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Meeting people where they are

A video that features Mick Ward talking about asset-based community development (ABCD) in relation to improving health outcomes.

The best starting point when working with people and communities is to discuss with them what is working well – what the existing strengths and capabilities of the community are.

It’s about ‘starting with what’s strong, not what’s wrong’.

All communities have things that are already working – networks, groups, skills, knowledge, and many others. These are sometimes called assets.

Being an alongsider

When we work with people and communities, we often slip into starting with problems and then trying to fix them. But by looking at what is already working within communities, we can meet people where they are, instead of identifying and solving what we perceive as issues.

As Mick Ward says in the video above, it is about being an “alongsider”, getting alongside a community to help support it achieve what it wants to achieve.

As Mick reminds us, connecting people in this way can help communities to come together and do incredible things to support each other, which could have significant impact on people’s health and wellbeing.

In this way, community development approaches build on the PTS Response explored in an earlier step, but rather than doing this through 1:1 coaching, the emphasis is on working with whole communities and networks of people.

Helping communities to thrive

To make this work in practice, a key part is supporting people and communities to own the process. Our role is to help communities to develop, connect and thrive, but not to control.

When a community development approach is used effectively, people are enabled to use what they already have. They make connections to other resources in their communities, and build outcomes that are sustainable and possible to maintain.

Understanding what matters to people and how they tackle their lives and situations enables services to respond much more effectively. It is running with and not against the tide!

It’s all about relationships

It’s important to note that working with people in this way is all about relationships. It can look very different in different contexts – sometimes it might be working together over a period of years, and sometimes it could be a simple, informal conversation.

Things to think about

  • What do you think helps create the space for communities to grow?
  • What role can we have to support this to happen?
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Working with People and Communities to Improve Health Outcomes

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