Strengths-Based Working Through the Lens of Community Power: Reflections from Stronger Things

June 12, 2024   By Nick Sinclair and Helen Allen, Community Catalysts

Community Catalysts’ Nick Sinclair and Helen Allen share 10 key lessons from Stronger Things.

We were delighted to be invited to run a workshop at New Local’s Stronger Things conference last week. Strengths-based practice is at the heart of our community micro-enterprise and Local Area Coordination work. We wanted to use this opportunity to share a really powerful story, and few people are better placed to do that than our friends James and Andy from Local Social.

James met Andy through a Shared Lives arrangement after living in institutional care for many years. As their relationship developed, they started focusing on what James was good at, what he loved and enjoyed doing, and what he wanted to do more of. This took them on a very different path to what was expected. Eventually they co-established their own community micro-enterprise ‘Local Social CIC’, which routinely brings together hundreds of people across Ware in Hertfordshire for conversation, friendship and mutual support over a brew and a slice of James’ home baked cake! You can hear more about their story here.

After James and Andy shared their story, we asked workshop attendees to chat on their tables about what enabling strengths-based working and practice is where they are. The room was made up of a great mix of people – community leaders, local government commissioners, elected members, practitioners and citizens alike. This meant we could gain a really balanced set of perspectives. In the spirit of strengths-based thinking, we assumed our attendees were already resourceful and full of good ideas. We weren’t wrong!

We gathered some of the attendees’ reflections before finishing, but also collected the hundreds of post-it notes they wrote on too. We have tried to distil the key reflections below. If you were there, we hope this does your conversations justice!

  1. Focus on building relationships
  2. Listen more, talk less
  3. Ask meaningful questions
  4. Support people in building their own power and agency
  5. Nurture safe and collaborative spaces
  6. Invest in community-led initiatives and projects
  7. Focus on participatory budgeting
  8. Leverage community connections and local knowledge
  9. Encourage communities to take control
  10. Get involved in informal and fun activities – not just the usual – and go to where people are.

We think that’s a pretty brilliant list of enablers of strengths-based working and practice!

Through our work at Community Catalysts, we will continue to champion strengths-based thinking in everything we do and with everyone we work with. We know what’s holding it back, but through events like Stronger Things we’re reminded of the groundswell of people and organisations getting on with it whilst calling for system change too!

May we finish by saying a big thank you to New Local for the opportunity, to everyone who came to the session, and of course to James and Andy for bringing this all home and making it real!

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