What does it mean to try to bring about change in community whilst valuing and working with what is already there? How do you lead in an asset-based way?

Operating in an asset-based way as a church leader can pose some unique opportunities and challenges. When an asset-based approach is a new concept for a community, it can be difficult for a leader to encourage uptake of this and effect a change in the culture without imposing it in a 'top-down' way.

For nearly a year, a group of clergy and lay people have been meeting to work out the answers to these questions and to see what being asset-based means in their communities. This has been called Modest Experiments, as they were experimenting with different ways to engage with and use an asset-based approach. You can read about this process in the first, second or third blog about the process.

 

What’s already happening?

Listen, watch and see what’s already going on in your community. What are people passionate about, what would they like to see changed? Instead of taking an audit of the activities and services being provided and measuring them against a list of what you think should be there, listen to what people would like to do. How can you help to facilitate what God is already doing in the community and within people? One clergy member who was taking part in Modest Experiments likened it to farming, suggesting he would now help to nurture the crop that was already growing in his community, rather than trying to plant a whole new one.

 

Recognising what’s there

People are not generally encouraged to recognise and articulate the skills and passions that they have, often they just see things they are good at as ‘just something I do’. Throughout Modest Experiments those taking part used various exercises and activities to help people to start to feel comfortable identifying what they were good at. People learnt to recognise the assets present in themselves, in each other and in the space around them. Taking part in Modest Experiments highlighted the importance of valuing and celebrating the small. Identifying and articulating the value of the small helps to build the culture of encouragement and belief in the ability of the community.

 

Patience

This takes time. A shift in your own mind set to seeing assets not deficit is a key process, and encouraging the same to happen in a whole community is not something that happens quickly. It is important to celebrate the incremental changes that happen, identifying and acknowledging assets and successes. Doing so enables others to recognise the positive change, whilst being more willing and able to acknowledge their participation in that process.

 

To read more about what was learnt through Modest Experiments, read the full paper From Method to Mindset: Modest experiments with asset-based approaches.