Relocating power to citizens for an asset-based area

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In their fifth How-to guide, Clive Miller & Alex Fox look at the shifting positions and perspectives of people and communities when they work in partnership with commissioners to build an asset-based area. 

Asset-Based Areas actively relocate power to their citizens. They see their role as working with, not for, people; and bring individuals and groups together. Partnership is their default mode with all of their staff and partners trained in asset-based thinking and co-production. This changes the roles played by people, communities and services; some of those changes will be welcomed; others questioned or resisted.  

People and communities who have yet to make the shift to asset-based approach will experience a number of changes, from being ‘customers’ of services to ‘co-producers’:

  • Moving from not recognising or valuing their own contribution to understanding and valuing their own contribution to achieving outcomes
  • Moving from mostly valuing practitioner expertise to recognising the equal value of their own lived experience  
  • Moving from accepting, willingly or otherwise, that practitioners have the final say in making decisions to being willing and able, with support if required, to assert their right to be an equal decision-maker with practitioners

Activists who have been in the vanguard of working in this way will be best placed to help others to understand it and to tackle barriers such as scepticism, fear or lack of confidence: learning from ‘people like me’ can be a powerful and empowering experience. Some groups of people and communities will need particular support to participate, including from user-led and community organisations not only being part of the co-design process but also providing training and support to people and communities.  

Service organisations will also range from innovators in this way of working, to resistant to it. For some, understanding the evidence base and rationale is key; for others ‘seeing is believing,’ so hearing from trusted colleagues can be more helpful. A twin-tracked approach can involve further development for those who already understand and value asset based working, alongside buddying them with those who are new to it. Workshops, practice exchange networks, drop-in sessions and coaching can all help to enable the change.

Commissioners need to play a consistent and proactive role in creating the conditions for the new practice and relationships to develop, for example by:

• Providing a shared vision and consistent direction of change that maintains momentum.

• Developing a strong working relationship between commissioners, service organisations, people and communities, in which all parties can reflect on and adapt services, through shared problem solving.

• Frequent, consistent and positive communication to reinforce the change using stories, amplifying quick wins and celebrating success

The New Economics Foundation has developed a series of co-production evaluation matrices for suppliers to identify their current position and decide where practice needs to be further developed.

Links to all of the above innovations and more can be found in:

Alex Fox. (2017)   The Asset-Based Area. Online: Coalition for Collaborative Care, Shared Lives Plus, and Think Local, Act Personal. Available at:

Richard Field and Clive Miller. (2017) Asset-based commissioning: better outcomes, better value. Bournemouth: Bournemouth University. Available as a free download, in both its full (215 pp) and digested versions (11pp), from (opens new window)  

* This how-to guide is part of a series of 13 that puts flesh on the bones of the vision of Asset-Based Areas and how they can be developed.