across north west London.