Current methods of working

Communities may set different priorities, and work to different timescales, than current community development projects. As Foot and Hopkins identify, “Working in this way is community-led, long-term, and open-ended. A mobilised and empowered community will not necessarily choose to act on the same issues that health services or councils see as the priorities. The timescales are longer than many of the current publicly-funded projects”.

Current funding application processes

As Sharpe et al. outline, “many, if not most, funding sources remain categorical in focus and require a problem-focused grant application”. Communities looking for funding and support come from the starting point of identifying their problems and needs, instead of what is good about the community and that can be built on.

Meaningful inclusive participation

Mathie cautions that while an asset based approach is “in principle, an inclusive process in which the contributions of all are valued and appreciated, this may be more challenging in communities where social hierarchy excludes or marginalizes some groups. Of particular concern are the opportunities for women and the opportunities for lower caste or class groups”.

Challenges of measuring assets

The Glasgow Centre for Population Health draws attention to the need to develop effective methods of evaluating and measuring practice that is robust enough to demonstrate that asset based approaches represent value for money.Challenges include:

·        The scarcity of data on positive health and wellbeing, and difficulty aligning existing data to communities or neighbourhoods (often collected at an individual level, or aggregated to a local authority or national level). Makes is difficult to describe the quality, quantity or impact of community networks.

·        The definition of success and of what an asset rich individual, community or place looks like is.

·        The lack of information on the impact of service changes or social networks on everyone who lives in an area – not just individuals directly involved.

·        The complexity of evaluating community based interventions which may be experimental and evolve with learning about what works and what doesn’t, making it difficult to assess progress towards goals. Evaluation should be approached as reflective practice and learning should be part of and integral to the evolution of the project.