Asset based approaches (most notably, Asset Based Community Development) recognise and build on the combination of the human, social and physical capital that exists within local communities.
Asset based approaches are based on the principle of identifying and mobilising individual and community ‘assets’, rather than focusing on problems and needs (i.e. 'deficits').
Jane Foot and Trevor Hopkins outline that "as well as having needs and problems, our most marginalised communities also have social, cultural and material assets. Identifying and mobilising these can help them overcome the health challenges they face”.
Asset based approaches are beginning to gather momentum across government and public services, in the face of constrained budgets and resources, and widening social inequalities. This is particularly true in the health sector, where asset based approaches are often based on the theory of salutogenesis – ‘the origins of health’.
· Public Health England’s strategy calls for place-based approaches that develop local solutions, drawing on all the assets and resources of an area; integrating public services and building community resilience to improve health and wellbeing for all and reduce health inequalities. The assets within communities, including skills, knowledge, social networks and community organisations, are referred to as ‘building blocks for good health’.
· NHS Scotland has promoted asset based approaches to health in the face of significant demographic changes, large scale reductions in public spending, and an intractable gap between the life and health outcomes of the best and worst off, reporting that asset based approaches may have the potential to address Scotland’s continuing health problems in innovative ways which could complement more traditional methods for improving population health.
Asset based approaches are also gaining traction in other policy areas:
· The Scottish Government’s report ‘Tackling Child Poverty in Scotland: A Discussion Paper’ outlines how the Scottish Government plans to meet its commitments made in the Child Poverty Act 2010. One of the 3 key principles of the Scottish Government’s approach to reducing child poverty is an assets-based approach to build the resilience and capacities of individuals, families and communities to manage better in the long term. The strategy sets out how the Scottish Government will try to involve children and their families in local decision making processes that affect them as well as in efforts to tackle child poverty.