Transforming conventional into asset-based practice

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In the first of their How-to guide for creating an asset-based area, Clive Miller & Alex Fox,  offer some pointers for how commissioners can adapt their practice.

Asset-based areas are committed to being asset-focused in everything they do. In particular they aim to ensure all their activities build and maintain family and community connections and people’s confidence, knowledge and resilience. Decades of practice and research shows that this happens when:

  • Everyone shares an asset-based mind-set: looking first for what individuals, families and communities can, or could do, with the right support, rather than focusing exclusively on needs and problems.
  • Services and organisations are co-produced with the people whose lives they touch. This means that everyone involved identifies priorities, co-designs services and systems, and works together wherever possible to co-deliver the work that takes place.

Asset-based areas work on developing an interlinked portfolio of asset-based practice spanning personal and community level coproduction and self-help.  Personal and community co-production bring together individuals and communities with organisational suppliers, as equal decision-makers, to co-produce improved outcomes for themselves. Personal and community self-help involves individuals or communities drawing on their own assets and deciding to take action that directly benefits themselves and/or others. Examples are: personal coproduction, parents and family nurse practitioners; community coproduction, tenant involvement in estate management; personal self-help, caring for relatives or friends; and community self-help, community shops.

Transforming practice

Asset-based practice is underpinned by five key principles. Embedding these principles in all day-to day practice and self-help is central to the transformation process. The principles and the transformations involved are:

  • All assets – moving from making use solely of organisational assets, to recognising that all people and communities have assets on which they can, and do, draw and build. Community assets do not replace services, but are seen as complementary to those of organisations. For example, courts changing their pre-briefing process, at-court support and court design to ensure witnesses are willing to come to court and enabled to provide clear evidence.
  • Citizen driven – moving from organisations take the final decisions, with or without consultation with people and communities, to enabling people and communities to be equal decision-makers, alongside organisations, in the design of services and supports, choosing what works for them and producing improved outcomes through co-production and enhanced self-help. The aim is to make best joint use of the lived experience of people and communities and the expertise of practitioners. For example, people using personal budgets to employ their own personal assistants who complement their own abilities so that they can live independent and full lives, and contribute their learning about what works back to commissioners.
  • Strong and inclusive communities – moving from taking communities for granted or seeing their development as a side issue to investing in strong communities which improve lives by providing practical help, information, emotional support, and opportunities to contribute. For example, street parties give children the freedom to play in the street and adults the opportunity to meet new people and feel more confident about asking neighbours for help.
  • Whole life – moving from services being focused on single issues or medical conditions to focusing on whole lives and whole communities.  For example, a Community Circle starts with a person, their life and their purpose and then identify people in that person’s life who can help and are happy to do so.
  • Everyone – moving from universal services being designed for the ‘average citizen’ to redesigning them to meet the needs of all and to help foster inclusive communities. For example, retiming bus schedules and training drivers to ensure that older or less mobile people can get to their seats safely and use them with confidence increases bus use and maintains people’s access to a wider range of facilities, social networks and opportunities.

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. 

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)