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June 15, 2011

Appreciating assets

The policy environment both north and south of the border has an unprecedented emphasis on community. With Big Society and the Localism Bill in England and the Scottish Government’s manifesto commitment to legislate on community empowerment with a particular focus on community assets, a timely new report comes from Carnegie UK with some fresh perspectives on what community assets can mean

For a copy of the full report click here

Practitioners with experience of using an asset-based approach to community development have contributed to an important new guide published today.

The new report, Appreciating Assets, published by the Carnegie UK Trust and the International Association for Community Development (IACD), comes as the UK Government’s Big Society agenda puts increasing emphasis on the role of locally-based practitioners such as Community Organisers who will be expected to understand and build on both human and physical capital or ‘assets’ in their communities.  The resource will help develop a practical framework for asset-based approaches, and helps users reflect critically on the policy environment.

Chief Executive of the Carnegie UK Trust, Martyn Evans, says it is about helping build on the ‘assets’ that are to be found in every individual, group and community:

“The central message is that it is possible to produce remarkable results through the hard work of local people who have learned to build on community strengths rather than dwelling on weaknesses or the absence of abundant resources.  Assets are not just the things you can put a price on, they are also about people, skills and opportunities.  The report provides a valuable contribution to the debate, raising issues the public and third sectors are now having to consider.

“Although many asset-based approaches, and the frames of reference for them, have come from North American experiences, there is a wealth of relevant and rich experience from the UK.  This publication sets out a range of UK experiences and frames them in a global context.  This helps us examine a much more broader and sophisticated set of issues around asset-based approaches, across a broader geographic and historical context than has previously been the case.”

Appreciating Assets explores what is meant by ‘assets’ and how to appreciate assets – both physical and human – drawing on experiences from across the globe.  It presents a holistic overview of asset-based approaches to community development, looking into the assets of people, the politics of assets, and how assets are grounded in places and in communities.  It was produced by the International Association for Community Development (IACD), with support from the Carnegie UK Trust, and is the outcome of a nine-month enquiry process, initiated at an international event in London in November 2009, which focused on the applicability, challenges and potential of using asset-based approaches in a UK/Irish context.

Ingrid Burkett, President of IACD says the strength of the publication is that it sees seasoned practitioners share their own hard-won lessons about building more vibrant, sustainable communities – even through tough times:

“This report aims to incite discussion and dialogue in practice, policy and academic circles about the place of assets-approaches in community development.

“The report is also timely given the conversations about the future of community development that are happening, both in the UK and Ireland and also, increasingly, around the world, as governments and community organisations alike examine new ways of working with people in communities.”

Appreciating Assets goes behind the scenes of asset approaches and offers a critical but practical perspective of how these approaches have shaped and will continue to shape community development.  As well as tips and checklists, the guide is full of questions that groups and individuals need to consider such as ‘when is an asset a liability?’ and ‘what skills are needed to enable – rather than stifle – community initiative?’. It is important reading for anyone currently working in community development, but also anyone engaged in or concerned about the practical realities of the Big Society agenda. It offers helpful insights for practitioners, policymakers and community members alike.

Notes for Editors
For more information and to speak to the people behind the report please call John Macgill, media adviser to the Carnegie UK Trust on 0131 557 7727 (including out of hours).

The Appreciating Assets report is the outcome of a nine-month inquiry process, initiated at an international event in London in November 2009.  Across different fields, from regeneration and community development to health, a new language of ‘assets’ is helping practitioners find new ways of tackling old issues.

The International Association for Community Development (IACD) is a not-for-profit, non-governmental organisation with members in over 70 countries worldwide. Its aims are to promote community development across international policies and programmes, and to provide opportunities for learning, networking, information and practice exchange.

The Carnegie UK Trust works to develop evidence-based policy to support beneficial change for people living in the UK and Ireland. The Trust is one of over twenty foundations worldwide endowed by Scots American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie