Assets – a New Social Currency

Let’s Repower Scotland’s Health and Wellbeing

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‘Assets’ is a term not always well understood or liked. When we talk of assets we mean the strengths, talents, resources, skills, knowledge and networks that people and communities have to offer.

  • Personal assets could be talents and skills like being able to cook, sing, paint, write, plan or organise; strengths like being resilient or caring; or having friends, family and connections with other people.
  • Community assets could be community groups and their members, faith communities, libraries, parks, schools and leisure centres.

Harnessing these assets is at the heart of people powered health and wellbeing. Resourcefulness is more valuable than resources.

This leaflet describes four steps that service planners, providers and practitioners can take to use their collective skills and resources alongside the assets of individuals and local communities.

Focus on strengths rather than deficits

We often, in the health and social care system, work on deficits. Sometimes people can be “stuck” in a negative cycle of problems. Shifting your conversation from deficits to assets helps you shift to a more positive narrative.

Andy Crawford, Head of Clinical Governance, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde

“So it’s what’s broken, it’s what doesn’t work… and it’s a difficult experience for me. So the assets-based thinking is nourishing, it enlivens our outlook, in some ways it creates possibility, it creates optimism, it creates hope.”

To shift from a focus on deficits, apply active listening skills and adopt an appreciative enquiry approach – first ask what is going well and why.

This will help you to identify the person’s strengths and assets and enable a shift to a more positive conversation. For example if someone says they are sleeping really badly, ask what they do differently on the nights that they do manage to sleep well.

This approach can also be used to identify and harness the skills within teams and groups of staff. It can help you discover the skills that you already have in your team so that you can build on these.

Senior Charge Nurse

“I feel that the majority of the staff do all sorts of things outside of work. They are musicians, there is a journalist, someone runs a bingo club. There is everything on the ward and I am thinking that is all part of them. For example, if a patient was saying “oh I can’t go to my local bingo club any more because of this” the person might say “I know where it is you could go” specifically like that. I am conscious that there are lots of unused resources in terms of the staff.”

Jane Davies – Educational Projects Manager, NHS Education for Scotland

“It’s interesting when you start to look at what skills and assets people have and their strengths, what a different conversation you can begin to have.”

Linda Jane McLean, People Powered Health and Wellbeing Reference Group member

“I started by talking about my epilepsy and how I was told when I started nursing that if I had a seizure on the ward I would be out on my ear. I worked my way into intensive care nursing which I loved. I wanted to undertake a Health Visiting course, but would not be accepted without seeing a neurologist. He had never seen me before in his life, but because I had been seizure free for a while he said I should cut the medication I was taking by half. I was unhappy about the decision, arguing that I required to be well controlled. I could not persuade him, and followed his advice. This led to a seizure on the first day of a health visitor course. My course leader said: “You might drop the babies.”The neurologist said: “So you let me down.”

Involve people in designing and improving services

When a wider range of people are involved in designing and improving services the outcomes are better. It’s as simple as that. It may take time and require creativity and compromise, but the effort brings its own rewards in the form of new and innovative ideas and solutions.

In the Keeping It Personal Project, facilitated by IRISS, people were asked to think about what resources are available to support wellbeing in their local community. This is a useful way to bring together local people caring for a family member with dementia in a more equal relationship with professionals. Together they captured rich information from their lived experience and generated new ideas to enhance their lives, health and wellbeing.

Participant at workshop on ‘Community Connectedness; Assets Powering Practice for Health and Wellbeing’ at the Gathering, Feb 2015

“Think about people who use services as people / folk with assets and something to offer – less like recipients or users of services.”

Understand the local resources that keep people well

Asset mapping is a great way to engage people in conversations about their wellbeing and their local community. It identifies, builds and shares local resources people can tap into. The process generates new connections, builds trust and encourages people to take advantage of a full range of local resources.

Andy Hyde, on people who use the Auchinlea Mental Health Resource Centre and their families who were engaged in an asset mapping activity

“It was a lively group, lots of examples of green places – parks, the local loch where people have spotted deer and fed the foxes. It was a pleasure to hear the banter and watch as connections were made across the table. Participants talked about the groups they met with and the hobbies they’d been taking up… someone had just started to learn the bass guitar and we discussed where you could go to hear live music locally.”

Help each other to flourish

Healthy communities have flourishing local networks of assets. These are built on trusting relationships between the people who use local services, individuals in the local community, and their health and social care practitioners. When people come together they can share and broaden their knowledge of local resources and how to access them. This also helps people understand each other’s point of view.

Delegate at session on ‘Community Connectedness: Assets Powering Practice for Health and Wellbeing’ at the Gathering, Feb 2015

“We are our own assets and we need to share ourselves with others in order to grow that asset and allow others to grow theirs.”


Joanne McPeake, Project Lead, InS:PIRE Programme, Glasgow Royal Infirmary, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde

“I say [to patients] ‘You’re part of this community, how do we all help one another?’ … And that’s asset-based health. It’s using inner strengths to try and create greater good for the whole of the community, whatever community that is.”


Becs Barker, Carr Gomm Community Contacts on local activist, Robbie Bell

“I think it’s that quiet, getting on with it approach and being there for people. And that might be going and hacking a few weeds down with kids to make the picnic area or it might be somebody that’s lonely and isolated and needs somebody just to pop in and say hello and have a blether. They’re all really important things.”




Sources of inspiration:

People Powered Health and Wellbeing ‘Shifting the Balance of Power’. An ALLIANCE programme co-produced by members and stakeholders.

Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland
349 Bath Street
Glasgow G2 4AA
Tel 0141 404 0231

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No. 307731 Charity number SC037475

The ALLIANCE is supported by a grant from the Scottish Government