A Glass Half Full

A Glass Half Full

Exploring strengths-based approaches to community development

What is the difference between a needs-based and a strengths-based approach to community development? Which approach are we using in our church or our community? How would our activities look different if we switched from one to the other?

Last Wednesday, a small group of academics, church leaders and practitioners met together to discuss these questions. In doing so, we wanted to understand more about how can we can effectively tackle poverty and build strong, vibrant communities. 

The day started with Cormac Russell, Managing Director of Nurture Development. He explored what a strengths-based approach would look like and spoke about how to grow movements for social change, using the example of La Leche League in America. You can listen to Cormac's talk here (unfortunately the sound quality is variable). You can also download his slides here.

We then heard from the Revd Dr Jeremy Morris, Master of Trinity Hall College in Cambridge University. He explored the history of church social action over the last 150 years and its relation to state welfare. This stimulated a rich discussion about the role of churches in providing welfare in our times. You can listen to Jeremy’s talk here.

In the afternoon, we explored the idea of Co-Production with Lucie Stephens from the New Economics Foundation. Lucie set out the principles of the approach and explored how and why it should be used. You can listen to Lucie’s talk here and download her slides here.

And finally came Pastor Mike Mather. Working as a pastor in Indianapolis, Mike has been practising an asset-based approach to community development for the last two decades. He shared some inspiring stories of how change can happen when we celebrate and share one another’s gifts and talents. You can listen to Mike’s talk here.

This event was organised by Church Urban Fund and Edinburgh University Divinity School. It is the fourth of four events, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, that will bring people from different disciplines and sectors to talk about poverty issues. 

If you would like to find out more about the questions raised here please take a look at the following reports:

Thank you to everyone who joined us on the day, it was so encouraging to spend time with you and hear about the fantastic work going on. 

Author: Bethany Eckley

Date: 16 November 2015