Positive thinking and the strength based approach

One of the key themes of Big Lottery Fund’s People and Communities programme and also Awards for All, is to be strength based.

Being strength based, means positive thinking: instead of looking at the weaknesses, you look at the strengths.

Photo: Mid Ulster Volunteer Centre. They received funding through People and Communities for their ‘Carefully Yours’ project.

If you focus on the weaknesses and ask “What is the matter?” it can open a flood gate for complaints.  It does give you answers, but it makes it harder for people to move forward and think about the future. Community spirit can become deflated.

So, think positive.  It can be fun to get people together and talking about what works well in their community.  You could have a celebration event with food as a way of engaging people.  You could get a crowd of people together, or a small group, or do individual interviews or surveys. There isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach.  Use methods that will suit the people you are trying to reach.

You can be creative in your approach and try new ways of engaging with people with hands on activities to create a visual map or display.

Find out about the strengths in your community.  Ask positive questions such as “What is working well?” and “What is important to you?”  Are there challenges that have been overcome or skills and learning that you have gained along the way?  Look around you.  What resources do you have in your area?  What are you proud of? Make use of what’s already there.

Find out what matters most to people and what they want to achieve or see in their community in the future. Make sure that you are getting open and honest opinions from people and not leading them to follow your suggestions.

Then build on the past to create a vision for the future. You also need to figure out the practicalities of how to get there.  Listen to what people tell you, and use their ideas and experience to shape your project. Be able to show us evidence of this.  People need to be involved in delivering the project too. (See our blog on people in the lead).

Being strengths based helps to identify experience, skills and resources within your community and the best ways to use them.  It encourages volunteering. It identifies good practice and role models. It helps decide what activities are popular and needed. You will have the support of your community and a clear vision to work towards together. (See our blog on being connected).


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